Wednesday, October 31, 2012

strain the gnat, swallow the camel

I'm reading through Matthew this month, the book where many of Jesus' heaviest rebukes are recorded.  Yes, written by Matthew, the detested former tax collector who left it all in the booth to follow Him at the mere invitation; the one who threw a party immediately after, inviting his friends to meet and follow this Jesus too.  Who more appropriate than Matthew to record the guile of hypocrisy, and Jesus' detest of the sins that required rebuke as opposed to those which merely required an invitation to leave them?

Pastor Mark Batterson (National Community Church) has often said, "Sometimes as Christians we major in the minors and we minor in the majors."  My friends, this should not be.  In fact, if we are truly Christ-followers and not modern-day Pharisees, it will not be.  

Because tithing on mint and neglecting justice is innately repulsive.  As I tell my son who is still learning socially appropriate behavior, "Nobody likes that."

The bottom line is this - the longer we follow Him, the more we should look like Him.  Talk like Him, act like Him, work like Him.  Heal like He did, teach like He did, love like He did.  Care about the things He cared about, and dismiss the things He didn't.  Invite the lost to be found, the forgotten to be remembered, and the broken to be restored.  And how about our friends straining the gnat and swallowing the camel?  Perhaps a rebuke would be in order for these who think they know Him intimately but have never even laid eyes on the hem of His cloak.  

Because they make God repulsive too.  

And I love Him too much to allow it.  Not on my watch.

So what's the difference between a sinner and a hypocrite?  I'm glad you asked.  Humility.  Not sin, for we all sin.  Not the literal can't-follow-through-faithfully-in-what-I-believe.  We are none of us perfect.  No, the difference is one's willingness to appear lowly and to associate with the lowly.  In truth we are all lowly.  It's when we pretend we're not all ragamuffins that we become the hypocrites and the Pharisees.  

Not me. For the record: I am a sinner in need of a Redeemer ... every day. No longer a slave to sin, but nonetheless so utterly fallen.  I don't have all the answers, but I have some of His answers. The lessons I learn the hard way I pass on to others so they can learn through me the easy way.  I make mistakes on accident and I also rebelliously and purposefully, knowingly disregard His plan for me.  O God, forgive me. 

"This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'—and I’m the biggest sinner of all." - 1 Timothy 1:15 

I want to see the camel, the plank, the sickness that takes me to the Doctor.  No more of this wasting heart beats on gnats and splinters and putting on make up to look healthy.  

Oh, Jesus I'm desperate for You again today.  Life is painful and confusing and sometimes this storm just rages on and on, and I feel like I can't see You.  But You rescue me every time.  You are my anchor and my Father, and You came and died to save me.  I need your forgiveness today, again.  I feel like I'm the biggest sinner of all.  Help me, God - deliver me from this sinful life that chokes me every day.  Save me from temptations and evils.  Help me to focus on the issues at hand that really matter and to throw off those minute incidentals that won't amount to a "hill-o-beans" in eternity.  Oh, God thank You for the invitation to follow Your Son.  There's nothing I want more than to follow Him so closely that I feel the warm wake of His love.  

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