The other day after I posted about “why Radical Grace Matters”, I noticed just how desperate I seemed in the post. Even though I was venting, it wasn’t doing me any good to rant about the bad preaching of John MacArthur or how most of the preaching today is shoddy, vapid and shallow. Even though, like most people, I love pointing out the faults of the people around me, it was doing nothing for me with regards to addressing the problem.
But I want to address this tendency of ours to lash out at the ones who we believe have harmed us. It’s a sinful act that we get into, oh yes. I don’t think I need to put up the scriptures where Jesus calls this lashing out sin. He was well aware of the hatred that rises up in us when we are feeling betrayed or trampled on, and even more so when the slings and arrows are real rather than imagined. Like children we react to provocations from all sides, finding in us either a stifled emotion that only leads us silent disdain, or leading us into acts of so desperate that eventually they disturb even our nearest acquaintances, and eventually us too.
For whatever reason, we just don’t actually grow up. Oh, we put on a good show after we learn how act in polite society, but always bubbling under the surface is the tendency to hate. We already know that our hearts are “wicked and deceitful above all things”, but no matter how much we take this into consideration, we still run afoul of God’s law.
That’s why our hearts, indeed our fleshly hearts, are so desperate to impress God. We all know we’ve done something wrong, in fact, many things wrong. We already sense that we need to try and be reconciled with God and we’re constantly coming up with ways we hope will some how make the cut, desperately hoping against hope that something will finally atone for all the sin we’ve accomplished in our lives. But all the while this is happening, someone we hold in high esteem, usually a pastor (but increasingly our own well meaning brothers and sisters), is hammering us with everything that THEY think will be what atones for our sins.
So imagine how much more desperate we are when we are broken by God’s law, and given no recourse; no Gospel to console us. Imagine a heart that’s already broken, not only by God’s law, but a pervasive sense that God is totally against us. We look around at our lives; where we are daily facing financial ruin either due to job losses or medical emergencies and the like. We look at how things are going for us and we imagine that God is against us AND that there is no way to change his mind on the subject. Desperately we cling to the hope that somehow, somehow… we’ll find something.
So I’m reminded again of Elijah in 1 Kings chapter 19. I’ve often said, “I feel like Elijah under the broom tree”, because there are times when I’ve had the snot kicked out of me by all the doings of this world. I say, agreeing with him, “I have had enough! Take my life Lord! I am no better than my fathers!”. And indeed, even though God’s still, small voice comes to me each week through right preaching of God’s word, and I am fed by Jesus’ body and blood, I often continue to complain “I have been zealous for you Lord… but now they are trying to kill me too”.
But what I have in Christ is so vividly captured in the Theophany that is displayed here. Eventually, this broken man called Elijah, who was at the end so broken that he could only rely on God to get him through much traveling, was taken home in a chariot up into the heavens. And one day, I will meet my Lord and Savior in much the same way! Elijah was raised up into Heaven! Jesus will raise me up in the Last day!
Now, if that is true, then what are the implications of that with regard to how I perceive God’s attitude towards me? Is God against me if His promise to me is that I will be with him in paradise? And since it is true that He is for me, then that means even though they may be trying to kill me in many ways and diverse manners, it doesn’t matter! God is for me!
Who can be against me?