Oh Master! My Master!

Jesus

I find it difficult to simultaneously embrace both God’s transcendence (He is big, mighty, holy) and His immanence (He is right here with you).  These are two equally formative truths: He is my master and He is my friend.  As my friend he listens to my unceasing vomiting of words, celebrates with me, weeps with me, and speaks into my life.  As my master He has authority over me, leads me, disciplines me, and demands obedience.   This tension is one of the things that makes Christianity unique.  If He is simply my friend it is easy to reduce Him to a God who is merely making suggestions for improvements in the betterment of my life.  As my master I am confronted with the fact that He isn’t making suggestions but demanding and expecting my obedience. 

We are more comfortable with a peer than we are an authority figure, suggestions than we are commands, and collaboration than we are submission.  Jesus holds this duality in perfect tension as he teaches his disciples at the Last Supper:

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15

I’ve had friends who were only my friends as long as I did exactly what they wanted me to do; they were not good friends.  However, here I think Jesus is addressing the uniqueness of the divine relationship.  Status as friends seems to be connected with obedience (do what I command you) and understanding (you’ve been told what the master is doing).

We want understanding to precede obedience.  We expect that God gives us a “why” before we give Him a “yes”.  Like a child who has been told to finish his vegetables or clean his room, we are constantly asking why.  If I am being honest, I often expect that God gives me His line of reasoning so that I can evaluate it, check for weaknesses, and affirm that His conclusion is the best.  Sometimes when asking God “Why?”, I hear God say what all good parents will say at times, “Because I said so”. 

I find that often understanding flows out from obedience.  After choosing to be obedient to God I gain an understanding that only time and perspective could have afforded me.  As your Master, God is seeking your obedience.  At the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) Jesus states it plainly, if you follow his teaching you are wise, if you fail to follow his teaching you are foolish.

Not only does God expect our obedience but He expects our exclusive obedience.  Not because God is insecure in His status as our Master, but because He knows we can’t have two masters.  At some point obedience to one will require disobedience to the other.  On that day we will embrace one as our master and the other as not our master.

I find often that we try to embrace this dual master lifestyle even after being told of its impending failure.  So we try to serve both God and money, God and success, God and self-gratification, God and family, God and country, God and (fill in the blank).  Only to be confronted by a God who continually demands  our exclusive obedience.  Our master is revealed by our obedience. 

God is the good Master.  As the good Master His ways are good, pure, and can be trusted.  As the good Master He is faithful, He will protect you even when others harm you, He will heal you, and lead you.  As the good Master He loves you, forgives you, and comforts you.  And as the good Master He is seeking obedient children.  May it be true of you.    

Where are you?

We are all hiding something and fear being found out.  We live in a world where often people are exposed for the purposes of public shaming.  We are constantly being bombarded and baited with headlines like “You will never guess what Insert Celebrity did!”, “Exposed”, “Secrets Revealed”, etc.  We click, we are horrified, and we are shocked just as promised.  It further reinforces our need to hide, lest we too are exposed and receive the same kind of treatment.  However, God wants to expose you.  God wants to expose you not for the purposes of shame but for the purposes of healing.  God knows that you cannot heal and hide at the same time.

As soon as Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and they clothed themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7).  There is a cosmic shift in the self-awareness of creation.  God had reflected on creation and deemed it “good”, creation reflected upon itself and thought “not so good”.  The fig leaves allowed them to hide from themselves and each other. 

Then God comes strolling through the garden and calls out to Adam “Where are you?”  Adam’s response is that he’s hiding because he’s naked and afraid.  Although clothed with fig leaves Adam feels naked and exposed in the presence of God.  Evidently the fig leaves had limited effectiveness.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.   Hebrews 4:13

It would be one thing if the story of Adam and Eve was just a story we told children about the origin of humanity.  However, it’s more than that.  Adam and Eve’s story is our story.  We break relationship with God, cover ourselves with fig leaves, and live our lives feeling naked and afraid.  

We all have fig leaves that allow us to hide, they just look different.  They are the fig leaves of anger, success, isolation, work, children, money, busyness, faux-happiness, addiction, etc.   They allow us to hide in relationships insuring people don’t get too close.  The fig leaves allow us to put a false sense of who we are forward while we hide our true self.  Problem being, as long as our true self is hidden we cannot experience true love.  Not the Disney happily-ever-after true love, but the Jesus I-love-you-uncondionally true love.  Even if people embrace us lovingly, our fear is that they only love what we have put forward.  We think if they truly knew the things that were hidden, they would not love us but reject us.  This only amplifies and justifies our need to hide all the more.

God loves you too much to leave you in hiding, naked and afraid.  God tells us in his Word, he knows everything (Psalm 139:1-4) AND he loves you unconditionally (Romans 8:35-39).  God’s love for you is based in his character, not yours (or lack thereof).  We are also told that God’s perfect love will cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).  God is calling you out of hiding, he knows everything, yet still loves you, and there is nothing to fear.  Could it get any better?! But wait there’s more!  When we come into his presence he will not leave us naked, but he will clothe us.

After God calls out Adam and Eve he takes from them their fig leaves and gives them garments of skin.  God takes from us our brokenness and  gives us wholeness, he takes our unrighteousness and gives us his righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).  This is a large part of our journey with God.  Allowing God to disrobe you so that he may clothe you.  God is calling out to you, beckoning “Where are you?” wondering if you will come out of hiding and allow him to clothe you.