Saturday, December 4, 2010

Switching Gears

As I've sat with John the Baptist this week and waffled between being in the crowd and being a Pharisee, I'm grateful for the opportunity to listen, reflect, apply, and grow.

There had not been a prophetic voice in Israel in over 400 years!  God had been silent and now, along comes John the Baptist, out in the wilderness along the Jordan River, reminiscent  of their ancestors' being in Egypt in slavery for over 400 years until God called Moses to lead them out, and he's calling the people to repentance!  The Kingdom of God is near (boy is it ever!) and he is also offering the sin-cleansing waters of baptism to those who confess and repent.

We are wired to need to confess our sins; we are wired to need to repent; we are wired to need to receive God's forgiveness.  Is that why the people flock to John and his message, because they recognize God is up to something and offering them hope in a way they haven't had "hope" offered in a mighty long time?  Are they hungry to confess, repent, and be purified from the dirt of life?

What about the Pharisees and Sadducees who are watching all this but don't join the crowd?  John jumps on them and he jumps hard.  These respected religious leaders are banking on the wrong things to keep them right with God.  They're banking on their ancestry traced all the way back to Abraham.  If anything should be able to keep them in right standing with God, it should be their kindred with Abraham!  Who cares how they live?  God cares.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were wired to confess, repent, and receive God's forgiveness just as those in the crowd were...just like we today are.  But they, like many of us, have our wiring shorted out, crossed, or maybe even pulled out completely and thrown away.

Modern medications, therapies, government and faith-based help programs are all wonderful and fill huge needs and usually fill these needs well.  But they cannot handle sin and they cannot offer and give us God's forgiveness.  Courts and the penal system handle punishments but they cannot take our confessions and redeem them like God.  Court-ordered restitution fills a human need for justice but cannot transform a life and situation like God's restoration.  Humans can deal with "dysfunction" and "social ills" but God deals in terms of calling it what it is and it is "sin."  There's not a human system on the face of the earth that can cleanse us and bring us into right relationship with God or that can offer us the hope of redemption and restoration that God does.  That's where the Church, the Body of Christ comes in.

God freely offers us the opportunity and grace to switch gears; to turn from the way we are heading in life and go down his path.  The choice is ours. God has already planted countless "burning bushes," grace-filled people and places, that enable us to hear God's voice calling us along each path we may take.  There are churches all over the landscape; Bibles in stores and online; prayer warriors in every place; Christian radio at the turn of the dial, just to name a few.

There's a voice in the wilderness of each life and He is calling.

And I am grateful.