Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making God Powerless

Jerusalem Tomb of the Garden
Have you ever thought of how powerless we can make God? It's the only explanation for some really strange pieces of scripture.  When we withhold our belief, we limit God's ability to bless us. 

This all came to mind when I was listening to "Today in the Word" a radio show/podcast that Melissa recommended.  I caught a sermon by Tony Evans.  He was going over the raising of Lazarus and mentioned the line by Jesus, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"  I've always found that part of the story puzzling.  Jesus told her to remove the stone; Martha replies that Lazarus stinks by now; and Jesus responds, "If you believe you will see." 


But the preacher went on to explain that if Martha had not had the stone rolled away, Jesus wouldn't have been able to help her.  She had to believe and the belief had to prompt her to obey.

I see now.  That is a very important "If!"   

For another example, look at John 9. Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, smears it on a blind man's eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool.  After that Jesus walks away. The man spends the entire rest of the story defending an itinerant healer he's never seen. When Jesus sends him off, the whole story is in the man's hands.  If he believes, he will see.  If he doesn't believe, he'll disobey and never receive his sight.  

Do you remember another strange story about Jesus' home town?  Saturday finds him and his disciples in the Nazareth synagogue.  The crowd is speculating about him.  They know his family, they remember when he worked the carpentry shop down the road. They wonder where he got all this stuff he's teaching now!  And the text says, 

And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. (Mark 6: 5-6 emphasis mine) 

Jesus can do anything right?  Almost.  There are things he is entirely unwilling to do.  One is to violate our right to disbelieve, disobey and break his heart. He asks us all the time to show our belief; when we rebel, what can he do?  When we spit in the face of God, we have stolen his power to bless us.

Does that sound strange?  Like some kind of salvation through works?  Not at all.  We would never claim that the man somehow earned his sight by washing his face. If that would work he'd have been healed the day he was born.  We don't believe that Martha raised her own brother from the dead by rolling the stone away do we?  If so there's a stone or two I'd like to move.  Jesus healed the blind man.  Jesus raised Lazarus.  But they could have stopped him.  It would have been easy.  Just demonstrate a lack of belief-refuse to obey.

I've been looking at the promises of God.  He promises peace (John 14).  He promises true communion (John 10).  He promises I am a new person (Romans 6:1-11).  And sometimes I am not peaceful; I feel like a lost sheep, and my old person peeps out from its grave to trouble me.

So what do I conclude?  That God is less than faithful?  No.

That perhaps I don't believe?  I do. 

Wait.  Don't I?  Even Abraham, the great man of faith, who left home and family behind, traveling to an unknown land, had to prove his faith.  He took Isaac up on the mountain and tried to sacrifice the son of his promise.  Rescued at the last moment by the angel of the Lord, Abraham knew that day-he believed. 

I want true communion- I want to be a lamb safe in the Good Shepherd's flock.  Do I believe he offers it enough to take time everyday to listen to his voice?  I want peace-the kind that passes all understanding.  Is it fair to bellyache to God that I don't have it, if I know that he wants me to give up some particular sin and I won't?  It's not that if I just worked harder I could solve my own problems.  Not at all; without God I am helpless! But I can't disobey and then whine that he is powerless to help me.  

Just like Abraham, I am called to obey and learn the extent of my own faith. Just like Martha, if I believe, I will see the amazing ways God fulfills his promises.  Just like the blind man God wants to bless me but I might be standing in his way.  I might make God powerless! 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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