Monday, September 20, 2010

Unconditional Embrace

This morning I was flipping through my Bible trying to find a place to land. Sometimes I'll do this because it's a fun game to play with God...often the random page I land on is the very voice and whisper I need to hear Him speak. Today is no exception. This is where the pages flipped to:

All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purposes for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.                          ~Luke 7:29-30
All the people, even the tax collectors, had a stirring in their heart that Jesus, this new movement and out-of-the-box revolutionary, was the right way. They acknowledged that He was from God. However, this wasn't just a head acknowledgment. Their hearts were stirred beyond head agreement into heart action. Their love for God was activated and proven through the testimony of baptism. On the flip side, the Pharisees rejected God's purposes for themselves...how? By refusing to move their head knowledge into heart action. They produced no external fruit and testament of their faith in God. They rejected the baptism of John. What did this baptism represent? A move of God outside of their understanding and paradigm. This baptism represented the need as humans to surrender to the sovereign wisdom of God, and to humbly admit that we don't know everything about how He operates.

The phrase that smacked me between the eyes was, "the Pharisees rejected God's purposes for themselves." Talk about a fear of God moment! I'm one of those weird people who have a broken heart towards the Pharisees. I so badly want the Bible to be re-written, kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where in the end, the Pharisees' eyes are open to the truth and they run into the arms of Christ. I can't handle it that they missed it. It kills me, probably because I recognize in my own heart how easy it is to miss God's voice by being caught up in what seems normal and right. They rejected God's purposes for themselves. They missed it. They couldn't handle the new things of God and were so caught up in patting themselves on the back that they were not positioned to know truth when they saw it. They couldn't receive that God's goodness and holiness could possibly come in ways they did not understand or did not initiate in their own strength and righteousness.

How easy is it for us, for me, to accept God's goodness in the obvious? It's easy to accept that He is good when everything is going as planned, in the land that is plentiful. I can sing the glories of His goodness in these moments without waver. But, when things don't go the way I've foreseen, when disappointment sets in, when God moves in ways that I cannot comprehend...the fight to believe He is good takes the strength of every fiber of my being to believe. I believe this is where true faith begins. When God operates outside of my expectations, I need to call that good, too. He's not only good when good things happen. He never changes. His goodness is in the wilderness, the unknown. His goodness is around us in every aspect of our lives. I can't surrender my heart to God only in the times when things go my way...this isn't surrender. The Pharisees missed Jesus because they refused to surrender their right to understand and in so doing they rejected the purposes of God for their lives.  Bill Johnson said something in a recent sermon that has been stuck in my head:

"If you want the peace that passes understanding to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, you have to lay down your right to understand."
I want to have a heart of unconditional embrace...I want to believe in God's goodness in both the land that is plentiful and the road marked with suffering. He is good all the time, and all the time He is good.

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