Be God's

How do you think the devil might introduce himself? It seems to me he wouldn’t say, "Hi ya, I’m murder, fancy coming out to play!" or "Hello, my name is lust, fancy a night on the town" or "‘Bout ye Big lad my name is greed, bigotry and prejudice why don’t you come and join me." It all seems far too obvious. The devil has always been known as the distracting deceiver who creeps up unannounced and is prowling like a lion waiting to devour. He’s hardly going to make it easy for us.

So I reckon the devil is deceiving us in names and words and standards and seemingly good things. Maybe it is the devil that has us so caught up in Christian meetings that we never have the time to do anything else. Maybe it is the devil who plans most of our Christian missions. Think about it. We take our most creative, passionate people and put them on committees to plan an event. We spend sometimes years planning it, pour in tens of thousands of pounds and then for a week we invite all the people that we have not had time to build relationships with to a meeting. And nobody comes. The time could have been spent befriending neighbours and building relationships. Making the word flesh the way God decided was best to reach the world. As I have said before missions may be just a public confession of our failure to evangelise. They may be even more demonically inspired than that.

The devil may also be inspiring us to be good. Could not doing anything bad be a tactic of he who we see as everything bad. Could being good be a clever distraction. In his book The Grave Digger File, a more academic and modern version of CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Os Guinness opens us up to the devil’s 10-10-80 theory of paralysing the Church. Basically, if the devil can cause 10% of the Church to change sides and join his good self, make 80% pretty nice and good living but little else, then he can deal with the effects of the 10% who are passionately trying to follow Jesus.

In Northern Ireland Christians are often described as good living because they refrain from drinking, smoking and swearing. Those may be very commendable behavioural habits. But that is all that they are. When they become the priority in Christian definition they are reeked with the sulphurous aromas of hell itself. Dress code too. I remember trying to get a missionary’s brother to Church. He couldn’t come because he didn’t have a suit. He finally went when he ended up in gaol. Who was keeping him from the grace of God. Was it angels dressed as the bouncers of heaven making sure that you wear a shirt and tie before the blood of the most precious Lamb is available to you or was it a cunning strategy of evil dressed up nicely in that most unbiblical word – respectable?

Recently I was speaking to students at Queen’s University Belfast, many of whom had just arrived in this new world of freedom and undoubted temptation. How were they going to deal with what is in a sense their very first foray into the world "grown up"? Would they keep the faith of their home family or Church? For many of them the gaining of their own faith was not so much at the forefront of their minds as the fear of losing the one they had been handed down. There is without doubt a huge fear of the real world among those nurtured in the shelters and ghettos of their Churches. That in itself may be a clever tactic of the devil, making sure that we are not equipped for the very world we should be living in. Anyhow I was pleading with these fresher students to make sure that they didn’t settle for being good.

I reckon that the devil would settle very delightfully in their being good. If they can leave with a degree in three years time and never have entered a bar or had a drink or got into the wrong company then the students feel that they haven’t compromised their faith but alas the devil is cheering with glee as most of the University remains without the influence of the light of the world and the salt of the earth. They have been good but played the match the very way that the devil had hoped. They would be like the servant who hid his talent in the ground so that there would be no risk or danger of it being tainted but when he returned it to the master untainted he was told of his wickedness. To just be good at University is to be living in the same kind of wickedness.

When I was leaving one of my too brief times with Rich Mullins I got him to sign a tape for one of the kids I was going o stay with next. When Rich signed it "Be God’s" I thought it was interesting but very little else. Having recently read James Bryan Smith’s intriguing biography of Rich, An Arrow Pointing To Heaven, the penny finally dropped. Smith writes, "Be God’s" That was his signature statement. Many of us want to be good, and Rich believed that being good was a noble pursuit. But the highest pursuit was not to be good but to be God’s. The best thing any of us can be is fully devoted to the God who loves us with a passionate, reckless, furious love".

So my hope as I was speaking to Queen’s University students and for myself and for all of those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ is not that we would be good. But that we would be God’s. I have come to believe that there is a mighty huge difference. The Pharisees, like the servant who hid his talent in the parable, were very good indeed but they were constantly under the critical eye and wrath of Jesus who was much more interested in big confused fishermen who were cutting off people’s ears and who had a desire to be God’s.

If only Jesus had said to Peter "Be good, big lad". He didn’t. He said, "follow me". It was like saying "be God’s". And that changed everything. Paul says it again in Ephesians chapter 5, "Be imitators of God". The devil who is a conster, a trickster and a sham would have us fall way short of such living. You can be living an incredibly good life, indeed good enough to be voted an elder or a deacon or a leader in whatever organisation you are in. You can be so good that your Christian friends look up to you. But you might not be being God’s. You can maybe even be walking hand in hand with the devil in your goodness. Your goodness might be just a playing it safe and safety is another word designed in the fiery pits rather than in heaven’s inspired word processor.

Safety you see keeps us from the cauldron of what it is to be imitators of God or followers of Jesus Christ. It says "stay in the trenches" rather than "go out over the top and meet the enemy eyeball to eyeball in the thick of the battle". It says, "Protect what you have," instead of "Go and win the world."

An interesting incident recently showed me the insidious nature of such maladjusted thinking. Students who we were unable to take in Derryvolgie Hall, where I work, were trying to find alternative accommodation. Many parents were phoning me looking for a safe little Christian room for their children. The University accommodation office had many double rooms but no one wanted them. Especially Christians. I told a mother how a friend had actually found faith by sharing a room with a Christian and she informed me that that indeed was her story. I was dumbfounded therefore to try and understand why she was not prepared to expose someone to her son’s faith. If Christians were trying to be God’s instead of just being good then they would be jumping at the chance to share Jesus with room mates for a year. What an opportunity! They will probably try to organise events to reach the very people they refused to live with. Who is happy? God or the devil?

So let us throw off the demonic distractions of good and walk right into the eye of the storm. Let us get beyond the no smoking, no drinking no swearing respectable living and begin to live the upside down and sometimes crazy lifestyle that is true discipleship. Let us overturn and smash to pieces the modern idols of materialism and cultural fashion and cool. Let us follow Christ and be more interested in heavenly riches than the big house at the right address and the accessory car that demonically masquerades as spiritual blessing. Let us question the self indulgent "bless me, bless me" modern Church culture and begin to see what it is to take up the cross and follow Christ. Let us look for the limp that Jacob carried as a sign of blessing. Let us be more interested in people than principles or doctrines. Let us be so interested in others that we will lay down our lives for them. Let us be prepared to lose reputations or our very lives for the souls of others rather than banishing them for being a little skew whiff with an item or two of theological opinion.

I guess in Northern Ireland the eye of that storm is in how we deal with our traditional enemies at a time when the future has a chance to be better than the past. Again we can get distracted. It doesn’t seem good to be reaching out to those who have perpetrated a bloody violence that has left many homes in a depth of pain and hurt that is incomprehensible. It would seem to be principled to stand for some kind of good justice. I suggest that the devil will distract us in such ways. It seems so sensible. It may well be a good way to deal with the unbelievable dilemma that our peculiar little history has left us in. But it might not be God’s way. As the world watched the most Christian country on earth deal with relational difficulties we have a unique opportunity to show the reality of what loving your enemy means. How the cross and resurrection of Christ makes the impossible reality. But we get distracted by the devils distractions – principles before people.

And so we are left with that heresy conjured in the killer lie department of hell – do not forgive until they repent. If repentance is a condition of God’s grace, the Bible never makes it a condition of the restoration of human relationships. If you are worshipping and somebody has something against you, Jesus said, you are the one to reach out. Not after they repent. The responsibility is on you. In Kuke chapter 6, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies he doesn’t give us the cop out of their repentance. Indeed he asks what kind of wonderment there would be if you love those who love you. No the miracle of the Christian faith is in doing the unnatural. Then of course when Jesus himself was hanging on the cross and asked that God would forgive those who put him there he did not ask for decommissioning of wood or nails or swords. No. The idea of preconditions for our loving others is not a Biblical concept whatever. It’s another demonic sacrilege.

Into the eye of the storm. That is where we should be. Jesus was never found in the safe environments of Church ghettos. He was there with the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors. He was there mingling with the sinners. There in the very riskiest places on earth. Indeed on the night he was betrayed he walked right into the eye of the storm. He looked down the next number of hours and realised he was going to take the devil on right there on the devil’s very own pitch. He prayed, he sweated drops of blood, he reasoned with God to find another way. He knew it was daft and stupid and suicidal. He saw the hammer coming down long before he got to Calvary. He knew he was getting up to walk to his death. A very dangerous place to be. Yet he did not say, "Right lads let us get out of here to some safe place." He said, "Not my will but yours be done".

How? How could Jesus walk into the boiling cauldrons of hell and take on evil itself. Trust. He trusted God. He trusted that if God was going to take him in to this place of death, that God had the power to bring him back to life. He believed that God could do the impossible. He trusted himself into God’s hands.

Most of us do not trust God and therefore set up good behavioural codes to keep us safe. To be God’s is to rip up those codes and step out in trust. To go wherever light needs to be shining. To go to wherever needs the savour of salt. To go with the good news into the heart of badness.

So are we being God’s or just being good: -
Do they hate me in hell
Do they scream at my name
Or do they weep in heaven
With cringing shame


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)