Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tough Truth from the Dowager Countess {Ash Wednesday}

The news reports send me reeling.  Twenty-one brothers in Christ beheaded for being "People of the Cross."  Forty-five Christians burned alive.  Persecution of Biblical proportions happening now.

And then I sit down to catch up on Downton Abbey with my teenager.

I suck.

ashes, downton abbey, dowager countess, ash wednesday, lady mary, dust, Romans, persecution, 21 Christians, beheaded, martyrs

What is happening around the world (and, frankly, is on its way here) is so terrible and so frightening yet, after an intense kick in the gut that makes me almost physically ill, my mind (my flesh?) hits the "Stop" button and resets to normal.

At least, what I wish was normal.

But the fact is, sitting in the comfort of my living room in front of a roaring fire while the Dowager Countess chastises Mary, telling her "Lack of compassion can be just as vulgar as a flood of tears" is not normal.  Sipping my  morning latte with snow falling softly through tall trees while my German Shepherd sleeps at my feet is not normal.

This life I live is not normal.

I live in relative safety.  I live in comfort.  I live in a big house in a nice town with a church on every corner...and a mosque that is growing faster than most of those churches.

Why?

Because we forget who we are and why we were created.  We, as a people, do not realize who we are in Christ and to Whom we truly belong.  If we did, we would be shouting from every rooftop and begging those we love to surrender to this Jesus who promises anything but normal life.  He promises danger, persecution, and eternal life.  

He promises freedom.

Here are three truths to chew on as we sip our lattes:

-As the people of the Cross, we don't have to slaughter innocent people to get to Heaven.

The innocent One was slaughtered for us.  

He marched up to that cross, beaten and weak, with one thing on his mind.

You.

-He doesn't require us to pray five times each day or cover ourselves in black from head to toe.

Jesus was covered for us.

Our sin made dark the beautiful face of the Son of God so that we, with unveiled faces may behold God's glory and be transformed into His image.  (2 Cor. 3:18)

-He doesn't ask us to wage a holy war and take out the enemy by force.

The war began in Eden and was won at the cross.

The battles we face now?  They are already won.  (Jer. 1:19)

So I wonder...what if the Church stopped preaching Law and started preaching Grace?  (I'm thankful to say mine does just that.)  The effects would be immeasurable!  Let me explain:

What the Dowager Countess said was all too true.  "Lack of compassion can be more vulgar than a flood of tears."
How often do we say, even through tears, "Oh, pity, those poor people on the news.  I can't imagine what they are going through."  And then we do nothing.
Or maybe we change the channel altogether because, well, it doesn't involve us.  God, forgive our hard hearts.
BUT...what if we opened our doors wide to the sinner, the prostitute, the stinking homeless man on the corner and welcomed them with open arms?  What if we stopped trying to clean people up and let the Holy Spirit do his job?

Because here's the deal.  I can't clean anyone up.  I can point out sin all day long, (and I'm really good at that) but not one of us, by sheer willpower, can conquer the power of sin.  Our behavior is the result of a faulty belief system:

I may believe in cheap grace, get saved, then go on with my happy self...

What a waste.

I may believe I'm not worthy, can never be worthy, and am therefore useless to the Kingdom of God...

What a tragedy.

Or I may realize that the Worthy One has made me worthy, that despite my sins and failures He uses this cracked pot to house His Holy Spirit and, therefore, has enabled me to love beyond myself, serve until it hurts, and pray until my knees bleed.  I will then realize that those around me who are lost and dying don't need to be reminded of their sin.  They need to be reminded of the sinless one.  They don't need to be told they are going to Hell, they need to be led to the only One who can get them into Heaven.  Because, guess what?

A saved and surrendered sinner will sin less.

The Holy Spirit is so much better at cleaning house than we are.

Ash Wednesday.  What if Lent means more this year?  What if we stop chit-chatting with God and really pray?  What if I wage war against the darkness and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, stand up as a Person of the Cross and refuse to be distracted or back down from the battle?

Yes, I am dirt.  But even dirt is useful.  Jesus took a handful of it, spit in it to make mud, and used it to heal the eyes of the blind man.  (John 9:6)

Use me, Lord.  Use your people who live in safety to fight for those who do not.  Use us to take the hands of the lost and raise them up out of darkness.  Teach us to stand for truth but to slam the door on legalism.  Yes, make us a useful people.

For your further reading:
Romans 5-8
(It will change everything.)