One of the beautiful things about Jesus is He gives us permission to ask questions. This is what happens in a relationship. No bride and groom or brother and sister or father and child would be without conversation. Fathers especially are riddled with questions from their five-year-old child. That is how it is supposed to be. So I love the freedom to ask questions, don’t you? Jesus even said things like this:
Luke 18:16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (ESV)
We receive the Kingdom of Heaven today. It is the place of the King. Jesus said this:
Luke 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (ESV)
The word “midst” could mean within or inside or among. I like that. But how do we “enter” into it? How do we understand, perceive, experience the reality of the Kingdom? We have to “step in” like a child. I believe some of those “childlike” qualities that open the door to the Kingdom are curiosity, intrigue, imagination and naïveté. We get to ask those “dumb questions” like “Daddy why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly? Why do we laugh?” With the same innocence and humility we can also ask the hard questions like “who are You really? Why do You seem different in the land of Canaan than You do in Jesus? Why do I see violence all over the Bible but Jesus doesn’t condone violence?” Those are really good questions and God does answer us.
Often, however, religion keeps us from asking those questions. We have sayings like “the Bible says it, I believe, that settles it.” We have such a distorted view of the concept of “faith” that asking a hard question is seen as a “lack of faith.” In our fallen human nature, obsessed with our judgment based on the knowledge of good and evil (bad fruit), we insist that faith is based on a collection of information and the ability to believe said information. It is like the Wizard of Oz lion “I believe I believe…” Even obviously wrong things like murder and genocide we would say was OK for God because He is God and to question “what it says” would be paramount to salvation loosing blasphemy. Whew, there I go again. It is OK to ask the question. The five-year-old would get it. Your children would ask you “Daddy why does that man want to hurt that other man?”
It is OK to ask questions. I encourage you to ask questions. Jesus came to reveal the truth of God. He came to show us who God is to us personally. He is the perfect image of the Father. He has all the answers. He knows all the questions. Maybe He has just been waiting for a generation of people who can be like little Billy and ask the hard questions.
Some of you might ask “where do we start, what is my anchor?” For me Jesus is God. If I don’t see Jesus doing it then I don’t see God doing it. Sometimes God looks like a bloody man on a cross at the hands of a violent angry human race. He has looked like that from the beginning of time. There is something so broken in our human nature that we need to see “our sin” in a beaten Jesus. What I have a hard time grasping is how much our Father loves us to do such a thing. So I don’t have all the answers. I’m still asking the questions.
Let me leave you with a question to ponder. Ready? I will ask you to put down your old way of thinking. Put away your “understanding” taught to you by religion. Instead “die” to your old fallen-nature-limitations and instead think with the mind of Christ as a new creation in Jesus. Here is the verse:
2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)
Here is the Amplified:
2 Cor 5:21 For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]. (AMP)
What I know is Jesus was not a penal payment on a cross to a bloodthirsty God. He was not God’s whipping boy. He was not protecting me from an angry God. That is completely inconsistent with who Jesus is and our Father that He reveals. Check out this post for more info.
I also know that God is concerned with relationship first and behavior as it applies to relationship. He hasn’t put us in a cosmic living-morality test for eternal destinations. Jesus forgave us all. God has always forgiven us. He doesn’t hold a grudge, that is what people do. Here is verse 19 in the same passage:
2 Cor 5:19 It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor). (AMP)
So “the righteousness of God” is what we are becoming, in that, we can see others without desire for punishment but instead a compassion for helping. When the loved one shows up suffering from their behavioral investments we are overwhelmed with the gut-wrenching desire to help them and set them free and welcome them just like the Father of the prodigal.
So what is it for you to see your sin on the cross? What is it for you to not see Jesus the Son of God, but a man who is your sin? What does it look like for you to look into the mirror of the cross and see your sin being put to death? Are you holding the whip? Are you on your knees? Are you crying for mercy? Are you elated? Are you devastated?
There isn’t a “correct” answer. It isn’t a test that God (seen as a master theology professor) is going to give when you wake up on the other side of this life. It is for you to ponder now, so you can be set free now, so you can enjoy the righteousness of God now, so you can tell others about what Jesus has done in your life NOW!
I expect the answers are different for each of us. I have actually experienced the emotion of each revelation as they have taken shape in me. I’ve experienced the remorse of choosing my way over God’s way. I have experience the joy of seeing addictions nailed to that sucker. I have experienced the relief of no more guilt and condemnation and shame. I have jumped with joy and wept like I didn’t think possible.
Those revelations were made possible when I decided that I trusted Him completely. This is what it means to “lose our life to gain His” or “die to ourselves.” We have no more secret places that we keep Him out of. We may start with a tiny seed of faith that says “maybe, just maybe, God is really that good” and we step into our mountain moving experience trusting in our Father. We look to Jesus and we experience freedom. We look up at our Daddy and ask Him the hard (and easy) questions. We begin a journey where we always have the cross to see Jesus loving us. We always have His embrace to remind us. We always have His loving kindness to keep us from fear and doubt. We have His presence to guide us. We have His power in us to change every circumstance. Some days we cry. Some days we shout. Some days we laugh. Everyday we have Jesus.
Go ahead. Ask a question. You can’t be snatched out of the hand of the creator of the universe:
John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (ESV)