Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Cost of Correction

Many years ago Arun Gandhi (grandson of the political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi), moved back to South Africa with his father to continue the struggle against apartheid. One day Arun was asked by his elderly father to drive him to a meeting in Johannesburg, then drop off the car at a garage for it's service before picking him up from the meeting at 5pm.

Now Arun realised it would take some time to wait for the car, so he decided to bide the time by going to watch a film at the nearest cinema... which just happened to be showing a double feature that day. He emerged from the cinema and checked his watch. Horrified, he realised that it was already past 5 o'clock. He rushed to the place where his father was waiting, on the corner in the pouring rain... rapidly thinking of plausable excuses for his lateness. Then he said "Father, you must forgive me. It is taking them longer to repair the automobile than I thought it would take, but if you wait here I will go and get the car. It should be ready by now."

His father silently bowed his head and looked downward, then after what seemed like a long time he finally said "When you were not here at our meeting time I called the garage to see why you were late. They told me that the automobile was ready at 3 o'clock! Now I have to give some thought as to how I have failed, so as to have a son who would lie to his own father. I will have to think about this. So I am going to walk home and use the time during my walk to meditate on this question."

Arun could not bring himself to just drive off without his father. Instead, he followed the elderly man home watching him stagger along the muddy road as the rain fell down upon him. Arun continually flashed the car headlights to try and gain his father's attention... but it was to no avail. His father relentlessly stumbled all the way on the long journey towards home. Overcome with remorse for his actions, Arun repeatedly beat the steering wheel and said over and over to himself "I will never lie again! I will never lie again!"

It is a true story - Arun himself recounted it to Tony Campolo when the two of them met.

It is also true that this is exactly how God corrects us. God has a plan for us right from the very beginning in fact even before we are born. However, being selfish and broken by our sinful nature. We rebel against that plan... either by not doing what is right, or actively doing what is wrong. We are disobedient.

The Bible teaches us that the punishment of our disobedience - for being slaves to the sinful nature is death. So what does God do about this? Does he beat us with a big stick or throw lightning bolts at us?

No.
Like Arun's father, God took the punishment of our actions upon himself, by sending Jesus to suffer and die in our place. In the same way that Arun watched his father trudge home in the rain, we look upon Christ crucified... a righteous man willingly taking the punishment for the mistakes of God's children. The price is paid.
However if we look at Arun's response to his father, I believe it gives us opportunity to examine our own attitude towards God. Arun knowing what suffering his disobedience had caused his father... repented and resolved to change his attitude. Imagine you are in that car... that it is you behind the wheel and Jesus is walking down the road ahead of you carrying his cross to Calvary.
The way I see it, there are two responses. You can callously drive off home and face the consequences yourself... or you can follow Jesus... continually reminding yourself of the cost of what you have done and resolving daily not to do it again.

Arun's father did not despise him... he wanted Arun to be a good son. Likewise God does not despise you or I (even though we deserve it), he merely wishes us to be restored to be the people he called us to be. Now let me tell you another story... one that Jesus told:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 28:9-14
Maybe you think you are OK and don't need Jesus, in which case I urge you to think on why God considered the situation so grave that he sent his Son to make payment by dying for our sins. Then think what the implications of that are for you personally.
Or maybe you are a Christian and have found Jesus and have a relaxed attitude to your behaviour because you know that the blood of Jesus covers our sins. In which case I urge you to think again what those sins did to Jesus, for:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
1 Corinthians 1:19,20
Discover who you are and what you were called to be in Christ, and if you have forgotten... remember.
Jesus did not just die to destroy our sin, he was raised to enable us to rise above it. He promised us his Spirit would be with us until the end of the age. If you want to know what that's about I encourage you to pray these words:
Dear God, I come to You in the name of Jesus.
I now realize that I have a choice to make concerning my life. I believe that Jesus died and shed his blood for my sins and rose from the dead giving me the way to fellowship with You and to live eternally with You.

Knowing this I choose to renounce my past and I accept the price Jesus paid for me to be total and complete, because You said it is. I choose Jesus to be Lord of my life and to live within me, and I choose to live for You from this moment on.

I believe right now that I am indeed born again. My spirit is a brand new creation and I stand before You heavenly Father worthy not because of my actions, but because Jesus justifies me.
Thank You for loving me and accepting me into your family.
Amen

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