October 21, 2013

Stuck in a run? Or open to change?

“This is the way we have always done it . . .”

Is any thinking more stifling to creativity? To progress? To learning and growing and moving forward? It happens in business, community groups, and even in churches. It also happened to the religious Pharisees when Jesus appeared on the scene.

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)

They were stuck on the old ways and their accepted forms of faith. Had they got it right, those ways might have been okay, but they didn’t work, and God through His prophets had been warning them for years. They were under the covenant of law, failed to keep the law, and despite years of warnings, they clung to the familiar “rules” and missed such things as love from the heart and social justice.

When Jesus came, these highly religious people had no expectation of any further instructions or changes from God. When they heard Jesus, their immediate response was to discredit Him and His teaching. They thought their conceptions reflected God’s thoughts. Moses said this! Moses did that! And for them, that was final. This is the way we have always done it.

Yet they had not done it. Listening to Moses and the law did not change their lives. They appeared highly religious but Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” and hypocrites. He pointed out the error of their ways to His disciples and to them . . .

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others . . . . But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:2–15)

The Pharisees decided that Jesus was appalling and must be removed. They decided that if His ideas were allowed to spread, this would mean the end of their religion. They didn’t realize what a good idea that was!
For them, and often for me, I get an ideal set in my mind based on prior experience and think that this is all there is, that what I had was all that I can ever have. That puts me in stagnant mode and unless I let go of that way of thinking, there I will stay.

The Bible says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We generally think this verse is about heaven, but I’m learning it is about life here too. I cannot imagine the good things God wants for me. However, if I get stuck in the old ways, even my imagination gets stuck. I must let go of the “old ways” and be willing to trust Him to show me a change, a new way. When I do, He expands my world with amazing surprises.

I love the surprises of God. They are, “exceedingly abundantly more than all I can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20), but they do require trust, and they also require letting go of the old and being open to change.

Today’s devotional says at the root of the crucifixion was not so much a hideous or violent sin, but just a “narrowness of mind, an unwillingness to credit or even consider what was new and unaccustomed, a dislike of being jostled out of their settled lines of thought.” They looked at Jesus, heard His Word and decided that this was not the way they always did it, so they killed Him.

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