Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jesus and Bungee-Jumping

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning, "If you want to be anxious today, pretend you're in control" quoting Michael Reeves. Pretending, of course, we never were in control and we never will be -- but we'll be miserable if we try. This reminds me of one of the points underneath the scripture I read this morning, Luke 4:9-12.  In this small segment, the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and tempts him to throw himself off, knowing that God must and will rescue him. Jesus responds rightly, "The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’" So what's behind this?  Is Jesus outlawing bungee-jumping,
sky-diving or skiing because they're risky? Or did he mean we can reach the limit of God's grace and patience, and make him abandon us?  Neither of these ideas is based on Scripture. God's grace has already taken care of all our sins, including our basic sin of personal independence. (As for bungee-jumping, well, that one is up to you.)

Tempting God? Here are a few examples:  I've heard young girls say "I can't believe God let me get pregnant! I only had sex once!" Well, was that God's doing, or yours? "Oh, man, I only had a couple of drinks before I drove home! Why didn't God keep me from having a wreck?" Or maybe "Nobody knows what I'm looking at, and I can repent later." Going ahead with what we know is not good, doesn't mean God is going to smack us for doing it. Sin has its own penalty, built right in.

If we truly understood how much we rely on God for everything, we wouldn't be tempted to test the limits, or to simply leave God's will and desires for us out of our thinking. Truly being 'mindful' of every way we depend on him leaves us with nothing but awe, respect and humility. And truly understanding the love of God for us leaves us relaxed, joyful and exuberant about life in Christ -- not wondering if that particular activity would make us feel good for a few minutes.

'Tempting God' isn't about jumping off a height. Instead, it's our continuing temptation to be in control, to do what we want to do. Because what we want, in our fleshly state, is so often not what is right and good and life-giving. Romans 6:5 says "When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death." But the good news is, we're not restricted to those hurtful choices any more. Instead, as the next verse says, "But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit."

Listening, being aware a moment at a time of the pulling of the Spirit toward life and peace, and yielding our self-will to it, leads to peace inside ourselves also. Not "being anxious" as the quote above says, but peace. I like that better -- how about you?

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