We’re All Guilty – December 19, 2017

I wish I could think of a better or more positive-sounding title, but this one about sums up the lesson I took from 2 Kings, Chapter 10.

Honestly, this was a hard chapter to read and an even harder chapter to write about because I think of God as a loving, merciful God, who sent Jesus to save us, but sometimes I forget just how holy He is, and the magnitude of what He saved me from.

The beginning of the chapter tells us that wicked Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria.  King Jehu wrote letters to the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to those who had reared Ahab’s sons, challenging them to a fight.  His letter reads:

“Now as soon as this letter comes to you, since your master’s sons are with you, and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city also, and weapons, choose the best qualified of your master’s sons, set him on his father’s throne, and fight for your master’s house. (vv 2-3).”

But the text goes on to say that the rulers and elders were afraid of a battle with the king, so they acquiesced, saying, “We are your servants, we will do all you tell us; but we will not make anyone king.  Do what is good in your sight (v 5).”

So King Jehu writes them another letter, saying, “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow (v 6).”

Was Jehu expecting the elders and rulers to actually do what he asked?  I’m not sure, but the sarcastic tone of the first letter suggests that he may have been upping the challenge to battle, perhaps thinking that they would appoint themselves a king from Ahab’s sons and go to war with him.  Then again, maybe he knew they wouldn’t.

Regardless of Jehu’s intent, the rulers and elders were more than willing to kill Ahab’s sons in order to save their own skin.  This, even though some of them had helped raise Ahab’s sons!

They slaughtered Ahab’s seventy sons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jezreel  (v 7).

Jehu made a speech the following morning.  He said, “You are righteous.  Indeed I conspired against my master and killed him; but who killed all these?  Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the Lord has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.”  The story goes on to tell us that Jehu killed the rest of Ahab’s family,  acquainances and priests.  Then later, he killed the remaining members of Ahab’s family in Samaria (vv 11-17).

This part gave me pause for a minute.  If God is loving and merciful and good, how could He possibly sanction such a massacre?

Well, to understand,  we have to get to the bottom of the reason God was angry at Ahab and his family.  They were not nice people.   They were Baal-worshipers who practiced and condoned the practice of rituals such as sacrificing of children in the fire, ritual prostitution,  and other terribly heinous, lewd and violent acts.  Not only had they turned their backs on God, but they were responsible for the slaughter and destruction of innocent lives, whether they participated in it directly,  or whether they condoned, encouraged and allowed it.

Not only this, but God had sent Elijah to warn Ahab that he was only bringing destruction to himself by participating in Baal worship (1 Kings 17-18).  Think about it, even after all that he had done, Ahab could’ve changed the course of his fate by turning from the idolatry and heinousness of Baal worship, and choosing to follow the Lord.  God had a multitude of patience with him and gave him a chance to put a stop to the awful things that were happening, but Ahab wouldn’t listen.

This story gets even sadder, as we shall see.  Jehu ultimately destroyed the temple of Baal and all of its worshipers, thus putting an end to the atrocities as the Lord had warned Ahab to do earlier.

God said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”  It goes on to say that “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin (vv 30-31).”

What was the sin?  It was allowing the golden calves that were still at Bethel and Dan.  Basically,  he got rid of one system of idolatry and allowed and condoned another.  He knew God’s truth and exchanged it for a lie.

I started thinking how this applies to us in the present day.  Our actions have consequences.  We can choose to squander our health with addiction,  unhealthy habits, reckless behavior, etc and the end result is years of life lost and pain to those we love.  We can choose to commit a crime and be put to death or serve time in prison.  We can choose to turn away from the Lord and miss out on the untold joy and blessings that come with choosing to follow Him.

The bad news is that we’re all guilty of disobeying God in some form or another.  How many times have I, have we, hurt others out of selfishness, anger, pride?  But the good news is we have Someone who loves us so much that He saw humanity, even in our worst moments, as lost sheep that need a Shepherd.

After the reign of Jehu, Israel continued to get worse.  The world continued to get worse.  Sound familiar today?  There is no way politics was ever going to change people’s hearts.  Humans would still, and do still, operate from selfishness and sin a lot of the time.

God knew we needed more than an earthly king.  He knew we needed divine redemption.  He knew we needed forgiveness. He knew we needed One who could break the chains of destruction and sin in our lives.  He knew we needed hope.  He knew we needed Jesus.

Do you know that He loves You so much that He is willing and able to help you, right now, to have a clean slate, a fresh start?  No matter where you are in life or geographically, no matter how far down you have gone, no matter what you’ve done?  Like Ahab, He loves us so much, He is calling us – calling us to follow Him.

If you’ve never heard the good news, let me tell you.  See, God knows we’re guilty. He knows that no matter how hard we try we’ll never be perfect.  But because He’s holy, atonement is required for our sin.  See, that’s why Jesus stepped down from Heaven and came and endured ridicule, scorn, being cold, hungry, and ultimately nailed to the cross.  He did it willingly.  No one forced Him to.  He could’ve said, “Nope, never mind.  Those people just aren’t worth it.”  Oh, but friend, He loved us so much He didn’t want to leave us like this.  He thought you and I, even with all our mess, were worth suffering and dying for.  Then, after He gave His life for us, He rose from the dead after three days and promised to prepare a place for us in Heaven, a wonderful place where there won’t be any more sorrow or tears.  And He doesn’t leave us here on earth like He found us either.  He came to break those chains of sin that hold us back, whether they are addiction, anger,  fear, whatever they are, He promises to change us and never leave us, to walk us through this life and on into the next.  He said, “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill and destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

But like Ahab, like Jehu, we have a choice.  We can say yes or we can say no and turn away.  But He promises that if we accept His gift of forgiveness, salvation and hope, He won’t let us down.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”

Father, I thank You for Your wonderful Gift of grace.  I pray that I would honor You with my actions.  I know I sin on a daily basis, Lord, but I thank You that You never leave me, and I’m sorry for the ways in which I fail.  I know I could never repay the debt of love I owe You.  I just come to You with a humble, grateful heart and I thank You, Father, for Jesus and for my salvation.  I ask that You show me anything in my heart that is not honoring to you and help me to change it.  I want to be faithful, I want to follow You.  I pray for anyone reading this who has never known You or Your great love and mercy, that they would make the decision to put their faith in You, Lord, and therein find hope and forgiveness.  Help us all to know You more.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

Our Story, His Glory – December 1, 2015

Are there things you look back on that make you hang your head in shame or regret?  Do you wish you could blot some of your most embarrassing moments from your memory?  I know there are times I look back and I cringe at things I have said or done and think, “Wow, really??”

The good news for all of us is that in God’s hands, our past can actually become a tool for His ministry.  He can bring good out of even the most improbably sad or embarrassing moments of our lives, our biggest faux pas.

For a long time, I struggled with an addiction to alcohol, and this was even as a Christian.  I tried my best to hide the effects of my drinking from co-workers and from church friends and other friends that I thought might judge me.  As my drinking progressed, there was no longer much hiding it from anyone.  My children and husband lived with me, so although in the early stages I hid the cans and bottles from them, I didn’t do it for long.  I was really just one walking hypocrite, and felt totally ashamed, guilty and depressed.

Then, on one particularly bad drinking spree, I thought that it would be a good idea to post about my struggle on social media.  There was all of my business out there for friends, family, business associates and co-workers to see, some of whom didn’t even know me that well.  I know now that it was a cry for help – I was reaching out to anyone and everyone who might understand.  I was tired of hiding and trying to pretend that I was doing okay on my own.  The weight of trying to keep it all in caused me to collapse.  I also posted numerous statuses on Facebook crying out to God for help.  However, in the days that followed, I would wake up hungover and unable to remember what I’d said (or typed), but I just felt utterly humiliated, ashamed and depressed.

Several friends and acquaintances (even from work!) responded and told me that they were praying for me.  Some even related their own struggles.  It took a long time to get over the shame that I felt, and I had a ways to go before I would finally be able to find sobriety, but the mask was off.   Once the initial shock and humiliation of what I’d done sank in, I began to feel relief.

I hope and pray that by sharing my past and my struggles, someone else may find the courage to share also, and come out of the dark into the light.

Today I am sober, not because of anything I’ve done, but it’s solely by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in my life.  Many times I thought I was ready to quit drinking, and I sincerely meant it, only to reach back for the bottle when things got stressful.  Other times, I had prayed for deliverance from the alcohol addiction, only to find that I wanted another drink more than I wanted to get sober.  I can’t really explain why or how I am sober today other than by His power.  And perhaps that is how He had to deal with me so that I am unable to boast about anything I’ve done or how I got myself out of that situation, as I am so prone to do.  I think He knows that my pride and my self-sufficiency will kill me if left to my own devices.

In Romans 6:4, the word says “that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life.”  I love that we get the chance to walk in newness of life!  Newness!  Meaning that the old, the past, the scars, no longer have dominion over me anymore.  “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:6 NKJV)”

Now this doesn’t mean that we won’t sin.  After all, we don’t become perfect when we accept Christ, just forgiven.  But this does say that I no longer should be a slave to sin.  Therefore, I need to be vigilant about participating or partaking in anything that may lead to bondage.  This is why I don’t even take one drink of any kind of alcohol now, as I know that there is a high probability that it would lead me back to being alcohol’s slave.

I want to be clear that it is only by His grace and what Jesus did on the cross that we are saved, through faith alone and not of our own works.  I was saved as a teenager, and the Lord promises that there is nothing we do or could have done that can cause us to be “unsaved.”

What Paul is saying in this chapter is that because of Jesus’ gift of us, and the price he paid for our freedom, we should not be like pigs returning to the mire, but should live for Him.  I didn’t do that for a long time.  I was still living for me.

Paul goes on to write in this chapter to the Romans:

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  Certainly not!  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15-16)”

And then further on he writes, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23).”

Addiction was leading me straight toward an early death.  But thank God through His Son Jesus, I no longer have to walk that way.  And I no longer have to hide or hang my head in shame, but can bow my head in humble gratitude and adoration and say, “Thank You, Lord.  Let my story become Your glory.”

“Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to walk in newness of life.  I thank You that I no longer have to live in shame, guilt and fear.  Be with those reading this, and whatever our struggles, help us to remember that in Your hands, the victory is won and those struggles can be transformed from instruments of shame in our lives to instruments of healing and ministry.  I want to give You the praise and the glory, for You alone are worthy.  Help us to find freedom in any area in which we still struggle, and to look back on the past with peace rather than regret.  Bring to rememberance the ways in which You’ve been faithful, even when we haven’t been, and how You’ve carried us when we didn’t have the strength to walk one more step.  Let my life bear fruit toward holiness and give You praise.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”