Contentment vs. Complacency

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing great. I’m content with where I am and what God has done to get me there. Which sounds super great. Except yesterday I realized that my contentment may have been masking something not ok – complacency. Yes, I’m ok with where I am, but did I reach that point by looking at the good things I have been given (partially) or by resigning myself that this was good enough and ignoring the goals, opportunities, and people God put around me to pursue and engage (…)?

Yesterday I was reading Isaiah 1 and verse 27 stood out…

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent by righteousness.

In the midst of the storm they were about to face – being torn from their way of life and land – God promises that in the end they will be restored. But the restoration comes with a price.

Justice is the fair treatment or lawfulness of actions – and in this case God acts as the righteous judge in determining the price that must be paid for the sins that have been committed. He even says earlier in the passage (verses 12-15) that he is tired of their burnt offerings and feasts (note: these are the things he says will be pleasing to him in Numbers, among other places). Is God being duplicitous? No, that cannot be, so what is he saying instead? Let’s look at the following verses (16-17)…

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. 

I think, as with every time God tells the people of Israel about his precepts and his desires, he wants authentic worship. He wants them to be pleased with their stature before him, to recognize his awesome power, and to bring (along with their burnt offerings) a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Then, from that place of understanding who He is and who they are, to move forward and bring his love, justice, and mercy to the world.

So what happened?

The people of Israel had become complacent in their place. They weren’t content with what God had asked – sure they kept doing the things they were supposed to, but they weren’t satisfied anymore. And hey, maybe, like me, they thought they were content. They thought they were down with what was going on and ever so slowly they started drifting without even noticing. Little by little you stop dwelling on his words, thinking about what you’re doing, noticing those around you…and instead you start thinking about other things, going through the motions, and suddenly you really don’t care about that widow -you’re too busy strolling through your day to day actions “living”, revelling in our saved-ness and neglecting what comes after the salvation and hoopla along with it.

As I read the chapter I couldn’t help but be reminded about how we ourselves are saved through justice and redeemed through righteousness. Our sins deserved the ultimate sacrifice of death; and the only way we could have been redeemed was for someone to pay that debt. God just didn’t blankly forgive our sins – as a just and righteous God he couldn’t do that. A debt needed to be paid. The full payment was accepted when Jesus died for us, taking our sins upon himself, and by that justice we are saved. We are reinstated as a people right with God and we can come to him with our broken and contrite hearts.

However, just like the people of Israel we are also called above the physical actions of our lives and the routines of Christianity. We aren’t supposed to just physically take part in communion, but to consider the significance of it, and repent of our sins before taking it. We are still supposed to confess our sins to God and we are still supposed to turn from evil and run in the opposite direction. Plus, we are supposed to move beyond that and act in our lives. We are to do all the “one anothers” – serve, love, encourage, etc. We are supposed to be trying to see the kingdom of God here on earth, experiencing his goodness and sharing it with others.

We too are not to be complacent, but to be content. Yes, to be content, but not to be content with being complacent and staying where we are. Obviously we will be content when we are complacent because when we are complacent we don’t need to deal with the harder questions or care about the state of those around us. We can be blind to our own sin and parade around our status in life because “we’re happy here.”

Just because I’ve made it this far doesn’t mean that this is as far as I’m going – God still has more for me. He has more adventures, more things to learn, more people for me to meet, and more souls to save in the world, more justice to bring to those who cannot take it for themselves. My contentment is to be IN Him, what he has given me and where he has placed me. Yet I am still to be longing for a fuller communion and deeper intimacy with him. I am still to be carrying out his justice and mercy to those around me and I am still to have a desire for more of him, less of me, and to see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So: are you content or complacent?

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Yesterday and Today and Forever (Hebrews 13)

Well hello there, super encouraging chapter! One of my favourite parts of the letters in the New Testament is the parts where they talk about Christian living. It’s usually a lot of super short concepts all strung together, and to unpack it all takes a while. But in the end, we’re left with a lot of good lessons that we can apply to our lives.

I also really like when they tie in truths from the Old Testament and reapply them to our lives. It reminds me 1. that the OT still has so much in it that we can apply to our lives if we would take the time to really read it and look at what it says, and 2. God’s promises don’t have an expiry date. As the writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). Therefore, the promises hold true. We can hold fast to them and know they will come into being. We can still read and be comforted by them. We can still ask for them today. And, of course, we can take the overly quoted passage here and the Psalm and rest.

“I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, Deut 31:6, etc.)

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not hear;
what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

The Overflow (Matthew 17-18)

Whenever I try and imagine what the transfiguration looked like, I always end up imagining something like in the “reveal” scenes from Touched By and Angel. However, I’m 98% sure none of you know that show since its 10 years old, so here’s a picture.

touched by an angelBasically they suddenly have light shinning around them….I couldn’t find a really good picture 😦

 Anyhow, back to the Bible

It is interesting that the disciples that didn’t go up with Jesus to the mountain don’t have faith enough to cast out a demon. They too were traveling with Jesus and seeing his miracles, why couldn’t they do it? I heard a sermon once that used the two “camps” of disciples as an illustration of people who were either A. filled with God’s presence and worshiping, and B. not filling up on God’s presence and relying on themselves.

The disciples who went with Jesus, while they tried to build tents (not so sure why), were spending time with him in God’s presence. I would be willing to bet that they had more faith after that than the ones who stayed behind, and probably could have been able to cast out the demon (they had already been told they could earlier in Matthew). It’s so easy to think we can do things on our own, especially in this culture, when we should be relying on God to do things so that the actions we do point to him.

I have to wonder though, why did he only bring three?

I’m not 100% sure what the implications are for verses 24-27 with the sons/others thing, so ……moving on

Chapter 18 covers a few aspects of Christian living:
1. Humility
2. Avoiding being tempted to sin
3. Taking care of “little ones”
4. Forgiving

All of these actions can be sort-of done on our own strength, trying to be “good” ourselves, or they can come from an overflowing heart. The latter is better.

Just like how the disciples who spent time filling up on God had more faith etc., if we spend more time with God and seeking after a heart like his, it becomes easier to take care of others. When we come to deeper understandings of the gospel and how much we are forgiven, forgiving others comes easier (unlike the man in the parable who clearly has some issues).

Over and over again in scripture (both OT and NT), God calls into question our hearts, or comments on the status of our hearts. David is king because he is a man after God’s own heart. in Hosea, God asks for “steadfast love”  instead of sacrifice (6:6), and wants people to call to him from the heart (7:14a).

I’m left at the end of this passage wondering “Where is my heart today? Has it begun to drift away from the fulfilling presence of God? How can I continue to go deeper in my relationship with God”

As a note to my fellow Bootcamp-ers, I will be away this weekend and catching up on the posts when I get back, so either Monday night or Tuesday. Looking forward to see what you learn while I’m away!