My wife and daughter bought an old, but in good condition, 1984 small Chevy RV. We have been working on it, getting it in shape by painting the inside, doing a little remodeling, and today stripping the old, messy caulking and unneeded things off of the roof to reseal everything properly. We do not want any leaks. It only has a little over 41,000 miles on it and the generator only has just over 1000 hours, so it is in excellent shape for its age. A little tender loving care and it will be a nice vehicle for modest traveling.
When I undertake projects like this, I am often reminded of its similarity to how God works with us after we are saved. When you start working on something like this, there is no way to fix and redo everything in one fell swoop. We have to work on one thing at a time, often needing to go back and redo something because we uncover something not obvious the first time. It doesn’t ever proceed smoothly without any bumps along the way.
God is that way with as He works with us. We receive His gracious gift of new life in Christ and He slowly engages us, discipling us one step at a time. I know someone is going to ask me about 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” Amplified Version. I use the Amplified Version on purpose since it illustrates my point, that our new creation is a new moral and spiritual condition. We are now spiritually alive, where before we had been dead. But as Paul makes amply clear in Romans 7, the old man is still with us and we do the things we don’t want to do and fail to do the things we should. So God engages us in discipleship and works through the corridors and rooms of our life one at time, fixing them as he engages us in discipleship on our path to righteousness.
Remodeling not can be, IS a painful process, with lots of tearing out, cleaning up, and rebuilding new and better. Discipleship is the same, for God tells us through His inspired writer in Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.”
So for me one of the questions that Lent forces me to answer is this, am I willing to undergo the pain associated the process of discipleship, of growing into the person God wants me to be? To illustrate how hard that choice really is the author uses the word scourges; God, our Father, scourges us. The Greek word used there refers to the Roman cat of nine tails, a device that can be wielded with particular brutality. He is emphasizing how far God is willing to go, if need be. He doesn’t leave it there, but goes further, warning us in verse 7, “You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline?”
That is a difficult verse for many to accept. It is no where close to their idea of how God should treat them. They expect their God to be loving and kind and that just doesn’t cut it. So what happens? They shy away from embracing the correction of their heavenly Father and place themselves dangerously close to the fearful condition of verse 8, “Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all].”
That brings us face to face with a conundrum, can we accept God for who He tells us he is, no matter how much it doesn’t fit our desired image of Him, or are we going to build for ourselves an idol, a god who meets our desires and requirements for god, one we are willing to accept and worship?
I guess you could say that Lent, at least how I am approaching it, is all about choices, often difficult and painful choices. It is also about reality and truth, which means it is what it is and can I accept it as so? Join me, or not. It is your choice.