Sometimes I read things that (could) comfort and console me in the bittersweet essence of my human condition. I could be encouraged to embrace my "brokenness along with my beauty, my sinfulness along with my unconditionally forgiven status." Incredibly creative authors are able to paint a world which induces deep, warm feelings that (could) resonate and (could) make me feel comforted to just accept myself as I am, "wretched but forgiven."
I could dwell in this magical world they portray, but then I read The Word... the words of Jesus... the writings of those who sat by His side and listened for hours upon hours... That's when this imaginary world pops like a balloon! The beautiful word-painting floats away like dust in the wind, and I sit. Silenced. Stopped. Confronted.
As I said in an earlier post,
"We live in a world where the emphasis is not on change; it is about accepting and affirming people where they are." But as we look at the scripture and ask, "To what extent should we anticipate a person will change when becoming a Christian? How much can a person change? How much should I change?", we are faced with a reality that demands something of us.
"What is God looking for? Is it a valid perspective to impress on people the need to change? Is the message of Jesus a message of change?"
A part of me is drawn to the sad-happy world artists (writers & musicians) often paint, the world that makes me feel okay to sit back and just enjoy the things I want to do, while being thankful I'm forgiven for whatever I decide I want to pursue. But if I embrace this fragile balloon of proposed reality, I have to continually push back the nagging questions that emerge every time I read the Word. As a proclaimed follower of Christ, I cannot dwell in peace if I embrace such a mindset.
The very preamble to the coming of Jesus--John the Baptist--was a message of change. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 3:2) "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mat 3:10)
Jesus' first recorded words to His disciples, Peter and Andrew, was a message of change. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mat 4:19)
"And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Mat 5:29-30)
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; ...For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?" (Mat 5:43-47)
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;" (Mat 6:19-20)
"The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other." (Mat 6:22-24)
The Apostles continue this message of change.
" 'Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord. 'And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' Says the Lord Almighty."
"beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2Cor 7:1)
"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2Cor 5:17)
"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him..." (Col 3:5-10)
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2)
"...do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." (1Cor 6:9-11)
"...so we too might walk in newness of life..." (Rom 6:4)
While I still grapple with what all "change" consists of, I am convinced it is part of the very fiber of Christianity. I'll share (at least) one more post on thoughts from our Bible study. Feel free to share any insights you have!
I believe God will direct the paths of those who desire His will more than their own comfort. "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Heb 11:6)