October 27, 2013

Floating downstream?

God must not be finished with me on this issue of what Pilate did. Today’s devotional reading uses the same verse as the past several days . . .
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8)
While I understand that it was the plan of God that His Son would perish so I could have eternal life, I also realize that my sin put Him on that cross. This is a sober thing, yet I find myself taking forgiveness and peace with God for granted. Sometimes sin comes easy. That is, I don’t take it seriously enough to stop or even fight it.

Many Christians fall into this trap. Sins like gossip, complaining and covetousness are easily part of life. Instead of resisting them, we say something like I just said, “Everybody does it” and if not that, “It really isn’t so bad” or “This is just the way I am.”

That is rubbish. God says all sin is evil. He is in the business of changing who I am, and those excuses are not reasonable or biblical. However, I just realized a new one; fighting sin is hard work, deadly hard work. It means dying to self in that area of life where I still live for me and not for Jesus. That is, I have my own little kingdom and to be rid of sin means to abandon it for God and for righteousness. Since my enemy, the devil, does not want that to happen, a spiritual war begins. Actually, the war is not with him but with God for the Bible is clear about such things . . .
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
The order in this verse is no accident. If I am going to be free from all spiritual harassment, I must submit to God, meaning I must give up control over how I think, talk and act, and yield to the Spirit of God in every area of my life. This is the price of righteousness. It sounds desirable, even easy, until the battle to resist the devil begins and shows me that my desire to rule my life is much stronger than it first appears.

Part of the problem is the same as the problem Pilate faced. He was in a political pickle and had to make an on-the-spot judgment call. He took a long look at Jesus and knew that if he set this innocent man free, he would have a bloody riot on his hands. He decided that was too costly and to avoid a battle, he voted for peace which seemed the easier solution.

The devotional reading rightly says that those who have once seen war have no desire to see it again. He speaks of physical battle where warriors “hurl chunks of metal at each other” and that we do well to make it a bad dream and a forgotten horror. Normally war is a bad thing. Yet for a Christian, the pursuit of a comfortable peace can be in conflict with the pursuit of righteousness.

How much simpler to fight for a cause, or fight for justice, or fight for the rights of the down-trodden than to fight for personal righteousness. The former fights are easier, not because of the battle itself, but because winning the battle for righteousness means losing personal control. It means giving up the right and the ability to govern my own life, whereas those other battles involve gaining ground than yielding.

In the desire for righteousness, how far will I go? Can I give up that little and totally useless kingdom of “mine” without a whimper? Can I let God have everything? 

This sounds good, even easy in some things. I don’t want to rule in those areas where I am convinced that God is the better ruler and where my needs are fully met. But what about those things where it seems if yielded, I would be left feeling needy? Even that very question reveals that in those things, I am not trusting the provision of God.

Besides wondering what will happen if I lose control, I wonder if God does not care or leaves me without whatever I might want, can I live and be happy in such a state? Will I lose that wonderful sense of peace that He gives? Or am I confusing it with the personal satisfaction that is mine when all is right in my little kingdom — because I rule it? 

Ekken, a Japanese philosopher said, “If a man will not give his life for righteousness he does not know the relative values of righteousness and life.” That means Pilate was not right, and neither am I. Pilate ruled his little kingdom. For him, when the day came that he could not have both peace and righteousness, peace was more important. He let Jesus be crucified rather than do the right thing.

As  for me, each time the enemy challenges my status quo, it seems as if God is letting it happen so I might realize areas of my life where my rule has become more important than righteousness. My experience is that dying to my own rule means a fight. Giving up sin and selfishness is not without pain and scars. In name of easy, and peaceful and going with the flow, will I be like Pilate and just decide to let Jesus die? 

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