Yesterday, we ended with a hard truth: most of us would rather die believing that we are righteous than live knowing that we are not. And if that statement didn't sting a little, if it didn't make you stop and take a deep breath, then there's a good chance you're not being honest with yourself.
There's no judgment in this statement; it's just a fact of who we are. Now, it would be fun to take a little detour here and talk about whether or not that's "human nature" as God designed it or if it's something that we learned along the way somewhere (and maybe we'll do this, but not today), but the point for right now is that most of us are more self-interested than we like to admit.
This is precisely what makes faith so difficult for so many. And this is especially true in our current culture, which has trained us to be more self-interested than ever and has even applauded it for us. Many of us are right now worshiping in churches whose primary message over the past few generations has been that Jesus came to save you from your sins and that you should believe in Him so that you don't go to Hell.
In fact, ask most persons who claim Christianity as a religion, and they will tell you that they are not quite certain, but they are very sure they do not want to go to Hell. They have taken Pascal's wager - that if there is not a God, they will never know it, but if there is, they want to be on the right side of things.
And we don't even have to limit ourselves to those on the margins of Christianity, those who claim Christianity in name but not really in ethic. Ask almost any Christian at all, even those living the most devout and righteous lives, what the single most important thing about Christianity is, and they will tell you it's that Jesus lived, died, and lived again to save us from our sins and ensure that we get to go to Heaven.
This is another one of those subtle, but important differences. Jesus never said that His aim was that we would get to go to Heaven; Jesus's life was lived, died, and lived again so that we could be reconciled to God - so that we could live in His love and live loving lives. So that we would be free from the chains of sin that bind us and live once more as human beings made in the image of God, by His very design. He wanted to restore us now, not save us for Heaven.
But most of us just care about that big ol' mansion He promised.
That's just who we are - we are a self-interested people. So when we say something like, "Surrender," our gut instinct is, "Uhm...no thanks." When we say something like we would rather live under the illusion that we're righteous than consider the possibility that we're not, most of us feel a sting in our soul. We don't want to have to examine our own lives, unless of course we are thinking of making them more comfortable. Almost every single one of us would do all the math in the world that it takes to figure out how we could fit a pool into the backyard or a hot tub on the deck, but ask us to clear out a space for a prayer closet, and we're busy. Ask us to get rid of some of the old things that are holding us back, and we'll put it on that list we're never going to get around to doing.
Ask us to search our own hearts, and we're out.
Yet, that's the draw of Babylon in the promise of God. God tells His people - you can live. All you have to do is go to Babylon. And if you really are a faithful and righteous people, then you don't need the illusion of Jerusalem to be faithful and righteous. You will find out your faith in a foreign place. Or you will die clinging to shadows in the rubble of somewhere too familiar.
Can you - will you - surrender?
Or is all your so-called "God-interest" nothing more than self-interest clothed in sacred language?