Truth is, we spend most of our time praying that God will give us what we really want- and its not Him.
We only go to God to get:
hitting our fighting weight
for our to kid make the travel team
finally getting some money in our savings account
or my most favorite muscle car ever (yes, I got it- pictured above:)
Tune to the right channel- THEN, check your content…
In order for the thing we want not to become an idol we seek after more than God, make sure you have an open channel to God.
Then pray for the things HE wants us to be a part of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Along with gospel principles such as mercy, grace and justice. Pray what’s in scripture.
Yes, really! Pray for those things by name, and things going on in your life where you can apply them. What God wants for us, what he wants us to be praying for, is right in His Word.
Every time you do this, even when you’re not feeling it, you are fighting the idolatry in your heart. The Holy Spirit will actually redirect the desires of your heart away from the whatever it is that you really want- to you really wanting more of God.
1. Mourn for the sins that are in the world. In Ezek. 9. When God gave Ezekiel a vision of men slaying idolaters throughout Jerusalem- he only spared the ones that mourned what was going on. So don’t ever become numb to it. Think about it, lament it, pray about it, do something in your community about it.
2. Sanctify God through it: By mourning- we are sanctifying God. When we are being sanctified- we are becoming more holy- when we sanctify God however- we are simply recognizing his holiness- in every circumstance- as in mankind means something for evil- while God will use it for good somehow and will also come to the aid of the oppressed.
3. It prepares us: mourning prepares us for when suffering comes upon us. If we can sanctify God when others suffer injustice, it will be easier to sanctify Him when we suffer as well.
If we’re not ready when it comes, if we’re not sanctifying God and thinking of his supreme magisterial knowledge- if all we know is to say trite things to people- like oh it’ll be OK- then when suffering comes to us, its going to go badly.
Ultimately, its a low view of humanity that causes the injustice and oppression that leads to the suffering we experience.
God is so interested in justice, that one of the first things He told Israel to do in their new land was to create sanctuary cities. If someone accidentally killed someone in ancient Israel, they were to flee to one of these cities. There they could find justice. They had some familiar protections: the right to face their accuser, trial by jury, and witnesses. No ransom was allowed either. So there was equality under the law for the poor. If the death was accidental, then the killer was to safely reside in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.
So even manslaughter is sin. In fact, all sin requires blood. And its the job of the blood avenger to get it. In the sanctuary city however, the sinner is safe, but if the offender is found outside the city, the blood avenger has the right to kill you. An avenger is someone who gets something back- as in, I’m gonna get you back for what you did. But if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to run any longer, because the blood of the ultimate High Priest has paid for your sin. He has also gotten something back for you- you’re place with God.
Click the link below to hear the whole talk and learn three things about sanctuary cities: the refuge of the city, the justice of the city and the blood of the city…
How could there be grace in vengeance? Well, first and most importantly, God sent His Son, Jesus to take the vengeance that we deserve for our sin- that’s the grace of the gospel. And secondly, if we truly believe that is God of justice, then we don’t have to take vengeance out on the people that have wronged or oppressed. The pressure is off, because we know God is going to do it. That’s grace, too- and by extension, it allows us to show grace to our enemies as well.
That doesn’t mean we sit on our hands, though. Jesus has a two fold mission: to declare freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… and eventually…the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61). But today it is only the first part. Jesus comes today not to condemn but to save (John 3:17). How often are we condemning? We can still be “matter of fact” about our principles and morals, but we also have to love and relate and serve those around us like Christ did, while focusing on that first part of Christ’s mission- of lifting up, freeing and proclaiming. That attracts despite differences.
Vengeance has a lot in common with its cousin, revenge- but its not revenge. It’s similar in the sense that it involves cause and effect- it’s a response to something- a wrong. But the difference is in who does the judging.
For the full scoop, click below to listen in on my talk at Cedar Run Community Church last week on Numbers 31: The Grace of God’s Vengeance.