When we hear an urgent news bulletin such as a tornado warning, flood alert, or forest fire warning, we sit up and take notice to see if it applies to us, don't we? Why? We want to avoid the damage or harm which may be associated with the warning. This is the purpose of a warning - to gives us sufficient notice to prepare for something because a lack of preparation could result in significant harm to us. Even when I take my car into the local auto shop to have them fill my tires with air and rotate them every 5000 miles or so, they check the tread and general condition of the tires. This simple practice is designed to alert me to the potential of uneven wear, possible sidewall damage from road hazards I did not recognize, and the like. They aren't trying to sell me new tires, but are concerned about safety. They know I will come back when I recognize the need for new tires - sometimes even before I truthfully need them. I trust them to monitor this for me because they are the experts. I take their warnings seriously - because they are the experts! Why is it we don't take other warnings in our lives just as seriously? It isn't because they aren't delivered by an "expert", but perhaps it is because we are trying to be the "expert" in our lives!
It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living. It’s urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived—I mean right now!—when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, will come alive. Just as the Father has life in himself, he has conferred on the Son life in himself. And he has given him the authority, simply because he is the Son of Man, to decide and carry out matters of Judgment. (John 5:24-27 MSG)
When Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, he wants to become the "expert" we trust and listen to uncompromisingly. The issue is encountered in the moment between us being asked for obedience and actually choosing to listen to the voice of the expert in our lives. Between thought and action there is always choice. It is kind of like the "dash" between two numbers. This "space" between thought and action may not be very long, but a lot is determined by what occurs in that tiny space! It is often the place where we choose to listen to the voice of authority (the expert), or we choose to live as the voice of authority (the rebel).
Looking at our passage, we see the voice of the authority - Christ. He puts it all out there for us to see, so there is no second-guessing his intention or purpose for our lives. Let's break it down:
- It is urgent that we listen carefully to his words. As we all know, the space between hearing and listening is almost as significant as the space between thought and action! Hearing and listening are two entirely different things. One is casual, the other is focused and intentional. Jesus requires the latter.
- Belief should lead to alignment. We can attest to all kinds of beliefs, can't we? I believe the car will start when I go to turn it on each morning, but if I left the lights engaged in the on position all night long, the next time I go to start it, my belief may not actually line up with reality! Christ asks for our heart's belief to align with our life's actions. In other words, when we say we put our trust in him, he expects us to actually do it. He is the expert, so we have to step aside and trust him to guide our lives as he sees fit.
- Trust is the basis for relationship. As we align ourselves with Christ, we are coming into restored relationship with the heavenly Father. No other path exists to God the Father other than that of Christ Jesus. We take a step from being on a course with death into a lasting and permanent relationship with God's presence and peace.
- Life is not lived on our own terms. We may think it is, but whenever we act as our own authority, choosing our own path, we find the "space" between thought and action doesn't always keep us from making wrong choices! Our thoughts may start out as good intentions, but they don't always end up in wise choices.
When I think I may need to buy new tires for the car, I have to plan a little ahead for this purchase. If I just go to the auto shop, and tell them to install the tires without asking them to price the tires I will need, I may almost fall over from the "sticker shock" when the job is done! Why? I didn't listen to them along the way when they told me I was getting close to needing new tires and then have them help me "prepare" for the purchase. I had warnings - but I chose to ignore them until I was almost desperate.
We often do the same thing in our spiritual lives. We have plenty of warnings, but we don't ask what they mean. If we did, we might just be kept from some pretty unwise choices which only end up in "death" in our lives. Any action which brings harm is one which brings "death" to us. It may not be physical death, but any form of "disconnection" from that which gives life is a form of death. Jesus' warning was clear - pay attention to the voice of authority in your life. It makes all the difference between life and death! Just sayin!