Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Good Christian

On  one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 

Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ 

And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’
Luke 5:1-8 ESV

Last Sunday was the Lord’s Day when we hear in the gospel the command, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ This is the Lord Jesus calling out to His disciple Peter, who was out on the sea of Galilee with his companions casting his nets without catching anything. ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!’ the Rock called back, as if the Lord didn’t already know, and then, ‘but at your word I will let down the nets.’

Often try as we might, all our efforts come to nothing, that is, when we are doing what we think we should do. But when the Lord intervenes in our failures—for He always does, though we don’t always notice—when the Lord gives the command, if we dare accept it and do what He tell us, well, something good always results, without exception. We may not always be ready and willing for what happens, but the word He sows in us never returns to Him empty.

So Peter did as he was told, willingly and yet reluctantly. The scriptures don’t tell us either way, but I can only imagine what I’d have done, if it were me. On the one hand, willingly because I want to obey His word, on the other hand, reluctantly because I am always apprehensive, always afraid, of change. Yet here an important but startling truth, ‘God never gives us a word that He doesn’t expect us to act upon.’

To put the same idea positively, ‘God always gives us a word, that He expects us to act upon.’ When I think about it, this is absolutely true, at least it has been in my life. Most of my sins have been and continue to be not ‘sins of commission’ but ‘sins of omission,’ knowing what is the right thing to do, and not doing it, for whatever reason. Why we don’t recognize this more quickly is due to our religious upbringing. We think only bad things we do are sins.

We think of ourselves as good people, as good Christians because we tell ourselves, ‘I haven’t killed anyone. I go to church. I volunteer and support good causes. I am a nice person,’ and that’s where we leave it. The problem with this is, it is simply not true. We aren’t good people, though we may be nice.

We do what we want to, and we call it good.

Do we do what God wants us to do? Are we even listening for His voice? Would we recognize it, if we heard it?
Christianity is not religious activities, training or even study. We can know a lot of stuff and even act within the confines of our select knowledge without ever reaching the only kind of knowledge that matters, that is, knowing the Lord.

‘What is the benefit of knowing the Lord, and why isn’t my religious affiliation, activities and training enough to guarantee my salvation?’
Because none of these things can compare to knowing the Lord, and knowing Him, to love Him, really Him, and not an imagination or idea of what or who He must be. It’s the difference between worshiping an idol and following the living God, to put it bluntly and not mildly. If we know the Lord, we will love Him and do what He commands.

So to be a good Christian, one must do more than pay my tithe of dill and cumin as the Pharisees boast, and place oneself in the presence of the Lord and listen for His voice, His word of command. ‘God never gives us a word that He doesn’t expect us to act upon.’ Do we want to hear that voice? Do we want to act on that word? Like Peter, something in us wants to protest, even in the face of love.

Yet if we know the Lord, our love for Him conquers the old man in us, just as His love conquered death and Hades for us.

What of the consequences? We know one thing: that obeying the word of Jesus Christ always changes us, always changes the people around us, always changes the world. Metanoía, a word with so many shades of meaning that we lose track when we try to count them—repentance, turning around, renewing our minds, change: those are some of the simplest—from metá, ‘beyond’ and noó, ‘what the mind does, thinks’: this is the meaning of our every encounter with Jesus.

‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ Yes, Lord, and what a catch! This was more than I bargained for. Your love and mercy and abundance are too much for me. If I dared, I would say, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, but You already know it, already know everything about me. You even teach me about myself things I could never know. You know I am sinful. That’s why You came for me. That’s why You called me. That’s why I even exist at all. You love me.

Me, a good Christian? No. A good man? Again, no. I might dream I am good somehow, but out of that silly dream I always awake. We are just following you, Lord. Following along the saints who follow behind you, hoping that we will continue from day to day, knowing that every step is only at Your beckoning. All we can cry out is, ‘Lord, help us to know you more, so that we can love You more, and loving You more, that we gladly run to fulfill Your word, that it does not return to You void.’

Now, where to next?
Help me to keep my eyes on You. Help me to walk, my feet fitting Your footprints. Raise me when I fall. Carry me when I am too weak to move. Awaken me when I slumber, raise me again from the sleep of death every day, for You are the Resurrection and the Life. Change me, renew my mind, turn me around, help me to repent. Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.

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