Photo credit to mott.pe and Jay Philbrick
“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.” (1 Corinthians 4:14)
Listen to that. “Hey, Guys and Gals, I’m not writing this stuff to you because I’m trying to shame you, I’m writing this to you because I love you like my children and I want to warn and caution and reprove you so you can be all you were meant to be.” It’s funny how we often don’t seem to care for or appreciate these warnings. I tend to heed warnings better when I know that the one warning me really loves and cares about me. But sometimes I think about the warning and I ponder it, maybe like Mary pondered things about her infant child Jesus. Yet I don’t put it to action. And a warning is not very helpful if not taken to action.
“Don’t touch that!” We only escape the pain of the burn if we heed the warning. “Be careful!” “Turn around!” “Stop!” “This isn’t who I created you to be!” You can add your own warnings that You have heard. God will send them in the form of Scripture, maybe even His own still small voice, through a friend, through a stranger, through a randam article, through a devotion, but You God, will send your beloved children warnings.
This warning, this noutheteo, is not a light word. This admonishment carries power and stength. It means “to place in the mind.” “It is about vigorous and stern warnings and exhortations.” We see the picture in the parent warning the child, where the parent is concerned for his safety and wants the child to understand the danger and avoid it. Although, sometimes the child doesn’t quite believe. But even more so, the danger is just as real for us as believers. It’s not just a poetic thought that Satan roams around as a hungry lion seeking whom to devour, it’s a truth. He is just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on us! And it’s just as real as it is for me to be hit by a car if I’m not careful crossing the road. If I’m not mindful and not careful, he will catch me and drag me down. I have to watch the shadows. I have to stay aware. And the shadows aren’t always around the corner. Sometimes, they are hiding in my heart. I have to watch for false doctrine creeping in my life. I have to watch for false thinking and entertaining things contrary to You, Lord. I have to not let Satan creep close enough to pounce. I need to be aware and tighten my grip on You and Your ways and thoughts and not let go. It only takes a little letting go to open the door for a hungry lion. I have to realize that my life is at stake.
It’s never just a little piece of my life that is at stake either. It’s the whole thing. We can’t separate the physical from the spiritual, it’s all intertwined. If I fall in the physical, I am falling in the spiritual. All of me is affected even if I don’t see it yet. And when I am affected, those around me are affected, even when I don’t see it. Do I really understand how sad this is?
Jude sent out this same warning. He warned, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keeping yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And show compassion on others who need to be warned so you can make a difference in their lives. Warn others so strongly that they are saved by the fear of what you share, and it pulls them out of the fire; so that they hate even the clothes spotted by the flesh. And always remember who it is that keeps you from falling and who it is that presents you faultless. Live continually before His presence and thought of His glory. Live there with exceeding joy!” (My paraphrase of Jude 1:20-25). I am called to both admonish and to accept admonishment. Why? Because my God cares deeply and so do my brothers and sisters in Christ. He cares about me and so do they. And I ought to care just as much about them.
Neither God, nor Paul, nor Jude warns us because they are hard taskmasters. It’s a matter of their heart. And it ought to be a matter of my heart. Paul shared his feelings in Acts 20:31, “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” How many people cry or weep over your welfare? Paul would. Do you think he really cared? I do. But the truth of the matter is that Paul isn’t the first one who cared, nor is he the only one who cares. He’s just following His leader’s example. Because the shortest verse in the Bible tells me who wept first in love over me- “Jesus wept.”
Why does Jesus weep? Was He sad because Lazarus had died? Would you be if you knew you would be raising him to life in a couple minutes? Was He sad because everyone else was sad and He was empathizing with them? What if it was more? What if Jesus wept because of what Mary and Martha should have known? What if He wept because of the warnings they weren’t heeding? Sometimes God gives warnings of great joy and peace, and we choose to ignore them too. What if Jesus was weeping because of what we were missing because of not listening to the subtleties of His voice and warnings and admonishment?
I think of You, Jesus, and Your words in Matthew and Luke, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” I think there were tears in Your eyes when You said that, and if You weren’t fully weeping on the outside, I’m pretty sure You were on the inside. All those warnings to draw Jerusalem to You, to bring them so close they could feel and know Your warmth, and protection, and love. But they wouldn’t listen, they wouldn’t take heed to You, only to their own thoughts and desires and ambitions.
Lord, in all honesty, I am like that sometimes. But I don’t want to be. There is not one in heaven or earth who loves me as much as You do and who has given as much of themself for me. I owe You everything. I want to return everything to You in the deepest of gratitude and the humblest submission. I want to learn to listen to Your every warning. I want to be ready. I want to be faithful. I want to be true. I want to be strong in You and not in myself. I want You to not have to weep over me. I want to bring You the same amount of joy that You bring me. I want to listen to Your warnings and love them and live victoriously so that I can see others listening to Your warnings and living victoriously also. I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of whatever You are doing.
There are times when I must weep over the state of my own heart. But I want those times to become less and less because I love Your way so much. I want to be able to be who You created me to be, to allow You to be molding me instead of me molding me. Then I can be free to weep for those who still need to fall in love with Your warnings by falling in love with You. May I always remember that I can’t snatch anyone else out of the fire if I’m busy dangling there myself.