Monday, July 17, 2017

Unconditional Requirement

There are lots of unconditional things in Scripture.  God loves us without condition. God's love is the number one unconditional principle in Scripture and it is manifested in the life, love and sacrifice of Jesus.  God sees us exactly as we are ... broken, frail, potentially excellent, failingly fearful, wonderfully blessed ... and God loves us anyway.  If we could seek God's picture of ourselves as our goal in life, we could strive for the perfect love of God, others and self.  That's what God's greatest commandment is all about!  God loves us in spite of everything else.

But there are other unconditional things in God's Word.  God makes unconditional promises that reflect His nature of being a promise keeper.  Rich Mullins speaks of this when he writes ... "We should never doubt His promise ... He has written it across the sky."  God's rainbow is a reminder of God's ability to make and keep those unconditional promises.

Today, though, I want to reflect a moment on another unconditional thing that we resist in our daily walk.  That thing is change.  The theme of change permeates all of Scripture.  Abraham is comfortable and rich and God uproots him to make a long journey.  Moses is fat and happy in Midian and God sends him back to Egypt to make one of the greatest pilgrimages in human history.  Nicodemus is told he must be reborn to follow God.  The rich young ruler is told he must change to inherit God's Kingdom.  Paul is proud and righteous as a "pharisee of pharisees" and is knocked down into the dirt and told he must change directions (Acts 9).  Change is inexorably tied to the red thread of God's sacrifice as it runs through Scripture from start to finish.  So ... why are we so petrified by change?

I have a few theory on this.  Three words ... comfort, focus, fear.  These are three enemies of change.  They are enemies of God's desire to redeem us.  They keep us from living out the freedom of our repentance (that means to turn around and go a different way).

Comfort binds us to the things that make us feel good and give us a false peace.  Peter Senge writes that any organization not learning and changing is an organization that is dying.  This fact has been the reason for the demise of giant retail stores and little country churches.  It has brought down kings, princes and governments.  Senge believes that intentional-learning and planned-change keep our organizations vital and relevant.

Our focus will either allow change or prevent it.  Questions like "why are we here?" and "what are we to do?" are great questions.  If we believe we are right and others are wrong or if we believe our standard procedures aren't flawed then our focus will block positive change.  The Jewish church believed they were right, holy, righteous and that they had God figured out.  When Peter preached in Acts the Jews asked a great question ... "What are we to do?"  Peter responded "Repent and be baptized!"  There is that "change" word again ... go figure?

The last word is fear.  We resist change because we fear for our survival.  The rich young ruler feared he would lose his lifestyle.  His entire life would change.  Nicodemus feared the rebirth might cost him his position.  Randy fears that change will move me from a position of control to allowing God to be in full control.  And maybe that is the greatest fear we face.  What if God changes everything?  What is God doing here?  This morning Sally and I had a conversation (a very positive one) about Abbeville UMC.  We both reflected on "What if God is scattering the Church like He did in Acts?"  "What if that 'scattering' changes what we are doing, how we conduct worship and the face of our ministries?"  The answer is the one given by a pastor of a brand new state-of-the-art facility in his first message in the new building.  "If this building burns down tomorrow and that brings glory to God, then I am all into God's plan.  This is not our building or even our vision ... it all belongs to God and all we are must be fully devoted to Him."  That pastor said comfort, focus and fear must be subordinate to God ... the one who authors and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12).  Praise be to Him! Randy

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