June 1, 2016

Chief of sinners

This morning I glanced at newspaper headlines and muttered, “Why?” People shooting other people. Prominent business men speeding at three times the limit in a residential neighborhood. Politicians getting caught with pornography. Boatloads of refugees capsizing and pictures of drowned babies. People losing everything and put out of their homes because of their faith in Christ.

Often the deadness and sin in the world overwhelm me. I pray, but wonder if God will do anything. I even wonder why He would bother. Humanity is corrupt. Would I take time to nurse a dead tree back to life? Would I give effort to rescue anyone from a debauched life if they did not want to change?

God took one of His prophets to survey a valley of dead bones and asked a provocative question . . .

And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

The questions Chambers asks: Can that sinner be turned into a saint? Can that twisted life be put right? He agrees with Ezekiel in that there is only one answer: ‘O Lord, You know, I don’t.’

When I pray, I want to believe that God will save everyone that I pray for, but I really don’t know that He will. I know that He can, but I cannot understand God. I could not say that if a person just hears the Gospel, or is convicted by the Holy Spirit, they will turn their lives to Christ and begin that amazing journey of change called redemption.

Chambers says not to mistake panic for inspiration. I’m not sure what he means. I have trouble with mistaking my deep desires for the will of God. Just because I pray fervently does not mean God will jump to the pump. He might, but I have no idea if those bones will live or if they will stay in their valley of deadness.

In the last part of the reading for today, Chambers says that the degree of panic (opposed to faith?) is the degree of the lack of personal spiritual experience. In other words, the Lord first must show me what human nature is like in me before I can see the depth and reality of others who are “dead in sin.” Once I see that God can say a sinner like me, it is easier to trust Him to save others!

Soon after His questions about the bones, God says, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” (Ezekiel 37:12–13)

When I can see my own deadness, then I have a truer picture of what is going on in the lives of those who seem much more corrupt. How can I dismiss them, or even pray with great desire for them, if I think that I am better off and that these poor reprobates need my intercession?

Paul understood. He said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

He saw his own deadness and inability to walk with God. In that, his attitude toward other sinners was not the same as it once was. Before Christ, he considered Christians to be anti-God and tried to destroy them. After Christ showed him what he was like himself, that superiority was gone and his concern for them was different.

When I intercede for others, do I pray as if they are on the bottom and somehow need my prayers to raise them out of their deadness? If I am doing that, then God needs to raise me from my own grave.

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