For the purpose of this discussion, let's set aside for a moment the argument about whether or not the Bible is literally accurate. Instead, let's assume that some biblical stories are metaphor. I know it sounds heretical, and I don't personally believe it, but for this discussion, let's assume that some of the stories are metaphorical life lessons. I just don't want you to get distracted from the point of this post. We can debate later about biblical accuracy.
We humans are funny creatures.
Adam and Eve had it all. They had everything that they needed. God, the supreme Creator of the universe, created them and provided for them as only their Creator could. He knew what they needed. He knew what was best for them. And until the serpent came along, they thought they had everything that they wanted.
But Satan came along and planted a little seed of doubt. "Surely God didn't mean that you couldn't eat fruit from that tree, did He? That makes no sense. Why would God create a tree for you, if He didn't want you to eat from it? You know what? I'll bet He's worried that you will become as powerful as He is. Yeah, that's it. He doesn't care if you eat the fruit- He just doesn't want you to have what He has."
And blah, blah, blah.
A number of generations later, God has freed the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Formerly slaves and at the very bottom rung of the hierarchy, now, they were free. God had delivered them from Pharoah and his army. God parted the Red Sea, allowed Israel to cross, and closed it back up on top of the Egyptian army. They didn't even have to worry that Pharoah would come after them. God had taken care of them.
As part of their Exodus to the Promised Land, God provided them with a heavenly food, called "manna" to eat. Manna doesn't exist today, but based upon the biblical description, it appears to be a flour or meal of sort, from which cakes were made. It may not have been prime rib, but it was what they needed to survive. God had instructed them not to store any of it. Instead He would provide for them on a daily basis.
It wasn't enough. Eventually, the Israelites complained to their leader Moses. They were sick of manna. But some of them decided that they would save it, just in case. "What if God skips a day with the manna? How will I feed my family? What if He doesn't give me enough? I should save some up, just in case. Sure, He said for us not to do it. But He couldn't have really meant it. Who does He think He is anyway, God?"
And blah, blah, blah.
We might read these stories and say, "I would never do that. If God told me to do something, of course I would obey Him." We might look at the Israelites as prideful and foolish. After all, how smart is it to disobey God?
Here's the point. We all do exactly the same thing. We do what the nation of Israel did, time and time again. God provides exactly what we need, but it isn't enough. We have to take matters into our own hands, just in case He doesn't.
God wants one thing from us. He wants us to have faith in Him. If we have faith in Him, the rest of it- obedience, resisting temptation, loving others, dealing with all the bad stuff- anger, lust, gluttony, you name it; it will all take care of itself.
I do it every day. Actually, I'm kidding myself. I do it every hour. Maybe even that is an exaggeration. I fall out of faith and turn to myself to deal with something, about every ten seconds.
The hardest thing to do, but the most important thing we can do is to remain in a faith relationship with God. We have faith in His plan. His plan required His Son to be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind. We have faith that Jesus paid the price, for every single sin I have committed and ever will. That faith frees us up to have faith in God for every single step that we take, from that point forward. If our sins are forgiven, and our eternal salvation is assured, then the rest of our lives are simple window dressing by comparison. Sure, we want to live as He wants us to live while were here on Earth for 70 or 80 years (assuming that we die of natural causes). But in the grand scheme of things, our eternal life with Him, makes this life pretty unimportant, by comparison.
So we respond in gratitude to Him. We live as He wants us to live. We read His word and pray to Him, to try and discern how He wants us to live. And we try to do it every single second of every single day.
Anything else is like Adam and Eve. Or, it's like the wandering nation of Israel, grumbling about manna.
And blah, blah, blah.
I'm not really into fire and brimstone. Don't get me wrong. I believe it's real. I just don't think people like being reminded of it. Surprisingly, it doesn't get a great deal of coverage in the Bible. Jesus talked about it a bit, as described in the gospels. But the apostle John, who wrote Revelations, is the only writer who discusses it in any detail. However, Revelations is apocalyptic writing, so it's meaning is subject to interpretation.
It's surprising because the concept of hell is so prevalent among Christian discussion. In particular, unpersuasive evangelists tend to use it as a trump card. If you don't buy their message, they save the threat of hell to close the deal.
The problem is that threats are generally unpersuasive. They may be effective, but they don't really persuade anyone of anything. If I tell you that I need money because I've had a hard life, and then threaten you with my .357 Magnum, you'll give me your money. However, you will likely not be persuaded that I had a hard life. So my threat was effective, in terms of the end result. But it wasn't persuasive. Further, the longer term effect is likely that you will want to get your money back. In other words, you'll want to undo the deal.
The same can happen with evangelism. If we focus on the idea that everyone is a sinner and heading for hell, we will probably end up with some converts. But what have we really accomplished?
If you look at Jesus' teachings, his message was love. He talked about loving God. He taught about loving others. Jesus practiced what he preached. He healed people. He fed them. And he even brought them back to life. Jesus' ministry was about love. More importantly, Jesus' life was about love. Most religions are "works based." This means that if you do enough of the right things, you will go to Heaven. If you try hard enough, you will end up with eternal bliss. If God is pleased with your efforts, you will be rewarded.
These efforts were eptomized under Mosaic law, in which a blood sacrifice was the way in which man paid for his sins. We slaughtered unblemished animals in a special ritual conducted by a high priest. The problem, however, is that we all intuitively know that killing a chicken doesn't really erase our bad acts. The idea is that having to kill an innocent animal for something that we did should make us think twice the next time we decide to do something bad.
Christians believe that God reached out to mankind. He became a human. Jesus was that human. For a short while, we had personal contact with God. We saw through Jesus' life, who God is. And when his ministry was finished, he was sacrificed.
The truth is that we can never earn our way into Heaven. God gave all of it to us to begin with. So, we are inevitably going to be in a deficit balance. Something else has to balance the scales. Humans can't do it because we are all net consumers. The only way to balance my sins is if someone who has never sinned is sacrificed in my place. The problem is that no one is sinless (Please contact me if you know otherwise. I'd really like the rights to that book.) Therefore, only the Creator of everything can balance the scales.
He did it, as Jesus. Jesus was sinless. Jesus was sacrificed. How many flawed human lives are worth one drop of the Creator's blood? I don't know. But Jesus shed all of his blood. I assume it was enough to pay for all of the sins of all of mankind.
So let's just call it moral bankruptcy. No matter how I look at it, I've filed a spiritual Chapter 7. This is the legal term for a liquidation bankruptcy, in which the debtor usually ends up with nothing. However, the debtor's debts are forgiven. And the debtor gets what is called a "fresh start."
I'm morally bankrupt. But as I write, I think about what I deserve, as a result of my life's actions. I don't really like to think about hell. And my life is far from it. I have been blessed beyond anything I could have imagined. If I had gotten what I
deserved, my life would be far, far different than it is.
I got a fresh start instead.
You are probably familiar with the story of Jesus walking on water. It's one of those stories that many people think of as a metaphor. The term "Walking on water," is used as shorthand for someone who is pretty close to perfect.
But if you read the account in the fourteenth chapter of Mark, it goes a bit deeper than that (no pun intended). Jesus' disciples had taken a boat across the sea of Galilee. Incredibly, they see someone walking across the sea. Peter was apparently unsure that this was in fact Jesus. He was clearly afraid. He said that if it is really Jesus, then he should tell him to step out of the boat and come to him. 
Jesus told him to come.
Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water.
Peter had good reason to fear. At its deepest depth, the Sea of Galilee is about 150 feet. Imagiine yourself in this situation. The feeling beneath your feet is almost surreal, not exactly like standing on solid ground but more of a mushy feeling, sort of like foam rubber. This feeling is nothing like you have ever felt before. Maybe
, you think, I am dreaming.
Thanks to your impulsive exuberance, you find yourself standing in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a violent storm. You are buffeted by waves and soaked to the skin. Perhaps a lightning bolt flashes, followed by the loud rumble of thunder. Suddenly, the weird feeling of firmament beneath your feet gives way.
Water is up to your knees and you are sinking quickly.The boat is now far behind you. There is no way that you can reach it to save yourself. What have I done
, you think, I am going to drown. What a stupid way for it to end
At that moment, Peter’s faith enabled him to overcome his fear. And for a moment, Peter walked on the water!
However, the howling winds and enormity of his situation got the best of Peter.
He again was terrified and cried out to Jesus to save him.
And frequently, this is exactly how many Christians respond to fear and worry. Initially, we trust the Lord with the issue. We give the problem to Him. However, when the problem is not solved according to our schedule or plan, we begin to doubt. We allow Satan to whisper his lies to us. Perhaps the Lord didn’t hear my prayer. Or, perhaps He thought my prayer was self-interested and unimportant.
Or perhaps the Lord’s will is for me to suffer.
We are so close to this threatening forest that we cannot see the
Anytime we are faced with a fear that threatens to compromise our faith, we should declare that: “I will not sink.” We should think of Peter, exuberant and faithful, stepping out of the boat towards Jesus. Had he continued to his destination in faith, unwavering and unintimidated, there is no doubt that he would not have begun to sink. We need to develop an intellectual alarm that sounds whenever we begin to feel afraid. As soon as it happens, we remind ourselves that through faith anything is possible, including resolution of the threat at hand.
Once you give a fear or worry to the Lord, don’t take it back. He has heard your prayer. He will deal with the issue, often in ways that we could never have
imagined. Don’t allow Satan to fool you into believing that the issue is not important enough for God, or that God expects you to do something else. Continue to pray and listen for God’s response. Above all else, let it go and quit worrying about it.I will not sink
Matthew 14.