Jesus gives us a risky new way of Being Human. How do we do it? How do we live this new way? The difference is in who is keeping you. Someone is always keeping us. We’re either keeping ourselves or someone else is. 1 John 5:18 says:
the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.
Who is the One “born of God”? Jesus.
When we keep ourselves, we base our worth on how well we do what the world expects of us. How well we keep all the balls in the air.
But when Jesus keeps us- the pressure comes off. What he did for me- accepting me even though my kids aren’t perfect and I didn’t get the job I wanted. That freeing.
Being “Born of God” gives us a whole new way to begin to be human in the way that God originally designed us. We gain a new understanding of both ourselves and Jesus that changes our hearts. And because its Jesus who keeps us, we can take the risks associated with this new way of living.
How do you know if you’re treating God like the Genie in the Lamp?
One way is your prayer life. 1 John 5:14-15 reads:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
What do you pray for? Whatever it is that we really want usually winds up in our prayers. It says here that if it according to his will- he hears us. Does that mean there are prayers of mine that he doesn’t hear? No- the word hears is better translated as heeds. If its part of God’s will for our lives he heeds us- its automatic.
God’s will is no big secret. Too many of our prayers are like rubbing the lamp to get our three wishes.
God’s will is in His Word: love, joy, peace, patience, or other principles like justice or mercy or loving your neighbor better. How many of our prayers are about that stuff?
Don’t pray to God just so He can help you get the stuff you really want besides Him. Pray to God so you can get more God. Anything else and you’ve turned God into the Genie in the Lamp- in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We have a choice in how we laugh. In Genesis, Sarah models two kinds of laughter for us. The laughter of Ishmael or the laughter of Isaac? The laughter of Ishmael is either proud and mocking of others because of our imagined self-success, or its bitter as we mock ourselves or blame life for our failure. But the laughter of Isaac happens when we see that God has been patient and he’s blessed us, and even transformed us, despite our failures- It’s the laughter of relief, “how could I have been so stupid.”
Ishmael or Isaac? Ishmael is the way of ‘works’, of getting a son in a way they had a human ability to achieve. It’s a way of unbelief. Isaac: represents the way of grace and the way of Christ, of getting a son by simply waiting in faith for what only God could do. If you’ve never fully trusted Jesus Christ to be your promise- you are stuck in the dry, hot desert of reality without hope.
And for those here who have believed, watch out: don’t have the heart of Isaac but live the life of Ishmael. The place between the pieces, that place of unbelief, Jesus has already passed through for you. So you are free to believe and even free to fail- because the outcome is not up to you. Admitting there’s a space between your belief and unbelief.
Mark 9:24 is one of the most contradictory but accurate verses in the Bible about belief. “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” This is the space where the Holy Spirit does his best work. Say it, pray it. And He will come. Both Isaac and Jesus are miraculous births that are acts of God’s saving grace. But Jesus is by far the greater one- because Isaac only points us to Christ, and its only in Jesus that we finally hear the laughter of God’s grace.
A small god can manage the list of dos and don’ts that we have posted on the fridge. But only an infinitely big God can dole out grace in the huge amounts that we need every day. We make him small when we limit him to being the genie for our prayer requests.
Compared to what God expects of us as beings created specifically to love, worship and obey him- the most on fired up Christian only taps a minuscule fraction of their potential to live for god. And though I wound him daily with my self serving attitude, my lack of awe of his greatness and grace- he still comes back to me and says, you can do better, I know it because I made you. I know it because I love you like my own Son. We will never understand the depth of what he has done for us through the gospel. If we spent every waking minute of our lives pondering the peaks of gospel off in the distance, we would still never make it past the foothills.
Don’t be paralyzed by shame, but do continue daily repentance. Your salvation isn’t finished with the sinners prayer. But it moves toward the finish line as our hearts melt and change over God’s grace and response to our sin.
Have you ever gone through a time of change or difficult time in your life (job, relationship, move, financial, etc.) when you wanted it to come out a certain way and were praying with all your heart that God would make it so?
We spend a lot of times praying for things in our lives. In “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” Andrew Murray writes that we “allow” God to keep His integrity by adding terminology like “if it’s God’s will.”
So, how do we reconcile unanswered prayers with verses like John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” Well, we need to do a better job of looking at not only this verse but some of the surrounding verses in 14 and 15. Jesus’ promise is conditional.
Here are some of them:
In my name: ask yourself, “is this something Jesus would have prayed for?”
Abides in me: how much does your life depend on Jesus?
Believes in: you know what I mean here, Christian:)
So that the Father may be glorified: does your request bring glory to God?
The works I have been doing: do we spend our time and prayer energy on the things that really interest 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.
What makes you angry when your not in control of it? Your work, your kids, your job, your finances, what people think of you? Answer that question and you may have just found your idol.
Yes, even you, Christian. And its actually worse for us. Because we’ve tasted the gospel. We’ve at a minimum given up on trying to control our eternal destiny- given up on the idea that we can ever commit enough good deeds to make up for our sin. We know we can’t do it. We’ve given up control of that to Christ.
But then, we default back to control in every other area of our lives and it becomes where we find our worth other than God. Its almost better to have never tasted the peace and comfort and stability, the ability to trust God, then to have tasted it and gone back to white knuckling everything. Because we know its futile- but we do it anyway.
Beren and Luthien, are the star crossed lovers of Tokien’s prequel to the prequel of the LTR trilogy called the Simarilion. Luthien, the elven princess could never truly be with Beren the man unless she gave her heritage up, her immortality, being with her people, her elven magic. She had to lay it all down to be with Beren. And she did.
God was so desperate to be with us that, in Jesus he gave up all his control as God, his immortality, his supernatural powers and omnipotence, and became a human. If he’s that desperate for us- to give up all the control of God- can’t we be a little desperate for him- and give up just a little control to Him?
Jesus gives up control on the cross, to show us its OK to give it up ourselves.