Friday, December 15, 2006

The Lawless

I mentioned in my last post that I've been feeling strange lately...out of sorts... like there's something not quite me rattling around in my body, or maybe in my heart. I think it's the old man, not so at home in the new man-- sin isn't natural to a new creation. I was talking about some of this to Val the other night, and she asked "Do you think you've been being disobedient?" I answered in the affirmative. And she answered, "Hmmm...aren't we always?"

Hmmm indeed. While there are periods of more obedience, I think she's right. Sanctification is a "work" not an "act" of God's free grace. It takes time. So, I think that my own thoughts on the matter are worth a post; I like what I post to be at least somewhat widely applicable.

Have you ever hesitated to pray because you weren't worthy? Or wondered how to even start repenting, because you don't feel sorry enough? It's like you have to make yourself feel bad enough before you dare approach... but the problem is that the longer you wait, the more guilty you feel, and so the more reluctant you are, so the longer you wait... Is this ringing any experiential bells for anyone else!? I've a sneaking suspicion some of that's been at work in my heart the past while, and this passage in 2 Chronicles is one thing God's been using to draw my heart back to Him:

This takes place after Israel and Judah split, after Israel's been mostly wiped out by the Assyrians, but before Judah is plundered by Babylon. Judah, while blessed with at least a few good kings, certainly better at keeping the Law (aka a heart for Yahweh alone) than Israel, hasn't exactly been a paragon of righteousness either, and the temple and the religious calandar have fallen into disrepair. The new king, Hezekiah, however, loves the God of Abraham with all his heart, and has led Judah in a moral and religious reform, repairing the temple, re-appointing priests & temple singers, and finally, re-instating the God-mandated schedule of feasts and sacrifices. He sends messangers throughout Judah and what remains of Israel, calling all who are able to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, for the first time in several generations. The Passover, you might remember, was given to commemorate the time God delivered the Israelites through MANY miracles from the Egyptians, judging them while sparing the Israelites, who had painted blood of lambs on their doorposts. There were specific rules surrounding how the meal was to be eaten, who was to eat it, how it was to be prepared, etc. Ok...all that was context for this passage:

"For a majority of the people [...] had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying "May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to His holy habitation in heaven."
[II Chron. 30:18-27]]

Did you catch that!? Lots of the people didn't keep the Law even as they tried to start keeping the Law!! They started to obey, aka they ate the Passover which was commanded, but they hadn't been able to obey all the laws surrounding how they were supposed to eat it. And God didn't strike them dead! Rather, He was pleased! Their prayers reached His Heavenly Jerusalem, and the people were filled with joy such as they hadn't seen for hundreds of years. It seems that God deemed it more righteous for them to hurry to come to Him, hurry to obey, than for them to hang back and wait until they "had it all together." Hmmm. Do you see how this was encouraging to me?!

Over coffee yesterday, Grant Beachy, associate pastor at Redeemer Pres in Traveler's Rest and our interim RUF campus minster at Furman (of sorts), reminded me that "You can never need, or get, more grace than what you have." What was it Dustin often would say? "On your best days, you're not above the need for grace, and on your worst, you're not out of its reach"? Something like that.

Even Law-breakers may approach the Holy One, in humilty & repentance. Even a disobedient child like me may pray-- approaching the Throne of Grace in confidence because it is just that, a Throne of Grace.

"Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him
This He gives you-- 'tis the Spirit's rising beam!"
("Come, Ye Sinners," Joseph Hart)


szrama said...

Ahh, Come Ye Sinners is one of my very favorite hymns. (Among a few others that we don't sing enough.. ;) Your post speaks of the ritual purity idea from the parable of the Good Samaritan, too. The priest and the Levite wanted to do the right thing before approaching God... and so they did the wrong thing, foregoing a chance to show mercy so they could show God how good they were. Yikes! Do we want to feel bad enough about our sin so we can be sure God knows we feel bad enough about it? That way he might grant us forgiveness, right? Do we need to have a good week of "ritual purity" before we can tell God we love him and thank him for his love? Functionally it seems like we think so sometimes.

AE said...

hey girly! what's goin' on? you can't just get up and ignore communication here!!! Where are you? what are you doing? thinking?
i miss hearing from you!

write some!