PRAYER GETS ME READY FOR THE WORLD
The Book of Revelation 21:5 states, “Behold I make all things new!” Christians enter this new world here on earth. It is when we become “a new creation in Christ” (II Cor. 5:17). Prayer keeps the door open to that new kingdom Jesus brought to earth (Mk. 1:15). It is a kingdom that is not of this world (Jn. 18:36) and prayer helps me to be am ambassador of the world (II Cor. 5:18).
The old world of relationships was breached. A new covenant or a new promise was secured or guaranteed by commandments or stipulations. The grantor or a king can offer privileges to those who serve him beneficially. It is not a last testament, where the king passes on his title and holdings to his heir without stipulation, nor is it an agreement between equals. To be eligible, even an heir must please or reciprocate the grantor. Abraham did not qualify until he was willing to give his son Isaac back to God (Gen. 22). Moses did not make it into Canaan because he took matters into his hands by striking the rock and allowing men to change mates (Deut. 32:48-52; Mt. 19:3-9). David pleased Bathsheba by making Solomon king (I Ki. 1:29-30). Jesus shed His blood and He laid down two of the severest stipulations converts must follow. “Repenting” was equal to giving birth to a baby and “believing” was like going into a lion’s den. Nicodemus was stunned, how any man can become a baby again and start over without collecting sinful deeds? (Jn. 3:4). We know what Peter did when he was identified as a disciple of Jesus (Mk. 14:66-72). Persecution and death was immanent for many of Jesus’ followers (Mt. 24:9). The kind of love and grace Christ gave and demanded was not unconditional for people that identified with Jesus.
It is after we have reviewed Jesus’ life and work that we can form some opinion as to what a covenant entails. It is an agreement to maintain a relationship between two parties by observing certain rules that benefit both. New agreements are being sought when there is a serious disruption between two individuals or parties. In this case, the breach was between man and God and it was man that broke the command, “not to eat.” God, the Father, never stopped loving the human Prodigal. To show his love, he sent his Son to reach out to man and form a bridge for man to cross back over. It is that bridge Jesus, the Christ, crossed back and forth, that represents the Covenant. Adam crossed it before the bridge collapsed and the chasm no longer made it possible to get back to Paradise. In order to close the huge gap of the break, the Son of Man had to sacrifice his life. He had to become human and while Jesus was human, He fulfilled the requirements of God the Father. To get back to the Father’s world, Jesus had to die physically and return as the Resurrected One. Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, so sent He is followers as covenant bearers into the world to offer the olive branch to lost humanity.
How does one prepare to live in this new world that is still engulfed by the old world? We have been instructed that one has to be born into the new world or become new beings. We come into this new world as children and then are expected to live as mature adults. Some of us do and remain childish, not child-like (I Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12). I know, first hand, how that feels. I was not unfamiliar with the new life when I joined, and it has taken me over sixty years to get some of the hang of it. We do not get it all at once. It takes time and testing to adjust to the new life. That is why God has granted us precious time in this life to get it right. Even right, itself, will change down the road when we receive new insight as to what it is. What I did years ago and I was praised for, is not what I would repeat. In fact, I am somewhat embarrassed how I could have insisted on such half matured notion? We do age, even in our faith, and that should make us better and more desirable as evidence that the new life does prosper.
The first time I came into the world, I learned to walk, talk, learn and live as a child. I was fortunate to have God – fearing parents and grandparents and family members. I learned much from them in their religious services and studies, even though I did not dare to open my mouth and ask some questions. My life was not different from theirs. In fact, mine was more consistent than theirs, because I had this awesome fear of a God that could strike me down and when things went wrong, I felt condemned. In contrast, the people that celebrated “Communion” on Sunday mornings stopped honoring themselves after church. At best, they were childish and not mature. They were not at all helpful to my struggling conscience and me. I did not follow their examples. I needed a far more potent medicine to wake me. That moment came when a fire engulfed me and made me face eternity for a few seconds, and when I came to in a hospital, I knew where I belonged after that encounter. I had entered a new world. And like a newborn, I had to learn to walk again, learn English, and study the ways of a new and different land. In addition, people from the new world, called “Christians” were surrounding me. These were amazing people. They brought me hope when there was little to hope for. They put purpose and value back into my life and showed me that I could function and serve in the new world. They helped me to stand up and walk upright when I felt like crawling into a hole. They had this precious blind faith that the Lord had a special role for me to play. When I consulted the professionals on that idea, they did not think I could overcome or even survive the obstacles. Their advice was, find something easier to do.
The professionals were correct. Being in my childhood stage, I did not hear a word they were saying. The time of being a youth in the faith was monumental for me. I doubt very much that I would have undertaken twenty years of study as an adult. I was twenty-three when I went back to High School and forty when I received my third post graduate degree. In addition to my studies, I served churches in Canada and the USA. I met my wife when I studied time at Princeton and our marriage was blessed with three son and they blessed us with eight grandchildren. There is a reason why we do not mature at the same pace. I would not have dared, to do as an adult and with a set mind, what I did with a naive and inexperienced attitude. This state of mind should change down the road and become more mature. I missed that crossroad and did not wake up until thirty years later. I recall a ninety-two year old lady saying to me on my arrival to her church, “You have come to convert us, have you?” Then she smiled cynically. I did not get it. I should have been learning from her and not she from me. I kept pouring new wine into old wine skins and got nowhere (Lk. 5:37-39). My sour grapes did not match their matured and seasoned wine. I could have learned this lesson earlier by paying more attention to those that had traveled the road before me. Instead, I suffered under the illusion that I could succeed where others did not.
The good Lord has added to my life eighteen years since I had cancer and was told that I could not be cured. He has allowed me to pass the age of a grandfather. The Beloved Disciple John wrote to children, to young men and to fathers. Grandfathers must have been included because I have been through the line of aging and gathering of experience. I did take to heart the advice he gave, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loved the world, the love of the father is not in him. For everything in the world – the craving of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – does not come from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I Jn. 2:12-17). John spent his life trying to pass on ‘the love of the Father and the will of God.”
I have spent over eighty years trying to understand what John meant? I am still traveling in this old world and am adding up little bits here and there and the picture that emerges is so different from the definitions of love and the will of God I held in the past. I can no longer define these concepts without living and practicing them. I have been infused with the idea that God’s grace and love were my sure tickets to heaven; but when my time arrives to stand before the Supreme Judge, He shows no interest in what I believed, but in what I did. He has it all written down and valued things this world regarded as unredeemable and as unsuitable (Rev. 20:12).
How can one know when one is doing the love and will of God? How did God do it? He did it with his Son and the Son did it with his followers. Philip, for me, asked the most important favor in the Bible, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” If Philip was like I am, I would have expected Jesus to take me somewhere where we could give him time to tell us how He is the God of the heavens, the mountains, the temple, the world and so on. That is all true and that I, too, did and still hear in churches. But, yes but, that was not how Jesus defined God the Father. Jesus gave this explanation, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the father. How can yous say, “Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (Jn. 14:8-10). God’s children bear the likeness or image of their Father in heaven (Gen. 1:26-27). It is in what we do without public notice that sets us apart as being children of God and the followers of Christ (Mt. 5:16). We do it out of love and not out of command.