Happy Resurrection Sunday to all my brothers and sisters! :-)
Today, God has been working something in my heart and mind that I want to share in case it can also encourage/convict others.
Pop Quiz about your knowledge of Bible stories: Which of the two thieves who died on either side of Christ asked to be saved?
Thought about your answer yet? Ok, I’ll wait a minute ;-)
If you’re having trouble remembering, check out Luke 23:39-43 (emphasis mine):
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying "If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
As you can see, it was the first thief—the blasphemous one—who asked to be saved. I don’t know about you – but that’s not what I would have thought the answer was to that question. If I were some Bible scholar, I would maybe have a better understanding of what was implied by the second thief’s request for Christ to “remember” him. But I’m not…so I don’t.
But this realization in church this morning followed on the heels of a conviction this morning in my ‘prayer closet’ which was along similar themes.
Let me first back up a bit. On Good Friday, I spent a couple hours out under a tree at our Enterprise Farm journaling about something….. something that came up about a year ago from my young childhood. I felt last year that I needed to work through it more, but had delayed and delayed. God used a couple different things to bring it up again last week, and a day off work provided a good opportunity to prayerfully write about it.
As I sat down to write, I wanted to do it from the right perspective and foundation. I didn’t want to write about it out of self-pity or a ‘victim’ mentality. I wanted to write about it in a way to open my heart to Christ’s healing and redemption, which He accomplished on the Cross 2,000 years ago. And so even though I didn’t plan it that way, Good Friday helped me think about it in that framework.
Then yesterday morning I was reading Psalm 67 in my devotional time. I couldn’t help but notice, while I read, that the Psalm talks about urging all nations to praise God…..but it begins and ends with the expectation that God will bless us. So was the admonition to praise God based in selfish motives, just wanting the blessings from Him? My mind noticed it, but then I went on with my day. And when a friend later asked me what Jesus was speaking to me that day, I couldn’t think of anything – I just said I wasn’t listening well enough to hear.
Back to this morning’s conviction. I had been thinking of my friend’s question off and on. And as I was there in my ‘prayer closet,’ Paraclete revealed a piece of my heart. On Friday I felt close to God in a way I haven’t as much recently, because I was bringing to Him something that was weighing on me. I recognized that I needed healing in an area, and I was asking Him to do that in me.
In other words, my motivation was partly/primarily selfish.
So this morning, the question that came to my heart and mind was “Have I been ‘loving’ and ‘worshipping’ God for who He is? Or for what I receive from Him?” In other words, haven’t I been doing the same thing the author of Psalm 67 appears to have been doing?
It’s such an easy trap to fall into. We do need God, desperately. And because He is a loving God, He does enjoy lavishing His children with gifts of His grace (Eph. 1:7-8). But our love for and worship of God should be so much more than that….shouldn’t it?
Because the God we serve is indescribably glorious. Enthroned in Majesty. The Creator and Sustainer of all things – in ways we can’t even imagine. He is the definition of Awesome.
But our eyes are so very easily fixated on our own lives, our own problems – the things we want God to fix in us or the material things we want Him to bless us with.
Is that not asking God to save us for our own selfish reasons, as the thief on the cross did? Is that not following Jesus for what we can get out of Him, as Judas ended up doing (John 12:4-8)?
Shouldn’t we instead recognize Christ for who He is—the one who “has done nothing wrong” and who has a Kingdom where He rules—as the second thief did? Shouldn’t we pour out our most valuable and precious things simply for the sake of anointing Christ, as Mary did (John 12:1-3)?
This morning, Uncle Jonnes pointed out that the two thieves on the crosses show the two types of responses to Jesus, paralleling the contrasting responses of Mary and Judas in John 12. But which category do I really fall into? As a not-yet-fully-sanctified human, I need to be continually examining my own heart and listening for the input of the Holy Spirit in this matter.
Because this morning, there in my prayer closet, the question came to mind: “If you got NOTHING from God, would you still worship Him?” And my selfish heart had to answer a quiet “no.”
All day today, when my thoughts have gone back to these points, there’s a simple line from a song that keeps coming back to mind: “I will worship You for who You are.” And that has been the cry of my heart today. To worship both our Savior and our Father for who He is as God. Not only for what I receive as a result.
To quote my college president, “May it ever be true of us.”