Thursday, October 5, 2023

Sweat and Snake Oil

There's just something human about exhausting all of our other possibilities before we come to God for help. We saw yesterday that this was true even of the biblical characters. (We should say, however, that for many of the afflicted in the Gospels, Jesus wasn't an option...until He was, and we would probably not be wrong to assume that they had tried everything that the Temple and the priests had to offer, as well. But...priests are not God.)

There's something about human nature that just seems to be rogue and independent. That wants to engineer our own way out of things. That wants to put our best foot forward and give our everything to solving our own problems. 

There has even been, for a long part of Christian history, this pseudo-Christian, non-biblical (but biblical-sounding!) teaching that "God helps those who help themselves." That is, if you want God to help you in your life, you have to show Him that you're already doing everything you can to help yourself. You have to show how committed you are to the prayer that you want answered by demonstrating that you're doing everything you possibly can to make sure it is answered through your own strength. For too long, the Christian teaching has been "everything you've got + that little extra bit of God to get you over the hump."

We have to be clear here and say in no uncertain terms: that is not a biblical teaching. That is not a God-honoring teaching. That's not what God has ever wanted from His people. God has never put forth a teaching that says you have to give everything, then let the Cross carry you the last little bit. 

No, what God has always said is that His grace is sufficient; His sacrifice is complete. What God has for you is enough. And no matter how much your human brain wants to think that "enough" is simply bare minimum, it's actually quite full. 

Overflowing, you might say. 

Here's the thing: these folks that we see in the Bible who come to God for healing and get it? They don't get healing because God builds upon all of the things they've already done. They don't get healing because the snake oil almost worked, it just needed a little tiny touch of the holy. In fact, God - nor Jesus - ever commends someone for all that they have already given in pursuit of the healing He's about to give them. Jesus doesn't applaud the blind men for not giving up; He doesn't celebrate the bleeding woman for having driven herself into hopeless poverty in search of this very good thing. He doesn't even mention it. Ever. 

He just heals them. Fully and completely. And I'm telling you - the movement of God is not the capstone of all of our human effort. It is fullness in and of itself. It is complete without all the other thousands of things we've done before we get there. 

The bleeding woman would have been healed by Jesus if she had never spent a dime of her own money or seen a single doctor. The blind men would have received their sight if Jesus wasn't the next thing that held out any hope for them, but even if He was the only thing. The demons were not cast out because they were just one word short of leaving already; Jesus cast them out fully with that one word, start to finish. 

God doesn't want to just build on what we've already done. God doesn't expect us to lay the foundation. He says, plainly, He is the cornerstone, the first block ever laid. And because of that, the whole enterprise rests on this and this alone. All glory, grace, power, mercy, love, healing, strength, forgiveness, all of it - it is all fully and completely and wholly Him

And He doesn't require a single drop of sweat or snake oil to get it.  

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