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Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Dialogical God and Cost of Discipleship

Jeremiah 18:1-11
All God talk is a flashlight beam illuminating a small piece of infinity veiled in darkness. God "contracts" to speak to us at our level and enters time and space. We experience "a bit" of God and hear "a bit" of His Word when He speaks to us. It is always incomplete! Jeremiah uses an analogy to describe how God works in dialogue with us. YHWH's action is dependent on us. What we do (and note it is nations, a "we") affects what He does. Grace is not coercive. Mercy is not blind. Israel's God loves us, but we co-create our destiny. [Remember in Genesis that humanity has dominion of the earth.]

Jeremiah's image is of God the flexible potter. A nation has input into His saving work; it will reap what it sows. This is a call to the nation: return to  God and embrace righteousness! There is an offer of salvation, but a demand for repentance. This is a timely message to every nation, especially our own.

Jeremiah's global message is enfleshed in Jesus' instruction to individual persons.
God is faithful, but we have to respond in faith.

In Luke 14:25-53 Jesus describes what faith looks like. Disciples trust Jesus and they are loyal. No one can earn this call, it is a grace, but each one must respond. The words "love and hate" for us have an emotional element. It focuses within the person's 'heart' and feelings. This is not how the ancients use the term. For them life was more external and social (the psychology of inner life was not of interest to them). The Semitic expression to "hate" literally means "prefer." Love is commitment and loyalty to someone. Hate is the removal of loyalty. It is first and most importantly about activities. Jesus is the only Savior. Our family, our friends, our possessions, our lives---none is ultimately worthy of our first commitment. (The word translated as 'possessions' really means 'existence'--all we have and are--our very self). The Holy Three alone can successfully be our center. If the wrong person is in the pilot seat then it does not turn out well.

This is a call to prioritize. Remember, we are messed up (sin). Our thoughts and feelings overvalue and undervalue the wrong things. Other people see that we make bad choices based on bad assessments. That is why they criticize us; but like us they are blind to themselves. This is the sad truth: sinners sin. This is the happy truth, Good News, in Jesus YHWH redeems. This is why all our loyalties must be overthrown for loyalty to the Father.

Maybe this parable can illustrate: God created the tree of life. It is beautiful and the leaves heal and the fruit is unsurpassed; but we must clear the ground so that it has a place to grow. This is the work of faith. It is very hard work, and painful. It is not, however, earning God's love. It is making room for the relationship. God cannot be in the crowd. God must sit on the throne of our heart. False claimants will be displaced.

Jeremiah says sinners can repent and God can ''change His mind" to bless and save us.
Jesus says love God first, then you can learn to love family, friends, and self.

It is a call to loving faith and faithful love.
Trust the Lord because He loves us more than we can imagine.... 

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