“Teacher, what good deeds must I do…?” Matthew 19:13-22 This discourse reminds me of a an exercise I participated in while at a business conference. We were asked to find solutions to a problem by continually asking the question; “Then what?” The rich man in this passage seems to play this game with Jesus until he gets an answer that leaves him silent. “Sell your possessions, give the money to the poor…then come follow me.” Perhaps he should have stopped at just keeping the commandments. We all get to a place in our lives where we want to move forward until we realize in order to do so we have to let something go and the trade off is scary. Then What? Of course like the rich man, Jesus also gives us something to consider. When we are willing to let go of the thing that holds us back, we give ourselves the opportunity to experience God’s love and faithfulness as something greater than all our fears.
Herod’s story helps us to understand several things. First, that John’s message was for everyone. Second, not everyone who hears the message of repentance will be committed to it. Third, for those who hear and receive it, they will make the choice to prepare themselves so that God can enter in and live according to God’s will and not the will of the self. By doing so it doesn’t make us perfect and we won’t always make the right decision but the spirit that condemns us will lead us back to John’s message of repentance of the heart. What story would we be telling if Herod chose not to honor his daughter’s request? How many decisions have we made in our own lives simply for our own self-preservation out of pride, arrogance, selfishness and fear? How many times have we in hindsight, with knowledge of Christ, wish we had made a different decision, not for things in which we have no relationship like the color of carpet, but rather in those matters that reflect our relationship to others? However, in spite of our selves and out past, God chooses to be in relationship with us, as blameless before him according to his love, which is revealed to us through Christ. As we strive to live according to God’s love, a Herod’s dilemma becomes less prevalent in our lives as we travel this journey.
This right relationship, what Christ has been giving, living and expressing in his actions since God sent him to be with us; is simply this – that we love God and love one another as Christ has loved us. It is a relationship likened as to a good Shepherd to his sheep, a true vine that nourishes its branches, and friend who is a confidant. After he has given to his disciples all that his Father has made known to him, Jesus emphasis on this relationship of love culminates into his final discourse; what is known as the “High Priestly Prayer”, before he is taken out of this world. He does not pray for our perfection. He does not pray for our guilt and shame. He does not pray for our atonement. He prays for our sanctification. Jesus petitions God to sanctify (make holy) his disciples and those who come to believe through their word. From that moment on we who know God’s love, live God’s love among one another and make God’s love known through his son to all who will come to believe after us, become a holy nation made one in Christ. As we continue to live in fulfillment of the scripture, how incredibly blessed we are to be in this love relationship with the Father, Son and the advocate which he promised to send, his Holy Spirit, the one love relationship that I believe Judas could not receive, because he did not have faith.
“Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, …make perfect those who approach.” What then, does the law make us? By confession and repentance it makes us accountable. It also reminds us of our sin. However, Sanctification through Christ makes perfect all those who approach (1 John 4:17-21). By confession and repentance, we are also made accountable. Yet, rather than continuing to remind us of our sin, in all circumstances Sanctification through Christ continually forgives. Although in both ways we are made accountable, only in one way is salvation be revealed. Therefore seek always to do God’s will.
Merry Christmas! Today being Wednesday, and as we glide into the end of the year, I want to share something to help you get over what is commonly called “hump day.” I give thanks to God everyday for the people and support he has placed in my life. However, it took me a while to learn and remember that Christ alone is our one true mediator! Christ alone is our only redeemer! When seeking instruction and guidance, a good mentor understands (nor do they desire it) that they have nothing to gain or anything to lose by extending their wisdom to help you reconcile your life. While this life has many joys, it also has its share of hurdles, sometimes put in place by people we know, other times by people we don’t know. Mostly, we unknowingly put them there our selves because of the decisions we’ve made. Nevertheless, when struggling to make it to the next “whatever,” I have learned to first seek the one who pioneered this journey of faith and the only one who has perfected it. No authority on earth has reached that perfection. By God’s grace, know that the relationship we choose to have with Christ is what will either get us over the humps, help us to move around them, and on occasion help to dig our selves out from underneath them to reach the side that is redemption, reconciliation and peace. Let the Spirit of Christmas reign. Trust God!