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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

redemption, part 1

(this is part one of a three part series containing some big things I feel like the Lord is teaching me about redemption... mostly a sermon to myself & hopefully somewhat intelligible)

One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also." And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering." Luke 11:45-52

I love lists.
Specifically to-do lists.
Doesn't all the world feel more manageable when you know exactly what it is you need to do?

So that's exactly why Luke 11 hit me right between the eyes. When Jesus begins rebuking the lawyers, if you're like me - you probably feel a wave of relaxation. "Well, I can't possibly need to hear this since I'm a stay-at-home-mom (insert your occupation or livelihood) and not a lawyer! AND - not even a lawyer in New Testament days, at that!" You would think by this point in my life, I'd learn to stop discounting myself from pieces of scripture that provide rebuke - since they are the ones I need to hear the absolute most.

For whatever reason, I pressed into Luke 11:45-52 (most likely the Holy Spirit holding me) and I've honestly spent weeks there, mulling it over and letting it pierce my heart in all sorts of ways.

So a little further study found that the lawyers weren't exactly like our lawyers of today, but scribes of the pharisees. They were in charge of all the... well, the lists. They did all the note-taking concerning the extra-biblical rules the pharisees placed on the people. They spent their days writing opinions of "holy" men, and basically being like the nastiest elves in the north pole - essentially deciding who was good and bad. The hard part is, somewhere in their hearts - they probably wanted to help, right? They desired holiness and rightness and pleasing the Lord, or at the very least - they wanted to be as close to holy as possible, which makes me want to root for them, a little. Right?

Wrong. They're missing the main point. They had taken away the key of knowledge, which was the God-man standing in front of them. I can so imagine what it would've been like to be them, you know - because I've been them. I hear about Jesus and I talk to Him and I read about Him, but when it comes down to it - actually changing or becoming "better", I know how to do it on my own. I make a list, stick to it, and then hold my entire list up to everyone else I know. If they don't measure up - I judge them. Then I realize I don't measure up, do a little self flagellation, wallow, make a new list and start again. Maybe somewhere in there, I encounter Jesus and tell Him, "You know - that insults me a little, when you call me an unmarked grave!" and I keep going about my own way.

But woe to me.
Woe was me when I read this passage & saw myself in their shoes.

How long have I looked at the key of knowledge and looked past the redemptive blood on His brow? How many mornings have I been beneath Him on the cross and yelled up, "Hey! Thanks for dying for me - but I've got this, see my list here?! I'm going to learn how to be a Proverbs 31 woman today!!! Exciting, huh!?". How long have I taken redemption for granted? Sadly, by wanting to know Jesus and not really wanting to know the experience of redemption - mostly because it felt easier to take the burden on myself than to look His love square in the face. It's frightening to be loved like that. Chosen, predestined, even with the full knowledge of my past, present, and future sin. Created, gifted, blessed, and loved on top of that? Forgiven through propitiation, justified by sinless blood, and qualified for His work. Something inside of me had slowly decided that kind of love was too much to swallow whole, and so... I just began making lists.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law {God allowed humans to be righteous no matter how many lists they fail}, although the Law and Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God {none of us can master any spiritual or personal to-do list, ever} and are justified as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus {big sigh, I love that phrase. I live because of that phrase}, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. (romans 3:21-25)

That is the good news of the century. Good news of eternity.
We don't have to live missing the key of knowledge.
Believers and skeptics alike - put down your lists.
When Truth is standing in front of you, quit trying and ask for faith.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 corinthians 12:10)


Anonymous said...

Funny you wrote this, b/c last night I was praying while riding the bus home and something (aka, the Holy Spirit) led me to thinking about redemption, too, and what a marvel it is. It's that huge that it needs a word like "marvel" to describe it. And the question popped into my mind "Do you realize that you have eternity to KNOW how much you are loved?". I'm with you on the lists and one thing that we miss out on because of them is the vastness that His redemption brings. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known" (i Cor. 13) It's a glorious thing to let that really, really, really sink in. Nothing separates us from His love now and one day we will see Him face-to-face and fully know and our love will be made perfect. Redemption. Ay yi yi. I gotta go cry.

-A friend

Jill said...

Yay, Jessi! Thanks be to HIM, the Spirit clearly told me yesterday to ignore what i perceive as "christian behavior modification crap" and run to Jesus- who came for the weak! That in summation is similar to what you have learned here. I've been so joyful lately, again, thanks to Him, and I'd like to think thanks to petition by a few good friends! xoxo

Anonymous said...

amen and amen. so wise and needed on redemptive grace. oh to grasp it, I will try all the days. you with your list me with my running from list, both needing it. love you and Him for loving us both MORE than that- a deep deep ocean that must be. K