True Obedience

A rich young ruler who was by all appearance a truly religious and prosperous person – the kind that we tend to call blessed – came to Jesus. Maybe, he came to make a good impression.

However, talking to Jesus rocked his life the way an earthquake does – cracks showing up in everything he had carefully built and everything threatening to collapse in a moment and become a heap of ruins.

If we look at it, the offer of Jesus was not a bad bargain at all. He was asked to give up the fragile and the very temporary things that are of course visible and tangible for that which will last forever but cannot be seen in the present.

That man may have been successful in his own right but he did not have the guts to let go of all and seize the hand of Jesus Christ. He cuts a lone sorry figure in the Gospels, who came to Jesus with great expectation but went away disappointed. Nevertheless, he is not alone. Many of us give him company. We are so much like him in valuing the worthless and our inability to let go of things that are already doomed and decaying.

Maybe the difference between him and us is that, while he might have said to himself – “I don’t want this commandment of Jesus;” and we are saying – “This commandment of Jesus is not for me.”

It is one of the most dangerous attitudes when we read or hear God’s Word and take what we like even as we carelessly ascribe what we do not like to somebody else.

We fabricate our excuse by interpreting any given text according to our convenience and thus we undo God’s Word and the power of His message. Young Anthony who was made rich by his parents’ estate, went to church one day. The text for that day was the one about the rich young ruler. The emphasis was on: “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Unlike us, he was new to church and did not know anything about allegorical interpretation. So, he obeyed, literally, selling all that he had and giving them to the poor and then he went to live all his life in the desert before being martyred for his faith at a very old age.

We have not become what God wants us to be because of our sick practice of responding to God’s Word according to our convenience. What Jesus specifically told that young man is actually something that He taught very generally and is meant for one and all – “For whosoever would save his life will lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The rich young ruler only did something that we are guilty of doing so often – we try to save our life.

Do we trust Jesus Christ to such an extent that we are not only willing to lose our life for His sake, but actually putting into practice that holy and spiritual discipline of losing our life for His sake?

Amen.

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Forgiveness is For – Giving

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant has some more Mathematics to it.

We saw that the debt forgiven the man by the king was so very huge that ‘forever’ would not have been enough for him to pay back, and yet the king had pity on his servant and forgave him his debt. He was totally forgiven. Now this man had a fellow servant who owed him a Hundred dinarii. In the footnote of my Bible (ESV), one Dinarius is described as one day’s wage for a laborer. So Hundred dinarii would mean an amount made by Hundred days of labor.

In my understanding, that amount, seems to be manageable and may be settled, given some time. However, the man who himself had such a great debt that was impossible to settle did not have it in him to forgive another person who owed a debt that was manageable.

Now, let me put it this way: Let alone someone who damages Hundred days of our life, we find it so difficult to let go of the person who damages few moments or minutes. In the previous blog I was trying to say that even eternal damnation in hell does not settle the damage done by us in sinning against the infinitely holy God. And yet, God forgives our ‘Impossible Debt’ because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, just because we believe and repent.

Therefore, since we have gotten this relief from God who had pity on us, we simply don’t have any right to seize or choke or punish anyone who has wronged us. We have no right to hold on to the minute debts that others may owe us.

Let us not forget that it is only the Amazing Grace of God that frees us from our debt. And if we do not forgive others we are only disqualifying ourselves from being forgiven by God.

I admit that people do have the potential to damage our life for days, months, years or even generations. It is not easy. And they may or may not be able to set right the damage done to us. However, let us, even when we hurt greatly, choose to look away from the damaged part of our life and choose to look at the cross of Jesus Christ.

If not for the cross of Jesus Christ, where would we be? Where would we have ended? How hopelessly doomed we were, without our Savior?

Looking at the cross and then when we look back at our debtors, let us choose to forgive and love.

For heaven is the place for great sinners who are forgiven by God and also enabled by Him to forgive others.

I was on my way to hell for sure. It was Jesus who came and saved me. And now that I am set on my way to heaven for sure, for sure, I must not allow my unforgiveness to disqualify me.

Amazing Grace

Jesus taught us the parable of ‘the Unforgiving Servant.’ In that Jesus talks of the man who owed the king Ten Thousand talents. In the footnote of my Bible (ESV) – Talent is described as a monetary unit worth about 20 years’ wages for a labourer.

So, Ten Thousand talents would mean, approximately, Two Hundred Thousand years of labour. If we consider a person’s ability to work for 30 years in one lifetime, then it would take Six Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Six lifetimes to just settle the principal amount. Now such a predicament is like a ‘forever’ situation.

The servant’s inability to pay back was punished by the king who ordered the man along with his wife and children to be sold – and payments be made.

The question that arises here is how can a few lives compensate for the debt that requires Six Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty Six lives working for 30 years. I think, all the king was doing was trying to cut his loss a very tiny bit and also punish this fellow. There was no way of recovering the debt.

The damage done by sin is very great. No length of time or number of births or attempts can in any way set right the damage done by sin. For in sinning we are going against the infinitely holy God.

Apart from the salvation of God through Jesus Christ, the consequence of sin is eternal damnation in hell. The point I want to make in relation to the parable is that – just like few lives sold into slavery could not in any way settle the debt – eternal damnation in hell, as horrible as it is, can in no way undo the damage done by sin.

In other words – eternal damnation in hell is the most horrible thing that can happen – but even that is not sufficient punishment for sinning against the infinitely holy God.

Now, it is such damned and hopeless cases that the Son of God seeks to redeem and save.

Amazing Grace!

Yes, amazing grace it is, because even when eternal damnation in hell settles nothing, the cross of our beloved Saviour, Jesus Christ, settles everything. Settles it all for those who believe in Him.

“Amazing Grace / How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me.”

Meaningful Sixty Days

The Bible never gives the name of the only child of Jephtah who was offered unto God as per the vow that he had taken before leading God’s people in the war with the Ammonites.

This tragic story shows a prominent principle from God’s Word – that the totality of things should have preference over individual or personal concerns. Now this principle is not merely dictated by God, it was painfully demonstrated by the God the Father in the offering of His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world.

Coming back to Jephtah’s daughter, her willingness to honour God by the fulfilment of the vow that her father had unwittingly made was accompanied by a request. “To tread upon the mountains, with her companions, weeping for her virginity, for two months.”

  • She is not named – but she chose to honour God, even when it meant death to her young life.
  • She is not named – but she chose to celebrate the deliverance of God’s people even though it was her lot to be delivered to death.
  • She is not named – but she chose to live the life of a pilgrim on this earth.
  • She is not named – but she chose to spend her days in lamentation and not in worldly indulgence.

Life is short and death is certain. It was two months for her. It may be two years or two decades or may be two score years for us.

But, how do we choose to live?

Do we choose to walk on the higher ground, based on God’s Word, denying the self, and carrying the cross?

Or will we go the broad way of destruction, based on bodily desires, soulish ambitions, and worldly principles.

Can we follow the path of the Jephtah’s daughter, whose name we do not know? However, in treading upon the mountains, she did show us the way to live on Higher Ground.

Can we:

  • Forsake our very right to live for the higher plane of honouring God.
  • Forsake our need to be delivered for the higher ground of God delivering many others.
  • Forsake our desire to be secure and settled for the higher plane of the pilgrim walk.
  • Forsake our bodily desires and soulish ambitions for the higher ground of communion with God, which is characterized by life of prayer, fasting, lamentation, repentance, solitude, and silence.

For no one, nobody is exempted; all have to exit from this world. A Christian pilgrim walks consciously to his/her exit, making every moment count.

Jephtah’s daughter died young and died as a virgin. In the contemporary culture of indulgence and gratification, her life may be seen as a sad case, a tragedy. But we need to look at it in another perspective –

How many of us in the present generation will have at least 60 days of our entire life dedicated to abstinence and spiritual formation in an environment of mourning and lamentation.

60 days.

If all that we live for is this world then what do we gain for eternity? On the other hand, if a small life matters much for God’s kingdom and eternity, does it matter that no one actually knows us by our name?

Can we seek to live by that old hymn, praying as we go –

“A higher plane than I have found, Lord lead me on to higher ground….”