Nancy Arant Williams
I just read a book that has radically changed my
way of thinking, regarding my walk with Jesus. That book is OUT OF THE QUESTION,
INTO THE MYSTERY, by Dr. Leonard Sweet.The author, obviously a very intelligent and
educated man, asked questions that are disturbing, to say the least. But they are life-changing as well. One of the things I saw while reading was
this--American Christians, including myself, struggle with two opposing
presuppositions, like magnets tugging at us from opposite directions.
One is the long-held belief that the work ethic
is everything, that if we are righteous (Christian), we will follow the rules,
and in so doing, pull ourselves up by our boot-straps, becoming self-made men,
success stories for the world to envy. Isn't that what most prosperity teachers
are preaching these days? But as many millionaires would tell us, it's an empty
pursuit, not nearly as satisfying as we might imagine.The other is that we are not our own, but are
bought with a price--the precious blood of Jesus, who loved us and gave himself
As crazy as it sounds, after being a Christian
and trying to live for Jesus for fifty years, I can say I have a new revelation
of my place in the Kingdom of God. It is summed up in the srcipture, "For me to
live is Christ, and to die is gain." To be honest, I never really understood that
srcipture. It was a confusing dichotomy, living while dying, but the point of
that verse is essentially the subject of Author Sweet's book. For us to please God, we must die to our own
desires, goals and ideals, and pick up and put on God's point of view. Writers
know that point of view means looking through the eyes of the speaker.
have God's point of view, our reason to live is transformed, with a new goal, as
we now seek only to know, love and please God--loving him so much that it would
break our hearts to break God's heart.I had never thought of this before, and hence,
had completely missed the point of Christianity, as naive as it sounds. I have wondered and written about making it
through the end times, and I had tiny glimpses and pieces of what it takes to
survive and overcome in the end. But the glass darkly was made transparent when
Leonard Sweet explained the heart of God.
The heart of God is unlike the heart or mind of a
human being. We hold grudges, fight back when cornered, guard ourselves against
being hurt, hesitate to get near anything difficult or dangerous, and retreat
from what we perceive as 'them versus us'.In God's economy, however, it becomes very
apparent, from Dr. Sweet's book, that if we retreat, we're avoiding the very
essence of the gospel, reaching out to a lost world, like Jesus reached out to
us in our lost state.
We need to see others the way God sees them, as
potentially, those who will love and please God, who just haven't yet been loved
into the kingdom.I wept, realizing I had completely missed the
mark, thus breaking God's heart, rather pushing my own agenda.
From now on, I will ask God what he wants me to
do with my time, my energy, my words and my life, then I want to submit to his
wishes, subjecting and dying to my own. 'For me to live is Christ and to die is
gain' has now taken on a brand new meaning.This means I will talk to him, asking his
opinions, sharing mine with him, and getting into his heart on the hard topics.
In that way, I believe, I will fall in love with him all over again, as he leads
me in new directions that I would never, on my own, have pursued.To love the unlovely works well on paper, but the
truth is it is tough to do in real life. Loving those who have hurt us is not a
natural response. But it is God's supernatural response, one he wants to develop
Making time for those with needs can get messy, expensive and time
consuming, but how else can we be Jesus with skin on to a world so desperate for
a glimpse of his nature?It's up to you and me to choose whether we will
lay down our desires, subject them for his approval or disapproval, and seek the
real heart of God. It is, in truth, not my choice whether to run my own life,
calling the shots. That is, if I truly want to please God.
I have written about playing church, and for the
first time, I see and confess that I have been playing church, in that I didn't
understand God's heart. I did all the right things to pursue righteousness, but
I completely missed the heart of the matter.It's no wonder that we, who have so much, are so
dissatisfied. The getting, obtaining and heaping wealth upon ourselves, leaves
us woefully discontent. Ironic, isn't it?
In fact, I think Mother Theresa had it right when
she poured out herself for the good of others. The truth is- it is only in
the pouring out that we are filled up.I would like to say thank you to Dr. Leonard
Sweet for a new look at a tough topic, and say that I will never, ever be the
same again. Change my heart, O God.