“For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,

   O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;

“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath

   to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 6: 14

God is the perfect example of the engaged and loving parent and also of a truly good friend. He is willing to enter into those hard conversations and deal with the issues that everyone else tries to avoid. This can be very unpleasant, and it can lead to relational tensions that are monumental in their scale. However, the Lord is fully aware of the fact that we all sin and fall far short of the righteousness that God’s standards set out for us to follow. He recognizes with equal clarity that these times and situations of engaging in the selfishness of sin are harmful to us and to the world around us if they are left unchecked. Departing from God’s path in small ways can start people along a course that grows ever further off track to the point that recovery becomes almost impossible. We can get to a place in our journey of life where there are no visible points of reference left to sight and to turn toward.

The Lord does not want to see any of His people end up on the far side of the world with no means of finding our way home again. So, He intervenes in our lives. This is what He is promising to do in the days of the prophet Amos. At the time when Amos wrote out these words, the Lord was still waiting upon the repentance of His people in Israel and Judah. Now, God was certainly aware of the fact that they would not listen to these pleas, and Amos was not the only human voice that the Lord inspired to speak out about the dangers of continuing to follow their own sinful ways. Still, stubborn is stubborn, and self-serving people can be very set in the path that they have chosen to take. We know that both of these Hebrew nations would be overthrown and the people taken from their homes into captivity and slavery in a foreign land. Sometimes, harsh measures are needed in order to bring wandering people back into relationship with God.

Are we in our world today in a place where this sort of extreme measure is the only thing left for God to do in order to get us to turn away from our self-determined journey and fall upon our knees in repentance before the Lord? I am not a prophet, and God has certainly not provided me with an image of His future plans or of the details of the way that He will work out His promise of redemption for our world. I do know that the Lord has a plan for the restoration of the purity and the glory of His original creative handiwork upon the earth. I believe that I am correct when I look around and see the angry, violent, and unloving nature of so much of what is happening upon the face of our globe that God is more than displeased with it all. For I am convinced that God’s heart is breaking and that His patience must be running out at the sight of our depravity and lack of just treatment of each other. So, the engaged father and the good friend that is the Lord is not likely to withhold His judgement for much longer. It is time for people who know Christ to speak up, to act boldly in love, and to become well known in our world as people who proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ in order to bring a foretaste of the Lord’s redemptive work into contact with the world that we touch.  

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But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3: 4-7

God did not save anyone, ever, because of our goodness or as a result of the work that we have done. Accomplishment in this world is of no value to the Lord. He is interested in one thing, and that is our willing acceptance of Him as Lord over our existence, Savior of our souls, and Perfecter of our hearts. When Paul says that the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he does not mean that these Godly characteristics were previously missing; rather, he is indicating that, in Christ, they became present in this world in human form and in His death and resurrection they were made tangible to all of the world in a way that had never been true before. God’s goodness and loving kindness were demonstrated in Christ’s willingness to endure the worst of human violence in order to permanently eradicate sin and death’s true power over people’s lives.

All of this is done because God feels great pain when people reject Him. He desires to be in relationship with all of us, and the Lord seeks after everyone even knowing that many of us will not accept that invitation and realizing that there will be a number of us that will openly and actively reject His love, grace, and offer of mercy. When Jesus taught about the shepherd that seeks after the one percent of the flock that had wandered away and into danger, He was speaking God’s heart for the relentless pursuit of any and all who are, in fact, lost in this world. He will go anywhere and endure everything that the evil of this planet can throw at Him in order to redeem one of us. So, too, should we be open to following Christ’s call and His leading into loving others, caring about and for them, and for going where it is needful in order to bring the love of Christ and the truth of His gospel to them.

This willingness to serve the Lord is a sign that we are true heirs of the great spiritual wealth that comes to people who enter into adoption by God into His family of faith. We are made into people that are able and willing to lay down our lives in service to God because of the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit does in us and the related renewing of our minds from ones that are focused primarily upon our own desires and wants into ones that follow God’s heart and that seek to live in the full expression of love, righteousness, and justice. In all of this there is freedom, for we are no longer required to do good works in order to appear to be worthwhile people in the world. Instead, Christ’s blood has washed us clean and we are proclaimed to be righteous and holy by Christ so that all that we think, say, and do is oriented by the Spirit toward serving God’s will and all constraints upon our capacity to love others are removed by the presence of Godly grace and mercy in and with us through each hour of every day.    

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36: 26

 

God wants every person to know Him at a level that changes the way that we interact with the world and the way that we view ourselves. The Lord desires for our thinking and acting to be reshaped into one that reflects a perspective that is like His. This is the sort of change that comes from the heart out, and it is something that will never be accomplished on our own. We are born with hearts that are already on the road to being hardened by the effects of the evil that surrounds us and by our very natures which are infected with and are under the control of those same forces of evil.

 

When we try to change the way that we deal with others by embracing any of the systems and approaches that people have developed on their own and when we seek change by looking to our own resources, we are doomed to failure, for we are trying to operate on the most complex organism in the world while using tools and knowledge that are far short of the true state of the art. On the other hand, when we yield our wills to God and allow His Spirit the opportunity to start working in and on us, we will be profoundly changed, and we will continue to grow in our application of God’s grace, compassion, and love.

 

The hardness of our natural hearts is incompatible with the deep desires of our beings; we were created to be people who are spiritually alive with the closely bonded relationship to Christ that brings about that reality. It is this hardened heart that is the foreign body within our chests; so, the Lord’s transplantation of a new heart of flesh is, in fact, an act of restoration. We are changed from a person whose body is continually at war with itself and with the God whose image we were created in; thus, in Christ, we are transformed into people who have the heart of God beating within us so that His heart is the one that guides us into loving others and seeking to do His will in all things.

 

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Him through God the Father.

Colossians 3: 17

 

This very thought can change the way that we live our lives. For me, I know that it can be a true game changer; for, I have to admit that there are a lot of things that I do and many of the thoughts that I have that are done in the name of getting it done or for the sake of getting what I want. In fact, when I consider my day-to-day life, there is relatively little that actually looks like it is done for the glory of God, and there is a lot that is just done.

 

The change that adopting this attitude requires is simple yet profound. It is simple in that as children of the living God we have the Spirit of Christ living within us; so, we already have Christ’s understanding and guidance to rely upon, and we have the Spirit to reveal God’s will and His heart and mind to us. Thus, God’s way of viewing our day is something that we can access directly, personally, and continually. There is literally nothing that we will be required to think about or to do that the Lord is not a party to and a part of. However, the rub in making this a personal reality is found in my own will, for I still need to seek God’s heart and mind and be willing to make it my priority in everything. Frankly, I am not there yet.

 

The good news is that God knows exactly where I am. He continues to demonstrate loving patience, grace, and a commitment to working in and with me in order to bring about the change that is required for me to grow to this desired outcome of functioning fully as a child of God. In the meantime, I can recognize my desire to turn over more of my own heart and mind to the Lord, I can identify and specifically surrender relationships and situations to Christ, and I can plan to seek out His will and attitude in every potentially difficult moment of my day. This desire to make Christ the center of my day, which then places me in the background, is fulfilled through prayer and in expressions of thanks to the Lord wherein I recognize the presence and the importance of Christ in every detail of my life.