Elijah, the Prophet, sought refuge in the desert and waited on the Lord for orders. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (I Ki. 19:11-12).
Jesus on one occasion said, “the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Mt. 13:45-46).
Jesus made this harsh recommendation, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pears to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Mt. 7:6). Paul admonished, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Ro. 6:12). As long as sin entangles us, we are hindered from becoming free (Heb. 12:1). These statements tell me that I can impair my freedom when I let transgressions control my life. What does it mean to be free? Paul, the Gentile Apostle has been very helpful to me. He led me to three conclusions. First, freedom is a possibility; but it is seldom a reality because of our human weakness (Ro. 6:19). As long as we are in the flesh, we shall be subjected to temptations that lead to errors. Christ has provided an escape from sin; but total freedom comes when death has spoken. That is why a Christian must lead a penitent life. He must be constantly aware of the pitfalls of sin and depend intimately on the voice of his/her conscience that is tuned to the Spirit of Christ. It is the Spirit that reminds the Christian whether he/she is living a life acceptable to God. A person that continues in sin is not on the road to salvation, neither is that individual led by the Spirit of God. The line of demarcation between a life in the Spirit and one in the flesh were marked clearly for Paul (Gal. 5:13-26). Secondly, Paul was freed from religious regulations and observances, but not from the Ten Commandments that governs all life. In Paul’s words, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good”(Ro. 7:12). It guided Paul’s behavior. “But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:13-14). The Law kept Paul out of trouble because it highlights the pitfalls of sin. The perimeter of sin had become a serious problem for Paul’s followers. The Grace of Christ gave him a chance to separate him from sin. He believed that one could die literally to sin and begin a new life in Christ. That is why he insisted that his followers imitated him (I Cor. 4:16). It was the Christian’s job to stay out of sin or literally die to it. Christ had paid for all the sins that were committed in ignorance or unintentionally, but not for those that use His sacrifice to continue in sin (Ro. 6:1-14). Thirdly, the burden of freedom, as well as salvation, rested on Paul’s shoulders, and on everyone else’s that follows Christ. This was crucial to Paul because humans reneged their accountability and responsibility. They always looked for a Messiah that would take care of their failures and negligence to deal with their problems and sins. Christ became man’s perfect scapegoat. All one had to do is believe and confess (Ro. 10:9-10). To his chagrin, Paul began to realize that his converts were not separating themselves from their sinful ways (Ro. 6: 1-14). They had not submitted to God’s Law and that made their behavior hostile to God (Ro. 8:6-8). He admonished the Corinthians, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50). And the Romans he told, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (Ro. 12:1). The Ephesian converts were keen on grace, but not so eager on being blameless and holy (Eph. 1:4-5). The reason God had been gracious to them was that He had a job for them. Sin stood in the way of working for God (Eph. 2:1-10).
We do not live in a perfect world. Things do happen unexpectedly. We were interrupted by the death of a loved one. Our nephew’s sudden death, at sixty, led some of us to reconsider how we deal with interruptions. We surprised ourselves how ill prepared we are in accepting people whose lives have been altered by disabilities. We talked as if the disabled had no right to have a life. We were puzzled why a person that was not mentally impaired would choose to marry a disabled? That hit close to home because I am a handicapped and the lady that married me must have been out of her mind. I just could not let go and several days later the words of Jesus bore heavily on my mind particularly, for my being here at this time. Jesus healed a blind man and His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he is blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn. 9:2-3).
A French officer was punishing one of his men for being afraid in battle. Marshal Foch witnessed the act and said, "None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear" (Wa. 655). Fear is natural and normal. There is good fear and there is bad fear. Even bad fear keeps us on our toes. It floors me to read, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The person that fears is not made perfect in love" (I Jn. 4:18). I have faced death several times and fear always crept up on me. I just was not perfect enough. The words that came to my mind were the words of the Psalmist, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all that follow his precepts have good understanding" (Ps. 111:10). "Blessed is the person that fears the Lord and finds great delight in his commands" (Ps. 112:1). To David, fear was a blessing because it led him to a better understanding.