Friday, December 28, 2007

Is a Good Example Good Enough?

There were three men. They were all caught in very deep mud. It was so thick that none of them could climb out, and it would take about a full day for them to sink. And it was so deep that they would sink for a about a mile after going under. To say the least, their predicament was severe. But they didn't all see the severity in the same way.

About an hour later another man who seemed to know the area pretty well walked up to the three men. This man had the ability to walk on the mud without sinking or getting soiled. The three men in the mud had different reactions.

The first man was amazed at this stranger's ability to stay above the surface of the mud. The second man thought it was a trick. The third man was amazed, and wondered who he was.

The walking man said to all three, "I have come to help you all get to safety. What do you say?"

The first man said, "Sure. Just show me how you do what you do." And so the walking man demonstrated his technique, and even gave the first man lessons. But the first man tried and tried, and only managed to sink even faster. He became angry and died.

The second man said, "I can use some rope." So the man got some rope and gave it to him. He struggled and struggled until he sank, with the rope sticking out and sinking behind him. But before he sunk, he said, "I knew this was a trick!"

The third man was wiser than the first two. He said, "Sir, I accept your offer. But, I don't know what I need. All I know is that I don't want to die. Please help me."

The man reached out his hand and pulled the third man up out of the mud and saved him.

What's the point?

Jesus did not come to merely be a good example to follow. Yet many people (I even know personally) believe that is exactly why he came. They often say, "Perhaps he was a good man, or even a prophet from God. But following the Ten Commandments and the example of Jesus is all that is really required."

That would be true if we were as good as Jesus. But the Commandments and Jesus example demonstrate that we are not, and we are condemned. Trying to do better is admirable. But, we have failed to live up to God's commandments whether we admit it or not. And for this we are guilty, no matter what we feel about ourselves or think about God.

Think about it. The most important commandments concern our relationship with God. The others concern our relationships with each other. We have demonstratively failed in either case from the day of our birth. Trying harder doesn't undo what has already been done. Trying harder doesn't change us. We need something more. We need something that is beyond our ability or understanding to attain—for even our understanding is corrupted. We need a Savior and we need to be changed.

Do you dare take Jesus up on his offer? (John 11:25-27) Or do you dare dictate your own terms? (Luke 14:15-35)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Really Accepting The Reality of What is Real

© P.Winberg

This is just a thought. But have you ever looked in the mirror to see yourself? Of course. But is what you see really you? The answer is not as simple as it may seem.

What I observe in the mirror is merely a reflection of myself, not me. The accuracy of the reflection is dependent on the state of the mirror. Distort the mirror, and my image is distorted. Throw some dirt and grime on it and my image is obscured. The truly real me can not be distorted or marred by the state of the mirror. Only my image can be.

In our world we are told to view life as it really is. What most people mean is that we need to be aware of the good and bad sides of life, feel something about it, and do something about it. But, I beg to differ. Reality isn't shaped by the state of the world—good or bad. The world is merely a reflection of what is real. The bad things in this world can distort or mar the image of the real, but it can not affect the truly real.

What I mean is that suffering, pain, and loss is not the true nature of things, but a condition or aspect of reality that affects what we see as real. That sounds sort of confusing, but think about it. If a mirror is distorted or dirty, the state of the mirror is an aspect of a true reality, but not the reality of the image it reflects.

How does understanding this affect our daily lives?

Like the mirror, the state of the world is a reality. We operate and function in this world like it really is. We don't have to pretend or ignore its ugliness nor its beauty. We can celebrate the good, mourn the bad, help those in need, be patient with all sorts of people, and recognize our own strengths and weaknesses while doing the will of God.

However, just like the mirror, we can make the mistake of believing that what we see is what is really real. The truth behind what we see is that there is something that can not be distorted or marred by the circumstances that arise in this world—whether good or bad. It is all too easy to derive what we believe about God, sin in the world, and the solution—namely Christ—from what we observe. This can lead us to distort the true message of the gospel into either a works-based religion or into magical thinking.

The right perspective can mean everything.

With the right perspective we can truly rejoice in our sufferings, because we are receiving the goal of our faith—which is eternity, glory, and honor when Christ is revealed. With the right perspective we can face opposition for our faith, because we know that God is not only glorified, but he will commend us personally when we have stood the test. With the right perspective we know the true solution for the world's problems will not come from man-centered effort—such as a religious system, being nice, simply lending a helping hand, human philosophy, a new social or governmental system, not even a new leader. It will only come through God's coming kingdom and each individual's conversion to Christ. With the right perspective we know that what someone has or doesn't have really doesn't matter. For everyone will enter eternity in either heaven or hell.
(See 1 Peter; Matthew 16:24-28)

Even though the world has no need of the "Christian" solution, it is the greatest gift God has given the world.

Merry Christmas!