Luke, in the fifteenth chapter of his self-named gospel, shares three parables (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son) where Jesus gives a clear indication that our Father in heaven is anxious — anxious to seek and to save! This is God’s modus operandi.
But is that all? God seeks. God saves. Done deal? How do I fit into the picture?
“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, [Jesus] said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?’” (Mark 8:34-37, NLT)
You see, I have a hard time, maybe you can relate, as I journey with Jesus. Self, all too often, is the center of my being. It seeks to protect itself at any cost and it gives the boot to Jesus, though he wants to fill my heart! Knowing that about myself, it’s hard to swallow these words in Mark 8 where Jesus tells me to turn from my selfish ways and follow him. All too often I find my self hanging on to my life, not ready for change. I am willing to change most anything except my self. Yes, I try to hang on to my life all the while losing it.
Something has to give, but what? I heard it growing up and now I preach it — surrender of the will to God! Is the lust of what makes me happy that strong? Somehow I need to come to a point where I agree to stop fighting. I need to come to a point where I stop hiding. I need to come to a point where I stop resisting. I must realize that anything less than this is the continued idolatry of my self! The path to take is clear: I must stop being a fool who thinks he is wise (Romans 1:22) because there is nothing worth more than my soul. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Nothing.
I recognize the challenge. I don’t want to work against God’s modus operandi. God seeks after me — to save me! So I must die to self! I’ve heard that a lot over the years, but to be honest, I don’t know how.
But Jesus understands that I am in a constant wrestling match with self. He knows I am not able to do the things I want. He sees that I do the things I despise. This is the reality of my Christian walk. He sees the struggle in my life. He sees that I want to do good. He sees that I don’t have the ability to live it. He sees all that. He knows there is no way on earth I can climb away from that — on my own. What does Jesus do for me?
I am absolutely miserable this way. So like Paul in Romans 7:24, I ask, in fact I shout it: “IS THERE ANYONE WHO CAN FREE ME FROM THIS BODY WHERE SIN AND DEATH REIGN SO SUPREMELY?” (The Voice). Paul gets it. It’s not a matter of “what.” See, I would ask what can deliver me, or what method would get me out of this, or what process would get me the results, or what can I do to get victory? No, no, no—not what, but Who?
It’s not the law, but the Lord. It’s not a process, but a Person. It’s not good works, but grace. That’s what I need — Jesus. The same Jesus who in Luke 15 shares the three parables that inform me of his desire to seek and to save me. He is the only Way. It is a mystery to me that he died so that I may have hope. It is a mystery of love that I cannot comprehend. Notwithstanding my rebellious self, lusting will, Jesus interposes grace.
And so I pray,
"God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight.
You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful— I can't take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of Your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there! If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute— you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I'm immersed in the light!”
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day. Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them!
I couldn't even begin to count them— any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! And please, God, do away with wickedness for good! Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.”
- Psalm 139:1-19, 23-24, The Message
Manny Vela is on a journey with Jesus and thankful that Jesus seeks after the lost, finds them, and restores them.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6159