Sinners Get Priority

17 Jesus heard this and said to them, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”

Mark 2:17, NCV

“The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.”  

–C.S. Lewis

How ironic!  Today, religious people are seen as a sort of an elite, an upper crust. The seem like they have it together, or at least they think so. Somewhat superior to those of us who live hard, and know all about sin.  The hearts of the lower level don’t make any pretension to any kind of spirituality.

They understand that they are the ‘dregs.’  They have adapted to living in an ugly and twisted world that gives nothing.  There is a sense that they know they are on ‘the highway to hell.’ They aren’t surprised by this.

The gross sinner, and the spiritually debilitated, have been brought into a very special place.  Jesus intends to escort us into glory, even in spite of our and unsightly infection.  He is wonderful, and yet we see that He really does specialize in losers.  He ‘homes in’ on them and then connects with those who have no ‘religious’ sense to speak of.

This seems quite counter-intuitive, especially if you’re trying to start a religious movement.  It is quite necessary to have a strong base, to seek out good people, and with finances– obviously.  And ‘the sick’ have blown it all on sex, drugs and rock & roll.  They will never finance the ministry of Jesus.  The disciples all have grasped this, especially Judas.  They are full of practicality.  They approach discipleship as a business. (And truly, these are the dangerous ones.)

The sick, the defective, and the infirm have now been elevated by Jesus’ new focus.  They have ‘zero spiritual’ value, with absolutely nothing to contribute — they are more of a liability then anything.  People like us who are very ill really can’t contribute to what is really happening.  More often then not, they require intensive care from the healthy and whole, sapping the strength of the work. Truly God is not against us because of our sin. He is with us against our sin.

I have a blue handicapped placard. This really helps and gives me preferential parking. And in much the same way spiritually, if you are a loser– you have dibs.   Jesus shines on you specifically (even if the Church won’t.)

There is a kind of a loving triage that He uses as He draws people into His domain and influence.  Hearts and lives that are black receive His eager attention.  Of course, there will be voices that object to this perceived inequity.

But Jesus has no favorites, only intimates.  Remember this, the sinner who has been “forgiven much, loves much.”

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Are You Too Righteous?

“Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?”

Ecclesiastes 7:16

I’m thinking out loud about something, so I should alert everyone.  Anyway, I’m thinking about “scruples”.  The dictionary defines scruples as an uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action.”

The malady developed in the middle ages.  Among the saints who were not yet labeled saints, there developed a particular syndrome of hypersensitivity toward sin and holiness.  You might say that they got stuck in the proverbial “hamster wheel” and couldn’t get off.  Run, run, run and they developed an irrational fear of somehow missing God.  Many a zealous saint has turned obsessive and superstitious. Suicide would happen.

Wikipedia says this about “scruples”– –an obsessive concern with one’s own sins and compulsive performance of religious devotion.”   It is essentially the doubt and fear that you will do or say something that is not right.  It locks you up inside to the point you can’t do anything.  Scruples can be one of the occupational hazards of the devout believer.

Ecclesiastes postulates the idea of being overly devout.  “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?” (Eccl. 7:16) This verse, suggests that one can be excessive, or, too good.  That might rankle some, as it did me.  How can you be too righteous?

Luther once said, “Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.” That intrigues me. I once heard a sermon entitled, “Does Your Christianity Include You?” (I can remember the title, but not the message.)

I guess we sometimes develop a sense of wanting to please God to the extent of denying our humanity. 

At least that’s where my own battles with scrupulosity originate.  I am thinking that “Pharaseeism” is kind of like its cousin; they are closely related. I think we start to have issues when we start to become obsessive about our holiness and our discipleship.  If a little is really good, then a lot is even better; this is our rationale, but it doesn’t work that way.

There are several examples in the Word.  I think of Jephthah and his over-the-top vow to the Lord.  In Judges 11, Jephthah vowed to God that if he were victorious in battle, he would give to God whoever came through the doors of his house upon his return from battle. In verse 34-35  we read that his only child a daughter came out first upon his return from battle. Jephthah was crushed.

This wasn’t necessary, or even required, but if we look at his life it seems that he had an impulse to overcompensate.  He was blown away by his daughter’s appearance when he returned home.  Saul was another, with Jonathan and the honey.  Just something to think about.

“If there be anything that can render the soul calm, dissipate its scruples and dispel its fears, sweeten its sufferings by the anointing of love, impart strength to all its actions, and spread abroad the joy of the Holy Spirit in its countenance and words, it is this simple and childlike repose in the arms of God. “

S.D. Gordon

ybic, Bryan

 

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More Like a Romantic Kiss

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“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine.
3 Because of the fragrance of your good ointments,
Your name is ointment poured forth;
Therefore the virgins love you.
4 Draw me away! “

Song of Solomon 1:2-4

“Dear God, I think about you sometimes even when I am not praying.” 

Elliot, “Children’s Letters to God”

It may seem heretical, but it seems that spiritual growth is being reduced to ‘bullet points’ of a presentation. And that really does scare me.  We are looking to fall into a trap ‘head over heels’ right into a place that has promised so much, and yet delivers so little. We have been reduced to a mindset of which the ‘disciplines’ of the Christian life have become formulaic, and  robotical.  Somehow, we are missing the purpose as our discipleship begins to grow hard and slowly turns to stone.

But a kiss, on the other hand, is undefinable; it can’t be quantified and defies rules.

I fear the formula, and repudiate the rules.  I am disturbed that our discipleship can become self-moving, self-regulating, self-starting.

When will realize that Jesus is looking for lovers?  Somehow we think we can extract romance, diminish intimacy and choose to walk mechanically through life.  We are losing our created and given purpose to be in close fellowship with Him.

There is a monstrous industry in all of this, a callous system. With the absence of an intimacy with Jesus, the following will actually become dangerous.

  • formulas, counselors, life-coaches
  • training programs,
  • media: books, podcasts, TV
  • conferences, prophetic worship
  • magazines, “special” books
  • inspirational speakers, favorite Bible teachers
  • and even websites, (like this one!)

We often turn to them to get what we think we need. The delusion is that we can become moral and true, without an intimacy with Jesus. I guarantee this, without a deep intimacy with Him, these “things” will invariably disappoint us. But truly, we seldom do intimacy well.

Authentic growth will not happen overnight.  Many get so disappointed, and disillusioned that they just quit walking and become hardened aand very unhappy. They may or may not become apostate. The Lord sees them, and loves them at a distance.

We can’t use the above list, but the Holy Spirit can.  He uses these things, but there can never be confusion on who is working. I must relate to Him and strengthened in His strength.  I must be as intimate as I can in His presence.

There can never be an authentic spirituality, without a real romance with Jesus We must be taken up with Him and enthralled.  We must recover the “courtship of the Lord.” Prayer starts to become a passionate tryst, and worship an affair of the heart.  This where we meet begin to meet him directly, and authentically.

For good people, God is a religion. For the saints he is a kiss and an embrace.

Passion, and not principles (even if they are noble ones) will carry the day. It’s about desperation, not obligation.  I will be the first to admit that these maybe these differences seem subtle and trivial, but they’re not.  Romance brings roses to a rendezvous, with a passionate and openly declared ‘first love.’ Yet so often we shuffle in and grovel to bring our list of things we need or want. Few be the lovers, that find true contentment and freedom and real peace when they are alone with their Beloved.

 

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