Monday, December 17, 2012
Today’s Topic: Get Back to God
Today’s Text: Psalm 119:101 (ESV) I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
The first act of violence recorded in God’s sacred and holy Word called the Bible is the story of a murder. It is based on one man’s attempt to authorize his own rights and personal desires as equal to those of God. When his attempts to worship God on his own terms were rejected, he turned away from God and took out his anger on the one who reminded him of righteousness – his own brother. He could have repented and been forgiven, but instead, Cain killed Abel. Not with a gun, for the weapon of choice is not the real issue. The issue is the evil that resides in the heart of all people, that left unchecked and unchanged by the power of Jesus Christ will manifest itself in death.
Pastor Daniel Henderson of Strategic Renewal puts it this way: Our greatest need in the face of overwhelming societal violence is not more gun control, greater political diplomacy, or more security systems. The real issue rests deep in the human heart. Violence is the expression of hearts and minds that have become polluted with the angry, murderous, prideful poison of a life apart from a holy and loving God.
Romans 1:28-32 describes the condition of spiritually darkened hearts when they reject an authentic intimacy with God: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
Why does a husband abuse his wife? Why does a political leader slaughter his people? Why does a student viciously bully other children? Why does a wife gun down her husband’s mistress? The complexities and motivations of the human heart are hard for us to accurately diagnose. Yet, the reality is that people are “lovers of themselves” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
The man who lives with self as the center of his universe concludes, “I deserve more than I have” or “I have been deprived of what I need”, so he will take from others what he wants, sometimes at any cost. When a prideful heart encounters personal failure, relational difficulties, or obstacles to selfish aspirations, natural emotions become negative raging passions that result in destructive thoughts and even violent behavior.
The guilt of failure can turn into self-loathing and resentment of others who are “better” by comparison. Experiences of criticism, rejection, or interpersonal pain can spark a detrimental anger that becomes more intense over time. The poison of the heart eventually spills into behavior.
Thankfully, we can turn from the headlines back to God’s word for hope, lest we become despondent or paranoid in the midst of the pervasive violence. We can trust His providence and protection in this out-of-control world. Like David, who knew the constant threats of King Saul’s murderous assaults, we can say, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies” (1 Samuel 22:1-4).
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. In the shadow of His cross Christ’s redemption has the power to neutralize pride and produce heartfelt humility. Jesus transforms His true disciple from a self-centered, agitated soul to a Christ-centered, grace-giving servant. Paul’s often-repeated blessing in his writings of “grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” is a constant reminder of the possibilities of our experience in the face of disappointment, failure, and relational pain. Anger can be replaced with forgiveness. Revenge can be transformed into blessing.
When we experience an authentic relationship of submission and trust with Christ, we are not overcome by the negative emotions so common in human experience. Rather, as Paul promised, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
But for the grace of God, there would I be. Let us turn away from the evil that comes from the love of self, and turn in repentance and brokenness to the God who heals and restores and gives life.