Hi Sweet Friends,
Let me share with you a couple of questions that always humble me to my core. Am I aware that I desperately need a savior? Do I really believe that I deserve hell? Because I so often think and act like I don’t. I am frustrated with feelings of entitlement every day. I am so often offended by and put out with others. I think I forget what I was born into and what Jesus rescued me from. Having grown up in a society of having all of my needs and most of my wants met, and thankfully so, I have often let those blessings lead me to a spiritual life of expectation and demand. I think I have assumed that the road that Jesus traveled – the one that He promised us would be bumpy and filled with suffering – was meant for other people, the ones who must depend on God for all things, because what else do they have? How arrogant and misguided. If I don’t rightly see my need, I will never rightly see God’s provision for it; and I will never grasp the gratitude and worship due Him. I fear I have often fallen into the same trap as King David that we discussed in the last blog. Would I ever look God in the eye and brazenly declare, “Your provision just isn’t enough for me. It’s too little”? Of course not. I’m no fool. Or am I? I need to think about where in my life I have taken the reins out of God’s hands and insisted on my timing and ways because I didn’t agree with or like His. As a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I still fall for the bait that I have a right for certain things. My will seems reasonable and fair. I can know if I have swallowed the bait of entitlement and independence by how I respond to the words “no” and “wait”. As God’s chosen people, Israel was in a constant battle with believing and acting like they needed and belonged to God and then acting like all the other nations. God rescued them from slavery and asked them to live in complete dependence on Him to show the world what He was like. He asks us to do the same. Through the study Epic of Eden, I was introduced to the cycle of Israel in the Old Testament that was repeated over and over again. They lived in dependence on God, they prospered, they forgot where their provision came from, they did what they wanted, they suffered, they cried out to God, He rescued, they made promises, and the cycle started all over again. I don’t want to live that cycle. I want for myself what I so wish Israel had seen. I long to wake up every day with the full awareness of what I have been rescued from and in gratitude and worship of the One who gave everything to have me for all eternity. I live in service to the King. My life is not my own, and thankfully so. King David sometimes forgot who he belonged to and gave the enemies of God reason to scoff at God. Forgetfulness can lead to entitlement. This forgetfulness and sense of entitlement transferred to his sons, I’m afraid. May we learn from their mistakes.
It appears David seldom refused his sons what they wanted. Such indulgence surely led to expectations and entitlement, as did their lives as princes. It also led to horrible grief and almost the undoing of David’s kingdom. Much of 2 Samuel reads like a daytime soap opera. Chapter 12 tells of David’s sin with Bathsheba. Chapter 13 describes the horrid story of David’s son, Amnon, deceiving his dad and plotting a scheme to have his way with his half-sister, Tamar. Amnon was obsessed with Tamar and wouldn’t accept the words “no” or “wait”. After Amnon abused Tamar, we’re told that he hated her and cast her out. Satan’s promise of fulfillment in sin is always a lie, and he will turn it into a hated thing. This refusal of Amnon’s self-denial leads to more sin. Without repentance, it always does. Chapter 15 tells of another son of David, Absalom. He plotted for two years to vindicate his sister Tamar’s abuse and kill Amnon. He deceived his father and brothers with a scheme that ended in the murder of Amnon. Absalom hid in another city after the murder, but David missed him and wanted him home. David’s coddling of Absalom led to Absalom slowly exalting himself and eroding the allegiance of the people for King David. It went so far as treason for Absalom with King David running for his life while Absalom abused David’s household in broad daylight for the whole city to see. Absalom was killed and the kingdom restored to David, but at what cost? Another of David’s sons, Adonijah, declared himself king in David’s place before David had even died. He would never sit on the throne, and his obstinance led to his death. What do we know of him? 1 Kings 1 tells us, “And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘What are you doing?’” How did the man after God’s heart rear sons that were so indulgent, arrogant, and selfish? One of the cruelest things we can do to our children is to not teach them self-denial and self-control by our words and our deeds. Our children will live in a world where they must compromise and wait their turn. They can’t take whatever they want. No one can do as they please with no consequences. Not needing to submit to authority is a cruel lie. Another cruel lie is that parents are always to blame for their wayward children. It’s simply not true. There is an even greater reason to not live entitled and indulgent than societal harmony. The greatest reason is that living that way lies about the character of God and the life of Christ in us. It will also leave us empty and wanting. I’m not a huge Jim Carrey fan, but I have had a quote of his on my refrigerator for years as a reminder of the lie of self-fulfillment: “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” He knows too well.
I’ve often wondered why behavior matters now that we live in grace and not under law. I’ve been muddled about what parts of the old law and Old Testament are for our adherence. God was so militant with such minutia rules and harsh punishment for His people. Why so demanding? I’ve come to see that God called a small and weak extended family to trust Him, obey Him, and let Him show the world His strength on their behalf. He asked them to be the only people on earth to not worship idols and man-made gods, only Him. He was asking them to live differently than all the other nations that were bigger and stronger. He was keeping them safe, healthy, and protected. Their very physical existence was dependent on their obedience. God was controlling and protecting a group of people that would be totally annihilated if left to themselves and their own devices. They had rules for unity, health, eating, sin, punishment, warfare, worship. God always kept His promises to Israel, even the ones that spoke to the consequences of their sins. Even when they told God that they wanted a physical king to follow like all the other nations, God promised them an eternal king. God’s presence was with Israel in a particular place for a particular people in a particular time. Since the fulfillment of God’s promise in our Savior and King Jesus Christ, the presence of God is in us, His believers and followers, His church. His presence is spread throughout the world wherever there is someone who calls Jesus Lord. We no longer need the rules and laws to preserve us as a people against our enemies. We now live according to the law of love that indwells us as we have the life of Christ in us. We don’t bring animals for sacrifice for payment for sin. Jesus sacrificed Himself for all, forever. We don’t put sick people outside the city so they don’t kill a nation. We embrace them and work toward their healing and wholeness. We don’t stone the adulterer and thief so that the nation will see and be afraid to do the same. We seek repentance and forgiveness. We don’t condemn the sinners to hell. We pray for their redemption, for such were we without Christ. We live by new rules now, actually just everything summed up in two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” This was Jesus’ answer to those trying to trick Him in Mathew 22:37-40. He finished by telling them that all of the law and all that the prophets ever spoke were based on these two commandments. These two laws are what brought Jesus to the cross for us. This is our basis now for every decision and action. They encompass everything. Since Jesus bought us for God and lives in us, we now relate with God through our heart and not our actions. If so, then why do actions matter? Because they reveal the belief and disposition of the heart. Luke 6:45 tells us that we behave and speak out of what fills our heart. Our actions and words also tell the world what we believe to be true about God. Just as God asked Israel to show Him to the world through their obedience to Him, we show the world what is true about God by how we interact with it. John 13:35 tells us that people will recognize that we belong to Christ by our love. How we live matters. It speaks to the love and character of Christ in us.
What was true of David and his sons is true of us. When we act selfishly, arrogantly, and indulgently we are giving a false impression of who God is. When we live as if we are entitled to have our way we are forgetting where we came from and what we truly deserve but for the love and rescue of God through Jesus Christ. We deserve hell, friends. Because of Jesus, those who accept His salvation will never see it. We’re promised eternity with Him. Do we hurt? Terribly. Do we have longings and dreams? Many. Are we disappointed? Of course. Do we mess up? Daily. Hourly. But we are cherished children of God. Jesus bought us to make it so. I want to live with the awareness of what I was rescued from and what it cost. If I can remember that, having my way doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. There is a will more important than my own. Lord, help me remember.