More Than Worth the Journey

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“Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48

I was looking through Scripture to see what the Scriptural picture of a hero is.  The word hero is never used in the Bible.  The word warrior is only used once.  Soren Kierkegaard, a theologian and philosopher says there are no heroes of the faith, only knights of the faith.  He says heroes are heroes because they do what everyone considers as “noble.”  On the other hand, he feels that “knights of the faith” are answering a call from God that only they hear.  To the populous, their actions would look crazy, not noble, or maybe even stupid.  Maybe their actions would even look downright wrong and fanatical.  And the crowd doesn’t wind up chanting in their hearts, “Oh, that I would be like that one.”  Because to be like that one would mean to wear a mark, a mark that is different from society and different from even the morality of society.

Our family had a bit of a Hobbit marathon last night.  And a quote just rang out to me.  In the Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, Galadriel asks Gandalph why he chose Bilbo, the halfling.  Gandalph answers, “I do not know. Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid… and he gives me courage.”  I think these things ring true in Kierkegard’s knights of faith, but I think it is more.  I think that there is something different that compells us, something deeper, that goes against reason.  I think that when we have faith, we don’t need others to understand, because we will answer the call regardless of their agreement or understanding or support.

If I stop and think about Gandalf’s words, I see some truth here.  I think that most people would agree with Saruman.  We look to those with great power to hold evil at bay.  But the thing about that is that those with great power risk falling into the same trap as the evil they fight did.  Because isn’t the problem with evil powers that they desire great power?  So how can one who seeks great power conquer the desire to seek great power?  They can’t because it’s their greatest temptation.  They are already guilty of it.

But what of the one who has no desire to seek great power or even power at all?  What of the one who values kindness and love and compassion instead?  What of that one?  That one who is often viewed as weak and foolish?   Maybe Gandalf understood his own temptation and was even afraid of that potential.  What if he saw the power and strength in a humble heart whose desire was for the good of others and not for power?  What if he saw strength and courage in that?  And that type of decision and the actions accompanying it gave even Gandalf courage and hope that he too could resist the temptation of power?

It takes me back to Your idea of a commendable person.  And it doesn’t look anything like what people expected.  Lord, why do you choose “halflings” by the world’s standards?  Why do you choose the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those who are reviled and persecuted on Your account?  Why are those the things that make Your heart sing when You see them in a person?

In Matthew 5 we read about who You considered blessed.  But blessed isn’t just a gift you give afterward.  It’s the Greek word “makarios” but its Hebrew equivalent is “esher”.  And it’s not saying what we are going to get but it’s saying that the one who exhibits these qualities already lives in this state of well-being in You.  So look at what the first character quality is- to be poor in spirit.  If I am a beggar before You, Lord, if I see that I need You for everything in my life, and I act as though I am desperate for You alone to meet my needs, physical, spiritual, and emotional, then I will live in the bliss of Your doing that.

Now what if I look at each of these statements in this light?  Will that change what I’ve been thinking they mean?  Like, what about those who exhibit a character of mourning?  What does that mean?  Should I ask You what I should be mourning over or for or about?  Is it that I feel for others?  Is it that my compassion for others drives me?  But if my bliss in You comes from exhibiting this character, and if the first quality was my dependence on You, then maybe this mourning dwells somewhere in that dependence.

So what does it mean to mourn?  Well, when that word “pentheo” is used in Scripture it’s usually associated with death.  And then we see the association with this word is comfort.  And the Greek word here is “parakaleo.”  That means, “to call near” like the idea of the Holy Spirit who is our “paraklete,” our Comfortor.  But is this just saying that death will draw me near to God?  What if it’s not just talking about what brings physical mourning, but a dying to self?  What if I let go of my selfish ambitions and my ambitions become Your ambitions, or more rightly, what if Your ambitions become mine?  What if Your good becomes my good?  What if it ceases to be about my will and it becomes all about Your will?  What if that is what my character becomes all about?  Then I will be living in the bliss of walking with You.

I look at this third character and I have to ask You, Lord, what in the world do I want to inherit the earth for?  And maybe, just maybe we’re not talking about the earth as it is, but the earth as it is when Your will is done upon the face of the earth.  And only the meek are part of that and necessary for that and called for that purpose of bringing in Your kingdom, You know, Thy will being done and Thy kingdom coming.  But what does meekness, does this “praus” look like?

This meekness is a quote from Psalm 37:11.  “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Here the Hebrew word is “anawim.”  If I want to know what meek looks like, I have to understand “anawim.”  It has to do with affliction.  It’s God’s mark on a life.  It’s how I live out the most important stuff You are teaching me.  It’s how I learn about and live out Your sovereignty in my life.  It’s anything but easy.  Hard stuff and bad stuff happens, but not by chance, never by chance.  It’s all under the hand of God.  And I have placed myself under Your hand no matter what.

There is hard pressing and I am choosing to remain under the pressing because it is Your pressing.  It is Your control and Your power in and over my life and those around me whether they acknowledge it or not.  But I will acknowledge and I will submit and You will guide my every movement and mold it to Your purposes.  It’s the hard way that You are using to shape me, to shape each one of us.  You discipline those You love.  You mold those You love.  You are changing me into Your image.  It’s not easy to change something broken into something unbroken, but You alone can do that.

Meekness hurts.  I have to stand face to face with that which goes against my nature and choose to go against it, whether it is my oppressor or my nature to not conform to You, Lord.  I have to actively choose to accept what You are “forcing” upon me.  Will I submit to this “forced submission”?  Will I submit to Your sovereignty?  What will prevail?  Will it be Your every will in me?  Will I respond as You respond?  Will I put Your will before my own?  Will I be self sufficient or will You be my sufficiency.  Is my power in my bondage to You?  Because if it is, then my inheritance is in You too.  But I can’t inherit You unless I am fully committed in You in the first place.  Am I meek enough?  Am I really meek at all?

And what of the hungry and thirsty?  What is it to hunger and thirst after righteousness?  Is it that I want to do good things or is it that I must have food and water above what nourishes my body?  Am I desperate for the life that comes from God, from His rigteousness alone.  “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy:  there is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3)  Even Paul quoted this in his words, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one:  there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.”  (Romans 3:10)  But the only way I will find bliss is to find a way to seek after God with my every hunger, my every thirst, my every passion.

You have to make me hungry.  But I have to respond to that hunger.  And not just once.  It’s not about a fatal hunger that You can feed me and then I’m good for life.  This is my daily need for continued sustenance.  Unless I am desperate every day, every moment of every day for sustenance from You, I shall never be filled.  I can’t be filled with Your food unless I eat Your food continually and only Your food satisfies and fills and stengthens and gives life and answers and presence.  And if I’m learning anything about the Hebrew mindset, it’s not about just feeding my mind and spirit.  I must feast on You and allow the energy and essence of Your food to energize and feed others through me.  I must act upon my eating.  I don’t remain sitting at the table gorging myself.  I eat and I feed others, I eat and it is converted into action and life, or I have not eaten of You at all.  That’s the evidence of the bliss.  It’s living in it as I live in continual hunger and thirst in You.

Each bliss plays off the the other.  Each bliss is strengthened by the other.  But this bliss is always in You.  You are the root.  So, when I’m looking for mercy, who am I looking to receive mercy from?  Am I looking to receive mercy from man?  Will it come from my enemy?  Will it come from my friend?  If I rescue Thorin time and time again as Bilbo did, will I be assured that he will show me mercy?  But what when his kingdom and his gold draws near, will Bilbo receive mercy?  What of me?  My mercy shall be obtained and a surety, but only when I look to it from the hands of the Lord.  And only from Your hands will I learn to show that kind of mercy.  Who can understand this?  Only the one who has been changed by You.  Only the one who has submitted to Your mercy, Your rule.  Only the one who lives in Your bliss no matter the situation will understand mercy, because it is a Person, and only One Person.

These are such high standards.  And if you think we have gotten to the highest, listen up.  The pure in heart live in the bliss of You, Lord, and see You.  Imagine that.  You are without sin.  No sin or sinner may enter heaven.  There is none righteous, no not one, EXCEPT–You, Lord.  “He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.”  (Proverbs 22:11)  That doesn’t sound like an earthly king to me because they seem to like to hear what they want to hear.  But this is the way of our Heavenly King.  You want to see purity on the inside and out.  You want our whole life, our words and our actions, to be an act of holy worship.  You are doing more than asking.  You are requiring that everything I say and do and think lines up with You.  That is living in Your bliss and I can only do it as I live in Your bliss.

I’m expected to relinquish much, everything I’d say.  I’m expected to relinquish my self-sufficiency, my comfort, my control, my self-protection and right to defend myself and my judgment.  I’m expected to relinquish my deepest desires and my own right treatment by others.  I’m asked to relinquish the things I’ve always thought were my inalienable rights as a person.

And then I come to something that requires me not just to do and exhibit something, but also to relinquish something in the  performance.  To be identified as belonging to the family of God, as a child of God, I must mirror God’s peacemaking.  What is peace?  A peacemaker, from the Greek “eireneopoios” isn’t just someone who keeps peace.  It’s someone who makes or does peace.  That “poios” part is this inherent part of You in Your child that must flow out.  It’s the art that flows out of the heart of the artist.  It’s the poem that flows out of the heart of the poet.  But what is this peace that flows out of the heart of the Peacemaker in us?

Is it man being right with man?  Partly.  Is it my well-being?  Maybe.  Is it man being right with God?  Those are all parts of what we look for in peace.  But only God’s peace can bring those three, yet at the same time, to exhibit this peace, I must relinquish it.  I must be willing to sacrifice my peace to bring peace with man.  I must be willing to sacrifice my well-being for the sake of another.  Even in order to be right with You,God, I must relinquish my rightness and receive Yours.  And I learn this all from You, Jesus.  Skip Moen puts it this way, “the peacemaker joyfully relinquishes his own peace for the sake of ending strife between men for no other reason than reflecting the character of his Father.  The peacemaker knows God’s peace is found in standing in conflict. The peacemaker knows that he can bring peace only by letting go of peace.  And God recognizes that this decision is just what He does.”  He adds, “Incredibly happy are those who deliberately step into their Father’s shoes in efforts to bring peace between men.”  God considers them symbols of His family image.  It’s about being conformed into the image of our Father.   I work toward reconciliation at my own expense just as You worked toward reconciliation for me at Your own expense.  Your nature becomes my nature.  I reflect You.  Reflecting You becomes my bliss.

Who enjoys the bliss of Your kingdom?  The ones who follow after Your righteousness.  See, this may be about persecution but this word translated as persecute, “dioko”, also means to pursue, to follow after.  And if I’m following Your example I can’t help but think it is all about my pursuit despite the persecution.  I think of You, Jesus, and all the ways You had to deal with persecution in Your daily confrontations all the way through to the persecution of the cross.  And it wasn’t that You received persection that set You apart.  It was how You handled that persecution that sets You apart.  It’s how You looked at that persection.  It’s Your focus and why You received that persection.  It came because of what You sought, because of What and Who You were following after.  You broke the rules of men to follow the righteousness of God.  Only the one who follows after You instead of men shall enjoy Your presence in their life.  And it’s not a one time deal.  This is continual.  I must continually choose to deny man and live for righteousness to continually live in the bliss of that Righteous One.

I’m commanded to rejoice in the hard road, the hard way, because to walk it is to walk it with others.  Not only that, but to walk it is to walk with the Lord.  But that’s not all.  I’m commanded to rejoice, to remain in that bliss of knowing that God, You are in control.  Because Your bliss continues; it never stops.  Your mercies are new every morning; they are unfailing.  I can jump for joy over this truth in You.  Because my persecution, my reviling, this evil I receive at the hands of man, is only temporary.  You control it because You are sovereign and my rejoicing is the evidence that I believe Your sovereignty.  I know this because the verb tense used for the persecution and reviling is that of a completed action.  And I am never alone in my struggle.  But my struggle is never out of Your control.

And when this becomes who I am, when my identity is all about Your identity, then I become a light in this world, not because of me, but because of You in me.  This, and only this, is how You shine through me.  This and only this is how people taste and see that You are good.  This is when I become salt, salt that is the flavor of You.  It’s so different from the natural response, from the world’s ways, it can’t be hid.  It stands out like a beacon of strangeness and uniqueness.  It looks to You like beautiful works that shine Your glory on us and back on You.  It’s the shining of Your righteousness and the destruction of man’s righteousness.

You said, “Except Your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:21)  How can my righteousness exceed that of the rulekeepers and rulemakers?  The righteousness of the Creator flows from me instead.  By Your grace and mercy at the cross, I can let go of my rules and the rules of the scribes and Pharisees and follow You as You impart Your righteousness to me.  I dwell in You and Your way, not in mine.  I adopt a new character as You adopt me into You, into Your family.  And I stop looking like the world and start looking more like an alien.  But to You, You know me, You recognize me, You call me Your own.  And my brothers and sisters recognize me.  And I recognize You and Your ways.  And I choose to live in them despite the cost, because You are worth it.

I must follow after Your goal for me, Lord, and not my own.  I must follow after Your goal for me, Lord, and not the goal of the world or anyone else for me.  And what is Your goal for me, for each and every believer?  “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)

Am I really being called to perfection here?  Is that what “teleios” means?  It means “complete” but it means complete in various respects  like in your labor or growth or character.  See, there’s this image of maturity.  Jesus is telling me I must become complete in Him, mature in Him.  I am to resemble my Father in His character.  And their is this growth toward perfection, because aren’t You, God, perfect?  My goal is to be perfect, complete, mature and altogether full of Your character.  That’s the mark.  And I’m not being told it’s unattainable or far off.  I’m being told that I can reach this mark but only in You.

But the only way I’ll ever be there, is to live in You, to breathe in You, to act in You, to respond in You, to embrace You with every part of my being.  I must live in Your bliss, in You.  I must apply You to my everyday living.  Your actions must flow out of me.  There are lots of things I’ve heard said, lots of ways man has interpreted Your Word, but I’m not to listen to their interpretation.  I’m to follow Your interpretation, Your actions.  I must go beyond the surface and live out the heart of Your Word because that’s living out Your heart.  It’s deeper than just not murdering someone else; it’s letting You control the roots of my heart.  It’s deeper than just not committing adultery.  It’s letting You impart Your righteousness to my every thought and esteeming the value of others over mine.  It’s deeper than keeping oaths out of duty, but it’s a duty to love born out of Love itself.  It takes my right to retaliate and relinquishes all into Your hands, taking that even deeper and forgiving the one who deserves punishment.  And yet it must go further because forgiveness of our oppressors is not close to the heart of God.  One must go beyond forgiveness and love their persecutor.

Now who can do this?  With man, this is impossible.  But for God, all things are possible.  And in You, Lord, this is more than a possibility for me.  This is Your command to me.  And if You command it, that is because You can do this in me.  I must do my part and relinquish all to You that I might receive the glory of Youness imparted in me.  Only then will I consider myself blessed.  Only then shall I know what it is to live in the bliss of You.  Teach me to walk in Your shoes continually.  Thank You for making me able.  Yes, the hard road is less travelled, but it is more than worth the journey.

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