March 25, 2019

What animal am I most like?

Sometimes I ask people if they were an animal, what would they be. It makes for interesting conversation. If I ask myself the same question, the answer is easy. I would be a zebra because I am black and white and totally untamable! Well not really impossible to bring under control, at least God can do it, but I am black and white, not in color but in the way I think.

Perhaps this is another reason why the Gospel of John appeals to me. He uses figures of speech and stories to show the conflict in the life of Jesus and in the lives of his followers. For instance, he writes about light and darkness, receiving Christ and rejecting Christ, a physical birth and a spiritual birth, law and grace, death on a cross and resurrection from a tomb. There are no middle choices in these opposites. Someone either belongs to Jesus or they do not.

John isn’t the only person who writes about opposites; the entire Bible has more of the same. It speaks of sin and righteousness, walking in the flesh or walking by the Spirit, good or evil, defeated by Satan and victory in Jesus Christ, spiritually dead and spiritually alive, rich or poor, wise or foolish, love or hate, war or peace, bold or fearful, joy and sorrow. All of these appeal to me because I seldom see a middle ground. I’m either at one end of the spectrum or the other. I cannot see how a person can have one foot on one side and the other on the opposite for many issues.

A few more biblical topics come to mind: loving God or loving the world (or money, or self, or anything else), obedience or going my own way. This last one reminds me of these verses:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5–8)

This applies to the intelligent as well as the fool which does give part of the topic some shades of gray. That is, a person’s IQ can be low, high or somewhere in between, but God puts all of it at one end of the spectrum. We either rely on our own ideas and plans, or we are relying on Him. In God’s mind, there is no partial trust in Him. I either do or I don’t — in any given situation.

I can also apply this to acknowledging Him. The word means accepting what He claims. I just read a book about praying the promises of God and realized this is a great need in my prayer life. Too often I am telling God what I want Him to do instead of presenting the problem, need or issue and asking that His will be done in that situation. How do I know His will? I might figure it out from reading His Word, but I might not know it at all. Can I trust that His will is the right answer? I’d better, for the alternative is trusting my own ideas and telling Him what I think He should do. This is impertinence and definitely not faith in Him or acknowledging that He knows best.

These verses also say that if I trust Him with all my heart, He will make my path straight. This could also be translated as: He will make righteous all that I am doing. Isn’t that what I want?

Pride tends to consider that I am smart and wise enough to run my own life, but that is saying NO to God, no matter how good it might look to someone else. I know when I’m on my own path and not the way God wants me to go. I don’t feel good. But following Him puts a spring in my step and a sense of well-being pours over me. He can do this for those who avoid all evil and humbly trust Him.

Lord, one more contrast, the most important one, is that You are all good, all righteous, all holy, all loving. You hate sin and yet were willing to bear the weight of it that sinners could be forgiven and transformed, moved from the kingdom of darkness into Your kingdom of light. I’m filled with joy that You took me from a life of selfishness and put me into Your Body the church where I can serve You instead of me. I’m also thankful that for every time I slide back to the wrong side of things, You patiently hang on to me and bring me again into trusting You. Thank You, thank You.

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