We all have a crucial choice to make. The choice before us is whether we take things into our own soiled hands. Or leave things in God’s untainted hands.
This choice is most vital when it comes to what Christians call “salvation”. This refers to our right standing before God. The Bible tells us that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves from our sinful nature and make ourselves acceptable to a Holy God. We simply can’t take salvation into our hands. We have to leave it entirely to God’s hands.
Romans 5:6 states this starkly: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” In short, Jesus Christ is our surest assurance that only God himself can do something about our hardened yet hopeless condition of rebellion against God.
As someone put it: “Why are we so afraid to put our lives into the hands of someone infinitely wiser, bigger and better than us?” Why indeed? There is an illogic to this that only the “psychology of sin” can explain. When we sin, we are always more appeased and assured when we are doing something about it. When we sin, we embark on one of these three main choices: we hide our sin, we blame others for our sin or we self-atone (do penance) for our sin.
Story is told of a father in Australia who walked into his house and caught his two young kids fighting. The younger boy held the broken TV antenna (yes, TV sets had these in the “old days”). Upon seeing his father, the son – while still holding the incriminating evidence – immediately blurted out: “She (his older sister) did it! She made me do it”. Here is the DNA of sin inherited from Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). We sin, we hide, we blame and, finally, we atone.
Hiding is simply covering up our tracks so that we don’t look so bad. Blaming is outsourcing our culpability to another to make them appear wrong. If the first two fail, then we usually opt for atoning. Atoning is our attempt to do the religion bit – go on a religious pilgrimage, embark on religious rituals or look to religious men to be our intermediaries with God. After awhile, we must admit that none of these can deal with the power and guilt of sin that so haunts our souls and destroys our relationships.
Only God can break the stranglehold of Satan and sin over us. To accomplish this, God has generously sacrificed His Son and kindly poured out His Spirit. In simple terms, Jesus’ death on the Cross 2000 years ago grants us our positional holiness to be made acceptable to a holy God while the Spirit empowers us for our progressive holiness in our daily living.
The supreme purpose of the Son’s and the Spirit’s work is to reproduce God’s love in us.
Galatians 5:13 declares: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another.” And what is the character of divine love made possible through the Son and Spirit? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” In short, divine love – accomplished by the Son and applied by the Spirit – chooses not to harm its neighbor.
Question is: “Are you harming or blessing your neighbor?” Neighbor can simply be defined as someone that God has put us in the best position to love and help. And that neighbor who may be your spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, fellow believer or an outright stranger. It’s that someone that God has divinely orchestrated for us to be a Samaritan to – in a season, in a day or in a moment.
It is not good enough for us to claim belief in God, without any corresponding evidence of God-empoweered, God-changed and God-glorifying behaviors. Many of remain as selfish in our thoughts, as defamatory in our words, as quarrelsome in our attitudes and as harmful in our actions to others while presuming we are Christian.
As you read this, are you scheming evil behind your spouse’s back, harboring dishonor towards your parents, holding a grudge against a friend, conspiring to assassinate the character of a boss at work or a leader at church – even while you go to church and “do” ministry?
Then you have a choice to make.
Either you keep going with this double-life that fools no one but you and dishonors no one more than God. Or you come humbly to the Son and lean wholly on the Spirit to live a totally new life under God’s new management. We can’t have the half-flesh and half-Spirit life. We can’t have the half-me and half-God existence. It’s not on with God. Our God who has given himself fully cannot tolerate half-measures.
So I commend to you a new rhythm of life under God – purposed by the Father, accomplished by the Son and empowered by the Spirit. Why not replace your old habit of self-love and self-glory with this God-glorifying habit: Pray a good prayer, think a good thought, say a good word, do a good deed and, finally, feel a God feeling to your neighbor. And remember that God-given “neighbor” could be your spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, boss or leader whom you are really struggling to love. Then, with prayer and the Spirit’s empowerment, we repeat this gracious cycle of new life.
By God’s grace, I choose to wake each morning, continue through the day and lay down each night saying to my wife, my two children or my aged mother: “God bless you. You are God’s good gift to me.” I do the same for my extended family and my spiritual family in church.
By God’s grace, we can choose to pray a good prayer, think a good thought, say a good word, do a good deed and feel a God feeling about all the neighbors God brings along the way. Divine love in Christ chooses not to do harm but to do good, even to our most trying or nastiest neighbors.
What will you choose today?
Prayer: Almighty God, you have chosen to love and save us while we were still unlovable. May your Son and Spirit empower us to choose wisely each moment – not to do harm but to be a channel of your love. Help us O God. In Jesus’ name we pray.