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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mind Games and the Christian

"Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?"

"Have you ever in your life commanded the morning…?"

Job 38: 2, 12

You ever talk nonsense to God? Or to yourself? Or both? Do you ever angst over your salvation because you feel like you haven't "done enough" or the quality that the quality of "your faith" is just not good enough? I have. I'd be embarrassed to tell you just how often I've wasted a ton of time and mental energy consumed with such thoughts. For the record, let me state emphatically that: such thoughts are absolute nonsense. And it's evil nonsense too because the enemy of our souls has observed mankind and us long enough to know how insecure we are, how quick we are to look at ourselves as the agent of saving faith. And this enemy wants us stagnant and miserable, so he'll do everything he can to keep us thinking those kind of thoughts.

That's why I love the absolute omniscient power of these verses from Job, all of Job 38, really. When we entertain thoughts like the above, wondering if we've done enough or had just the right kind of faith—we are darkening the counsel of God. These are "words without knowledge," laced with fear. And they are withering…and stupid. Sorry. But blunt truth is called for here.

Ephesians 2: 8-9 (and a host of other scriptures) tell us: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Do you see the operative words and phrases there? Grace saves you. Unmerited favor of God, a gift, free…no strings attached. And note that Grace and even Faith is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Think about that. Grace and faith are gifts from God. Remember: what do we have that God has not given us? If you walk up the stairs, it is only because God gave you strong legs and eyes to see…and made the electrical signals pass from brain to body, etc. etc. If you learn that Jesus died for your sins, who made all the circumstances work out for that to happen?  God did, of course. If you believed, who gave you the conviction and will to believe? God did.

I suspect that we play mind games so often because we simply cannot fathom just how free a gift salvation is and we desperately scratch and claw to have some ownership of it. May I again state emphatically that such thoughts are withering…and stupid. God is the agent of ALL. Job 38 and in the NT, Colossians 1 make it very clear that everything is God's making. We won't breathe a single breath today without God's power and will behind it. So then, how does the salvation dynamic work?

The key, I believe is not at all the quality of our faith, but rather the One upon whom our faith rests. It's not: hmmm, I believed in my head, but I'm not sure my heart was in it. The question is, who are you counting on to save you? If it's Jesus, BOOM. Signed, sealed, and one day…delivered. But, it's a gift, you say. Don't we have to muster the energy and will to receive the gift? Sure, but where does that energy come from? That's right: God. Stop worrying about what you've done, can do, wish you could do…it's God. It's Jesus Christ dying on the cross and rising again to beat death down forever on your behalf.

Consider this word picture: you are a wretched vagabond. A poor raggamuffin dressed in rags and smelling of rotten cabbage. Suddenly, a bright light shines down the dank alley that you've been calling home. A mighty king, garbed in splendor and light, approaches you. He has a kindly gleam in his eyes and a ferocity of love you've never before known. And, he has a gleaming gift box in his hands. He's holding the gift out…to you. You tentatively reach out your arms to accept the gift, but you're thinking: "Who am I to deserve such a gift?" or "He must have the wrong guy. I shouldn't have such a gift." or "Wait, no one just gives stuff away. There must be a catch." In fact, your arms are trembling. You're just about to pull your hands back when–suddenly and decisively–the might king places the gift in your hands. You mumble a pitiful, meek "thank you." The mighty king smiles, and it's like all the sunrises, spring breezes, and snow-covered mountains in that smile. The king has given you a gift. The exchange is complete.

It wasn't how firmly you gripped the gift box. It wasn't whether or not your arms and hands were steady, or even the thoughts in your mind as you reached out for the gift. It's all about the Giver of the gift. He who commands the morning also gives you NEW LIFE. Mind games are pointless and wretched. God trumps those thoughts every time. The Agent of your salvation is infinitely superior to anything you might contribute. He is God, and we…are not. Turn back those mind games by thanking God for saving you and for doing everything necessary to secure your salvation forever.