Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Want To Walk Away Changed

I had a God encounter.  No, there wasn't a burning bush or thundering and lightning.  No goose bumps, no holy shakes, and no, I didn't end up face down on the floor.  It was just me in a crowd of people determining to connect with God.  I don't know about you, but I don't need another sermon for the sake of just hearing another sermon.  I don't need another worship service where I'm impressed with great musicianship and songs that simply move me emotionally.  I didn't come to hear a like-minded preacher say things I agreed with so that my theology could be validated.  I wasn't there to be entertained,  I wasn't there to perform some religious ritual so that I could feel better about myself.  I'm done with that kind of approach.  I'm broken.  I've got issues.  There, I said it.  Man, does that feel good!  While I would like to admit that I'm perfect, I live with myself and I can tell you straight up, I'm not.  I came that day to be changed.

So, there I sat with my head bowed down as the service was drawing to a close.  I prayed a simple prayer that I often pray.  "God, what are you saying to me right now? What's the one thing you are trying to get me to understand, right here and right now?"  Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church had preached primarily on pride and I was pretty convinced that did not apply to me.  So, thinking I had little reason to worry about this particular vice I asked God, "Are there areas of pride in me?"

Before I get to His answer, let me just say I wanted to know the truth.  I knew what I believed, but I wanted to know the truth.  I needed to know the truth. It is only in knowing the truth that we can find true freedom.  I don't need someone to sugar coat things with me.  Regardless of how it stings, I understand that change only happens when we know the truth and respond to it accordingly.

In Luke 18, we are told of a rich young ruler who approached Jesus one day.  He was a man who came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do in order to have eternal life.  As you read his story, you find out in the end that he walks away from Jesus "very" sad.  Think about that for a moment. He has an encounter with God, and walks away sad. I find that interesting.  He came to Jesus seemingly in search of salvation but didn't find it.  This is Jesus, the Savior!  How can this be? How can someone come to Jesus and not walk away with the assurance of salvation?

In the following chapter we are introduced to another rich man whose name is Zacchaeus.  Unlike this rich young ruler, Zacchaeus walks away from his encounter with Jesus a changed man.  All of a sudden he wants to make things right with everyone he's wronged.  In an instant he goes from only thinking of himself to having compassion on those less fortunate than him.  Isn't that interesting?  One man walks away sad while the other man walks away changed.

From the context it appears that the rich young ruler is a pretty good guy.  Actually he seems to be a great guy.  Zacchaeus on the other hand, not so much.  I get the sense when reading the story that the rich young ruler struggled to find fault in himself.  Zacchaeus on the other hand had no problem understanding his "sinner" status as he was surrounded by people who would remind him constantly.  Could it be that the rich young ruler was more interested in convincing Jesus how deserving he was already of this eternal life?  Did he really want to change or was he there for a pat on the back?  Zacchaeus was a crook.  A sinner to the core.  A man hated and despised by most everybody.  Perhaps even himself.  Could it be that this man climbed a tree in order to see Jesus because he was crying out for change in his life?  Could it be that he hated who he was and what he did?  I'm not sure, but one thing I know is that when he did encounter Jesus, his heart was radically changed.

Two men encounter Jesus and the results are as different as night and day.  I've been like that rich young ruler more times than I care to admit.  Well, except for the rich and ruler thing.  I've come to church or approached God with this desire to have Him sign off on my good works.  I've come with an attitude that I've got things together and are quite deserving of a Divine pat on the back.  I've come wanting affirmation and validation for my righteous lifestyle choices.  I've come longing to hear a message that inspires me and pumps me up.  I've shown up some places that, unlike Jesus, facilitated my desire to be coddled.  And while I might not have walked away sad, I was still unchanged.  What an absolute waste of time.

I determined not to waste time on this day.  I refused to be like the rich young ruler.  So, humbly I asked God, "Are there areas of pride in me?" The answer?  A resounding yes.  Ouch!  I could see it clearly though.  There was no denying it.  I could walk away sad or I could walk away changed.  I chose the changed route.

While I'm a pastor, I also place my self under the authority of a few pastors.  So, let me speak as a sheep for a moment.  Pastors, don't beat around the bush.  Don't skirt around the truth.  Shoot straight with us.  Don't facilitate our desire to be coddled.  Challenge us.  Push us.  Call us up to a higher level.  Step on our toes.  Compel us to get off the fence. Speak the truth! Please, for eternity's sake, speak the truth! I need it.  We need it.

Perfection needs no changes.  I'm not there.  The older I get the more I realize how far away I still am on this journey. Sometimes I have wrong heart motives.  Sometimes I struggle to love others.  Sometimes I struggle to completely trust God.  Sometimes I ________________ (fill in the blank).  With every God encounter I long to walk away changed. I need to walk away changed.



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