Monday, October 6, 2014

My "but" looks different

“I will follow you, Lord, but…” Luke 9:61

My "but" looks different from the dudes in Luke 9. I’m not asking to manage the affairs of my home before following Jesus. Heck, I’ve been walking with the Savior for a while now. I’ve experienced His goodness and can no longer delay my chasing after Him. I say I want more of Him and I truly believe that I do. Yet, I have a “but” and it is a pretty big one.

Here’s the deal. I know God’s word. I’m not suggesting I’m an expert in the matter or claiming I can recite large portions of it to you from memory. What I’m saying is this: I know that Jesus is the giver of grace and hope to the nations. I know that He alone gives sight to the blind and brings the dead to life. I know that it is His Spirit that draws men unto Him. I know God is working within us, transforming us to be more like His Son.

I've also read enough of God’s inspired Scripture to know that He has called us to be disciples intent on making other disciples. Parents, pastors, and laypeople alike – all believers are called to live with this kind of focus. We are to herald the gospel and walk in the Light despite how well it is received. Our faithful obedience is not dependent upon the perceived fruitfulness of our efforts… And yet, that’s typically when I like to throw my big “but” around.

Lord, I know You have called my wife and I to raise our kids to know You and fear You as the One True God. I know that we are called to love them in ways that are often uncomfortable. I know that Proverbs 22:6 is not a guaranteed promise but rather a principle to live by as we entrust the souls of our children to you. I know their salvation is not dependent upon us, but sometimes it feels like it is. I know that you have called us to steward their hearts faithfully but I’m afraid we’re not up to the task. I fear they may not like us when we tell them “NO”. I’m scared they’ll see our inconsistencies and want nothing to do with You…

Then again, I often feel the same tension as a pastor…

Lord, You have called me to faithfully preach the truth of Your word, but if I point out the deceitfulness of our hearts and our prevalent sin of indifference, I may never be seen as cool. I know that it has never been about me, but maybe You could share part of the stage. God, I know I am called to shepherd them well, but I really want to be their friends too. I know that whether I plant or water, You are the One that brings the increase. Father, I know that many Old Testament prophets passionately pleaded with a people who would not hear and I am totally up for that…but sometimes the perceived lack of response makes me feel foolish…Still Lord, I will faithfully proclaim the good news, but only if one of these days I get to participate in a season of harvest.

Can you relate? “Lord, I will bring my family to church. I’ll give my monthly tithes and offering. My family will pray before meals…but You will grant us good health and financial success, right…?” Listen, if that’s what you are thinking, then your “but” is wrong! And so is mine! Being “faithful” as long as God ______________ is not faithfulness at all. God is not manipulated by our good deeds. In fact outside of Christ, our best efforts are a filthy mess. God does not barter; He doesn’t negotiate terms with His people – “Hey, you guys do this and I’ll bless you with that…”

God does not owe us anything. He never has and never will. We are undeserving of so much as a single measly gift more. God has nothing else to prove, for He has demonstrated the richness and enormity of His love through the cross. Though hopeless enemies of our King, as children of darkness, we not only engaged in wickedness, we reveled in it. Yet, God being full of mercy sent His One and only Son, Jesus, to pay our ransom and reconcile us unto Himself. And that is enough – far more than enough!

For us to say that we will be obedient as long as God does something for us, or we will preach faithfully but only if…or we will train our child in Your ways but that verse better pay off in the end! Friend, is that type of devotion for real? Is that faithfulness at all? “I will, if you; I will, but you better…” Does that sound like one that was lost and now is found, one who was blind but now sees? For the one who truly realizes the depths from which he has been saved, there is no expectancy, only praise and gratitude for so great a salvation! J.C. Ryle once wrote the following: “How true it is that the holiest saint is in himself a miserable sinner, and a debtor to mercy and grace to the last moment of his existence!” Do you agree? Do you believe that?

My “Lord, but” is different than the Luke 9 guys but it is still a “Lord, but…” And believer, if Christ indeed is Lord, that means He calls the shots – not us, not our fears, not our insecurities, not our wants, wishes, or preferences. He calls us to follow and trust Him, knowing that He is enough. Conditional obedience is not a proper response to the unconditional, unmerited favor we’ve been shown. There is no room for my “but” – not really room for your “but” either. Praise God that our Savior’s blood covers each of ours and that we find plenty of room at the foot of His cross.

Matt Fowler - NBC Family Pastor of High School

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