BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JULY 12, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” (Matt. 9:29, RSV)
The older I get, the more I appreciate Jesus and His ministry to save us from ourselves and the sin and guilt which so easily beset us. He didn’t waste time with fancy speeches, hard to understand words to show that He was greater than His audiences, or oblique references to writers they had never heard of. He got right in there with folks wherever He found them and dealt with their problems on the spot. No one had to make an appointment and come back later; no one had to worry about payment; the poor were as welcome as the rich in Jesus’ “office,” which was right where they lived and worked and suffered with their problems. He exemplified Paul’s statement that “The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (I Cor. 4:20)
What they saw was what they got. Jesus was everyman’s best friend, counselor, and deliverer. To the poor, the sinful, the disenfranchised, He was kind, tender hearted, merciful and full of grace. He healed their diseases; raised their dead, calmed the winds and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, fed the multitudes, and at the same time, He was the Pharisee’s worst nightmare. He called them out for cruelty, hypocrisy, and selfish greed. The Pharisees called Him a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matt. 11:19); they thought He was mean and fraudulent, doubted His power, ridiculed His relationship to God His Father, and theirs, and ultimately, because they couldn’t control Him, or switch His emphasis to their own agenda, they nailed Him to the tree where He suffered, bled and died for the very men who drove the nails into His body.
What manner of man does that? As Paul phrased it, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:7) With such a man as this, who wouldn’t want to be His friend? Why didn’t the Pharisees resonate to His goodness, His mercy, His love and His power? The word “Perception” has been coming to me all week. A Dictionary definition is: “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.” One has only to watch a bit of the evening news to see that we in this country, as well as the rest of the world, do not perceive things the same way. From politics to religion, from health care to sports activities, we are obviously not all singing on the same page!
Sociologists tell us that this is because we come from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and have been nurtured differently. When you look at the wider world, before the days of easy travel, people tended to bond with others of like backgrounds and beliefs. The Middle East has been in turmoil for centuries because of the huge gulf fixed between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. “The Sunni branch believes that the first four caliphs, Mohammed’s successors, rightfully took his place as the leaders of Muslims” (leadership by birthright). Shiite Muslims were looking for “divinely guided political leadership.” (Definition from a Google site on this subject). They are still fighting over that today, a volatile situation threatening to blow them and the rest of the world into eternity.
That such a thing could cause such a deep divide may sound improbable to Western minds, until you remember that Europe was mostly Catholic until Luther inadvertently started the Protest Reformation by daring to think differently than the powers which ruled the earth at that time. Religious wars have been fought throughout the ages as people in the ascendancy of power tried to cram their beliefs down the throats of people who had different views. Sadly, you see that yet today in church groups who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong.
An Internet correspondent wrote to me yesterday, “I have come to accept the fact that everyone does not serve the same God. My God is Love and the Great Redeemer. And I am so glad!” To that I would say that everyone does serve the same God, for there is only one, but the difference is in our perception of Him.
In His article entitled “What Jesus says about God,” published Tuesday, 7/8/14, Richard Rohr makes a point and then asks a pregnant question, “Jesus was not changing the Father’s mind about us; he was changing our mind about God, and thus about one another. If God and Jesus are not hateful, violent, punitive, torturing, or vindictive, then our excuse for the same is forever taken away from us. Maybe we do not really want such a God?” End Quote.
Having grown up with threats of hell fire and damnation to keep us in line, I realize looking back on it that this milieu gave its believers, justification for shunning the sinner (anyone who didn’t follow the rules of our particular belief system), and keeping only to our own kind, those who believed like we did. That is how Perception works. We get what we think we see.
The graphic for this piece, is a view of Jesus’ statement found in Matt. 7:7. Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of verse 7 and 8 is rich and comforting: “Be habitually requesting (or: Keep on asking), and it (or: He) will proceed being given to (or: for; in) you people. Be habitually seeking (or: Keep on searching and trying to find), and you folks will repeatedly find. Be repeatedly (or: Keep on) knocking, and it (or: He) will habitually be opened up to (or: for; in) you. You see, everyone habitually requesting is repeatedly receiving. 8. He who keeps on seeking and searching is constantly finding. And to (in; for) the person repeatedly knocking, it will be opened up.”
I have thought of this verse’s meaning as never giving up for getting a healing, or whatever other deliverance we might need. When you think about the GIVER, rather than the GIFT, this verse opens up a whole new blessing.
Since He baptized me in the Spirit, I have longed for more of God, to know Him and to understand Him in a deeper way. That is undoubtedly a lifelong process, for the human mind cannot yet receive the fullness of God, but we have the promise in Heb. 11:6, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him:
Now apart from faith, trust, confidence and loyal allegiance, [one is] powerless (or: unable) to please [God] well. It is necessary and binding for the person habitually approaching God to believe (to be convinced and trust) that He is (or: that He exists), and that He habitually comes to be (or: becomes) the One who pays back wages (or: gives away rewards) to, in and for those folks repeatedly (or: constantly) seeking Him out (or: seeking from out of Him). (Jonathan Mitchell).
That’s enough to keep us continually coming back for more. He only gives us what we can process where we are in our journey, so we don’t have to worry about getting our spiritual circuits fried. My perception of God has changed radically from my childhood to the present. Then, God was a Being to be feared and obeyed, but it’s really not possible, no matter how much lip service you give to what we’re supposed to say and think, to love someone who threatens to burn you for all eternity if you don’t obey. We had created God in our image, and now He has reversed that flow for us to see that He Himself is the gift, which is delicious beyond measure when He opens our eyes to see Him.
Father, we thank You for delivering us from our old perceptions and beliefs about You, the most loving, caring, protecting Abba in the Universe! We ask You to shine in us and flow through us to those who don’t know you, and thus, don’t know how to ask for You. We stand on tiptoes waiting and hoping that the day will come soon when You reveal Your glory to all flesh together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Thank You for our lovely Jesus, who holds us close in all our troubles, delivering us from fears of every kind. The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. In His name, we receive this blessing, amen.