Saturday, August 25, 2007

Spare the Rod...

The other day, one of my students asked me a very profound question.

He was concerned that a certain thing in his life was becoming more important to him than God, and he knew he needed to adjust his priorities. Not only did he recognize this as the right thing to do, but he also realized that by rebelliously holding on to the idol in his life he ran the risk of God forcibly taking it away from him.

Now days, we don't talk very much about God disciplining His people, despite the very clear teaching of Scripture on the topic. (Heb. 12:5-11, most clearly.) I'm not sure why this is. Maybe because it's not very "seeker-sensitive" to have a God who will hurt you in order to heal you. We live in a culture where even spanking is taboo, so maybe we fear that a God who punishes those He loves for their own good will be unattractive, even to those who believe in Him.

Anyway, the question my young friend came up with was this: "Why is it that God would take this away from me now that I am a Christian, and not take it away from other people around me who don't believe in Him?"

When I heard these words, I smiled ear to ear. This was a deep and important question, inviting the deep truths of Scripture. This is the kind of thing I live for.

I took my young friend back to Exodus. The Hebrew people had just come out of Egypt, crossed through the Red Sea, and seen God smash Pharoah's army something fierce. Now they were encamped at the base of a mountain called Sinai. Moses had gone up the hill to talk with God and figure out what happens next.

God had chosen these people to be His people, and if they were going to be His people, they needed to live a certain way. So, God gave them some guidelines. He started with ten simple rules, and the first of these ten was this: "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Ex. 20:3)

He could have started with any of the hundreds of commands in the law, but He chose to start with this one. Why? Because God does not want to compete for our attention or affection. He wants to be our One and Only. If we are going to be His people, if we are going to belong to Him, then He wants our complete devotion.

It's like me and Katherine. She is my wife. She belongs to me. (Readers with feminist tendencies, please don't be offended by my saying this. Truth is, I belong to her just as much.) So, if Katherine began treating some other man like he was her husband, I would get jealous. And rightly so. She ought not treat another man that way. She's my wife. I have a claim on her.

Now if a woman other than Katherine were to treat some man she was not married to as her husband, I would not react the same way. Sure, I could point out that what she was doing is wrong, but I would not be jealous for her in the same way that I would be for Katherine. Why? Because she's not my wife. I don't have a claim.

If we have put our faith in Jesus, we are God's people. Scripture tells us we were bought with a price, and refers to us as the bride of Christ. So, when we begin to treat something (or someone) other than God as though it were God, when we show a greater level of devotion to it than we do to Him, He gets jealous. And rightly so. We are His.

Now God is not vindictive. He does not do things to harm us maliciously. And I believe with all my heart that He will give you every possible chance to turn away from your idols and come back to Him. But there comes a time when there is no other way. When that time comes, God will take them by force. He will strip you down, and He will remind you that you are His, and He will do it because of His incredible, passionate, intense, scandalous love for you.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

--Hebrews 12:5-6


Bonnie Arnwine said...

Hmmm its hard to comprehend that kind of love...

Eugene said...

Hey guys, This is Bro Eugene. I just found your blog for the first time. I remember you asking me a while back if you could share our blog with others, or something like that.

Now I understand what you meant. I see you have us on your "blogroll" or what have you.


I'll be checking your blog for stuff that I can post in our Weekly Highlights or in our other links.

This was a good post!