"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, April 29, 2013

Joy Beyond Me

I have a fantasy of hosting a broad jumping contest. I would invite everyone in the world. Details, including the prize, would be revealed the day of the event. There would be announcements on TV, on the Internet and in print. Word of mouth would spread the news. I would invite the world to meet me at the south rim of the Grand Canyon on such and such a date for "the event of a lifetime."

That morning, as the sun chases the morning mist from the deep recesses of the canyon, thousands of people will line up at the rim. A helicopter will record the jump. The instructions are simple:  "JUMP! THOSE WHO REACH THE OTHER SIDE WIN THE ULTIMATE PRIZE--LIFE! ALL OTHERS WILL DIE!"

The crowd looks bewildered. There is no way to make the jump and survive. No one can leap to even the closest rock formation, much less the other side of the canyon. It is hopeless. The farther you jump, the farther you fall. The few extra feet that some can jump is utterly meaningless. The chasm is too great. There is no way to reach the other side.

The Apostle Paul spoke of a similar predicament in his letter to the Philippian church. He has just warned the church to watch out for those who would try to achieve a relationship with God by self righteousness through the keeping of the law. He now goes on to say that if anyone could, he could:

If anyone thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Philippians 3: 4b-6

Through his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was brought face to face with the vast chasm between the sinfulness of even the most righteous man and the holiness of God. The once important status he enjoyed by birthright, study and self righteousness evaporated in the searing light of Christ's presence. So what if he can jump a few feet farther than most other people--the chasm is too great!

People who struggle with addictions, immorality, or dishonesty know they need a bridge, a way to relationship with God. Their utter lack of self-sufficiency drives them to their knees to pray: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" People who feel good about themselves are in far more danger, really, of going to the grave unaware of their need. They broad jump into eternity unaware that the opposite rim of the chasm is too far to reach by human effort. The mentality of "I am a good person and good people go to heaven" is one of the saddest deceptions in the world, especially when dressed up in the garb of "religion" (man's effort to reach God by personal righteousness).

The book of Romans includes indictment and hope in the following statements: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Jesus is the bridge, in fact he said he is the only bridge. Either he is a lunatic, a liar or Lord (C.S. Lewis). The decision you make about what you believe about Jesus does not change him, but it changes you. And it changes your eternity.

When we cease striving to reach the other side by our own attempts, we can live in joy. It is not all up to us any more than it is all about us. It's all about Jesus, the one true bridge. Living with the knowledge that he has made the way, let your joy be a magnet that draws others with you on the way home to intimacy with God.

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