April 21, 2016

2 Chronicles 30:18-20 Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

Jesus’ words in the upper room after His resurrection come to mind: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) Hezekiah was not ignoring the rules of the Levitical law, but he recognized that heart motivation was more important than legalism by far. This was precisely Jesus’ argument with the Pharisees. The Bible tells us again and again that God looks at our hearts, and that’s what He really cares about. External rules can be helpful, but by themselves they are meaningless and can even cause us to miss God completely. That’s what the entire letter to the Galatians is about. Hezekiah recognized that the people were seeking to return to the God of their forefathers, and he knew that fact was far more important than ritual regulations. At the same time, we need to be on our guard against the attitude that if we “love God” we can actively sin and it doesn’t matter. If we genuinely love God, sin will bother us tremendously until we repent of it! Augustine was right in saying, “Love God and do as you please,” but that is because if we genuinely love God, we will be fully obedient to Him. (John 14:15) God desires loving, intimate fellowship with obedient children. If our hearts are truly right, everything else is going to fall into line as well, wherever it was when we started out.

I have always had a strong aversion to legalism, but I have at times gone too far the other direction. It is a balance that can be achieved only when I am fully submitted to the Holy Spirit. I don’t think this church is legalistic, but neither is it consistently filled with the Holy Spirit. We are growing spiritually, but because I am part of that growth I sometimes can’t see what’s going on. I need to trust God and keep pressing into Him, letting Him pull everything together but being fully available to Him for that purpose. I am not to launch out on my own, but neither am I to be passive. If my heart is right before Him, then I will indeed be obedient.

Father, I’m again confronted with the reality that I have neither wisdom nor strength to do it right, but that’s not a problem if I will trust and obey You. Keep me from trying to be in control, and at the same time keep me from being passive. May I be active in doing what You direct, obeying You from the inside out so that the believers here may be led to do likewise, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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