Well, as you've noticed from the last few Sunday posts, there's a struggle going on here. Not a Martin Luther's indigestion on the way to Wittenburg struggle, just Chris being lazy and falling into old patterns. Patterns lead to bad habits, and habits to sin, and sin to poor half-assed works. So that's where we're at. But now we're going to take the last few Bible chapters in my 3-chapters-a-book-a-night plan and deconstruct what's going on. And every one of these chapters has been direct (more or less) statements from God to man- or if you will, from Jesus to lazy me.
We start with the first three of Revelation- which if you've been there, you know are the letters to the churches. And the overriding theme of these letters applies heavily to me right now- "There are great, tremendous rewards to be had, but your work's getting sloppy." He goes on to point out where the sloppiness is coming from:
- Forgetting the "first love". I assume that many people are like I was- get saved, spend about 100 days being a ball of fire, then settle in for "the long haul". The sparkle comes off a bit; the preciousness of that salvation begins to be devalued by the world around you. In 30+ years of being saved, been up and down that roller coaster a bunch of times. A wise blogging friend put it as, "I forget who my Best Friend is."
-The poverty thing. The second church is told "I know of your poverty (but you are rich!)"And true to form, we let the richness we gained on the Cross get hidden in our eyes by the "oh, poor me's" of the day.
-Then we have two very similar churches. One is dealing with "stumbling blocks"; the other is "allowing" Jezebel to get her message across. As we'll see in Genesis, the path to sin is progression. If you allow the stumbling block, the sin will inevitably follow.
-Then you have the fifth and seventh churches with very similar problems. One seems to be "Christian in name only" (You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead); the other sees itself rich- rich in goods, rich in ministry, rich in deeds. But faith? Prayer? Living the life daily? Not so much.
We reach the mechanics and the results of these things in 4-5-6 of Genesis. Cain is told by God, "If you do well, you will be accepted. But if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And It's desire is for you, but you should rule over it." Or should I say, "But you SHOULD rule over it." So I get sloppy, I get lazy. I do the things the scolded churches did. And guess who knocks at the door. At this point I SHOULD be ruling over it, but, I've been sloppy.
So what happens then? Look a bit further. First Cain himself is cursed, then his progeny grows and his sin with them until they think nothing but sin continuously. Sin snowballs. It snowballs things to get to you, and it snowballs them once you commit to it. Eventually, all your works get washed away.
In Exodus, God has to waste a lot of time dealing with Moses's excuses, when he is trying to tell him- and Israel and us through him- that God has the plan, God will make sure it works, all you have to do is play your part. But to accomplish it, we end up fighting the same three battles Moses did:
1- himself (our selves, our fears, insecurities, lack of faith).
2-the enemy (in his case Pharaoh, in ours, Satan, sin, evil).
3-those he was trying to save, who fight against the "restrictions" they face, the "Making of bricks without straw", as it were.
Leviticus and Numbers are a bit tedious, but the 4-5-6 chapters have a lesson we can use here. And that is we have to remember the subtle differences of things when you work in God's business. In Numbers, we learn of how the priestly families all had different jobs, not all as glorious as the next guy's, but all necessary. In Leviticus, we pick up on the levels of responsibility- a priest/pastor/teacher is held most accountable, then the congregation itself, then the secular rulers, and then the common man. Note that this is more than accountability for oneself, but for the world around you, which you are supposed to be leading to Christ. Finally it points out that while unintentional sin requires both sacrifice (as in Jesus) as well as repentance, willful sin requires restitution. Whether return of an object, a healing of wounds, a simple apology.
So we have a battle to fight, a job to do, an accountability to meet- none of which is being done when in sloppy mode, or in the later snowball mode. In Deuteronomy, a section captured by the famous wear the Law as a ring, a wristlet, a headband, etc., passage. But if you follow Moses' lecture, the theme is TAKE HEED. Of what, you ask?
1-to obey God;
2- to worship properly (how's that prayer life been, sloppy guy?)
3- to teach diligently, lest you children forget- and yourself as well.
Sometimes I think of the spiritual battle between good and evil as being on this big escalator. Heaven is up, but the escalator is going down. If you just stand there, there's only one way you can go. You have to be diligent in making the upward steps to reach the goal.
Joshua in his setting up of the monument stones in the Jordan, the renewing of circumcision, and the celebration of the Passover for the first time in 40 years, gives us the message of remembrance. Each remembrance was to be activated by an action on the believer's part. Reading those chapters are just one part of what God expects in remembrance- the easiest part, for sure, but sloppy guy fudges that, too. What else are we missing in our remembrance?
Finally we hit the summation in the book of Judges- and in that last unmentioned church of Revelation. Barak lacks the courage of his convictions, and has to have Deborah hold his hand. He got his job done, but the real glory went to a woman (for him, dis #1) who wasn't even an Israelite (dis #2). Reward in God's system comes when you don't need your hand held to do the right thing.
And to finish my scolding, we have Gideon. When God appears to him, he has the gall to stand there as a representative of a people who had sinned and even then were only partly penitent, and ask why God was letting bad things happen? Why aren't you doing your job? He whined. But God once again showed him that God does His job THROUGH US, not for us.
"Then the LORD turned to him (Gideon) and said, "Go in this might of yours, and YOU shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. HAVE I NOT SENT YOU?" (6:14)
We become sloppy basically when we expect God to do for us the things He expects us to do for ourselves. Regard Revelation 3:8:
"I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name."
So, have you been sloppy? Had doubts? Questioned the plan? Guess what, that's not God's failing. Every man who ever walked the Earth, including Our Savior, had- and has- one thing in common.
It's your choice.