God and Fences 3

When we went out and built fences we did not worry about the terrain. In fact it did not matter what the terrain looked like. No matter how the land moved up and down, or how rocky and soft it was we were going to build a fence. Of course Wade and I were the brute force of the team and Chub was the brains. Every post that we drove was done with a 50 pound post driver. We would stick the t-post into the ground and Chub would line it up with where the fence was going. Then we would place the post driver over the t-post and start pounding. You might think that two big men wielding a 50 pound post driver would have no problem driving in a t-post 2-3 feet. However you would be wrong. In eastern New Mexico we have this lovely soil/rock called caliche. Caliche is a hard sedimentary rock that is used to help bind other materials and rock together. It is really hard rock. Around my home town of Elida there is a huge strip of caliche next to the surface and to build anything takes a lot of work and effort.

I remember one time we were building a fence and we hit a patch of caliche and it took every effort for Wade and I to get the t-post down 6 inches. In fact when we would hit a patch of caliche it would take us around 30 minutes to get the post drove to a good depth that would hold the strain of the wire. Of course Wade and I would complain and say that it could not be done. Many times we would want to quit, but we would look back at Chub and he would give us that stare. You know the stare that your boss gives you when you say something cant be done. Yeah that stare and we would get back to pounding away. No matter how tight the ground was or how tired we got the fact of the matter is that the fence had to be built.

I often find it sad that people begin a relationship with Jesus Christ with rose colored glasses. They have this attitude that all Jesus wants is for us to say a pray or kneel at an altar and give our lives to Christ. Then after that one event they think that is all that it takes. As if magically everything in their lives is taken care of. What is even more sad is, that I would estimate, that most Christians see it this way. I can make a claim like this because I see the lives of Christians. People still make God one of the things in their schedule. They schedule a time for prayer, reading scripture, worship, and service. Look at your schedule. Do you fit these things into your daily life? As if you could fit God, the God of all Creation into your life. And you think that if you do this that you claim it is a relationship with God. Let me give you some advice. If your relationship with God does not look like your marriage or at least what a marriage is supposed to look like, then you fall into the cheap, lazy faith that believes all they have to do is say the right prayer or just claim they have given your lives to Christ.

This type of lazy faith is built into this amazing Nation of ours. Yes, the faith of the USA is a lazy faith for the most part. The faith of America wants an instantaneous faith that is compartmentalized as one aspect of their lives. The faith of America wants an individual faith that is practiced alone. It is a faith that TELLs others how to live whether than SHOWING them how to live. It should come as no surprise that the USA is now a mission field for other countries to come to so that they can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Take an inventory of your priorities or better yet look at your calendar from last month. How much time to you spend on your relationship with Christ? Is your work, children, family, at the center of how you schedule your time? It is really easy these days to make your relationship with God a second thought. I mean we are so busy it is hard to work everything in. Well, maybe that is your problem, you have become a slave to “working everything in.” Usually when you try to do everything you build an attitude within yourselves that places Church and daily spiritual disciplines as an option. In fact they generally are not a necessary option. “I will get to it if I can” becomes the motto of lazy grace. It is lazy because you believe that God will forgive you. You are more likely to say, “We have grace don’t we?” Do you have trouble with resting on lazy/cheap grace?

I say all this just to get you in the correct mind set, because I do not believe our relationship is about a schedule. It really isn’t about our priorities either. It is mostly about who we are. It is about our identity. I want you to understand that salvation is about what GOD is doing in your life. You see a proper/positive response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ is a redirection of life. It is about discipleship or following Christ.

During Jesus time on earth to be a disciple of a rabbi was to redirect personal identity. You were no longer your own person, but now a follower of a certain rabbi or teacher. Your whole goal was to be just like the person you followed. You would walk like they walked, talked like they talked, thought like they thought, acted as they acted, you wanted to be just like them. In fact you were so much like them that people knew from the very beginning who you followed. It was probably not even a question.

This is where our story of the Rich Young Ruler comes into play. The problem that the Young Ruler had was that his question on eternal life was focused on his own actions. “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” This question has become the trademark question for most evangelist in our country. “Here is what YOU need to do…” is the attitude that we give to others when we put salvation into our personal hands. This is exactly the lazy grace that I was speaking of. It focuses on a check list of life actions. “If you do this, this, and this, eternal life is yours.”

Now Jesus does not come out and rebuke the Ruler, He just states the commandments that have been passed down. Jesus has begun to make His case. Now the Ruler claims to have kept them all since childhood. Jesus accepts his answer, but then adds more to it. Jesus tells the Ruler to give all that he has to the poor. This is where the lesson gains strength. If all we do is focus on what we need to do then we will never accomplish what we seek. If the focus is on US then the goal can never be accomplished. Jesus’ lesson finds its climax with this statement, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”

God works your salvation. It is a gift that only God can give. However, if you want this gift it comes with a huge sacrifice. You must sacrifice your self identity. You see in Jesus’ culture to be wealthy was a statement of identity. People believed (and still do) that if you are wealthy you are blessed by God. You have found favor with God and have said and done and lived the way God wants you to live and in return you are blessed with wealth. Of course the Ruler is sad about this because he was told by Jesus to give up his blessed identity and follow or claim another. He was to claim an identity of sacrifice.

Sometimes in our lives what Jesus asks us to give up is more than we want to bear. In fact sometimes we question God over and over again if this is really what He wants us to give up, hoping that we just missed understood God. But if you truly want to have eternal life you must deny all things and put Christ as the center of your life.

The disciples claimed that they gave up all things for Jesus and followed. Jesus’ response is our challenge, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, husband, wife, brothers, sisters, parents, or children because of God’s kingdom will receive many times more in this age and eternal life in the coming age.”

What Jesus is claiming is that if you truly want salvation, if you truly want to be ONE with the Father, then you must be willing to follow or be just like Christ. To follow Christ is to be just like Him. Jesus gave up all things for us. He gave up His glory, throne, power, will, and ultimately His life for you and me. He became human so that humanity can be just like Him. “Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2) This is the identity that you will receive when you decide to follow Jesus Christ. An identity of sacrifice for others.

You know when God looks at you He does not care what the terrain looks like when He builds your life. Your life which is a complete mess does not bother God. Some parts of your life are easy soil where He can drive a post into, while other parts of your life seem like that caliche rock where God just keeps on pounding to drive His way into us. You might think that you can never be like Christ, but when we see the impossible, God sees the possible.

God wants to do so much with you and for you, but are you wanting this? Will you be the one who says to Jesus, “I will give up all things for you” or will you walk away sad. Jesus wants followers who want to go the distance. He wants people who take their relationship with God seriously. He wants people to not take advantage of His grace, but allows His grace to fully transform their identities into Christ’s identity. No matter your answer to God’s grace, one thing is certain; until you give up your whole being (heart, soul, body, family, friends, job, spouse, children, time, money, possessions, & schedule) to follow Jesus, you will never receive the full eternal life that God promises. God wants to build your life so that when people look at you, they see Jesus Christ. That is salvation. That is the fullness of grace in your life. Don’t let the soil in your life become the stumbling block of allowing God’s grace to work completely in your life.

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