Instrument of choice

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[a] of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again,  as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our[b] behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

These words penned by a man who used to seek and destroy the early church.  In one glorious moment, Jesus appeared and called Saul to follow Him.  To that call he responded and turned from Saul to Paul – to be an instrument for God to use to bring the gospel to the world.

A chosen instrument with a chosen purpose.

If Paul was the chief of all sinners for what he had done before Christ changed his life and that he owes all to the grace of God – we have a great hope for us all!  For those of us who think we have no value, are broken and are old, in our Father’s hand He can make us new.

 

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”  The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem;  and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;  I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized – Acts 9:10-18

Choose life

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

 

What is it that we are all here to do? They were here, as Browning would tell them, to make a choice. Their life’s value would be judged by the choice they made. A moral choice and a moral judgment—that was what they must, at their peril, to their cost, have made before they died. ‘I have set before you this day good and evil, life and death; therefore choose life.’ That was the cardinal secret, the challenge that was to ring in their ears day and night in every variety of experience and circumstance and condition, in hope and in fear, in sorrow and in joy, in confidence and in doubt, in darkness and light, at whatever social level their lot was cast, under whatever limitations life and death were set before them, and they were to choose one or the other; and each such choice determined their bent, and each such determination built up their character, and by that character, so formed, they were judged. Character—that was the key-word needed. They were looking round anxiously in London for men of character. But character belonged to the man who had gained a steady bent towards the right, and who had made his choice, who had committed himself on the side of a sound life, who could be counted on to be straight and true and pure. There was something in the man on which they could rely. His will always made in one way, and nothing could turn it aside, and that was the way of justice, and righteousness, and conscience. – Canon Scott Holland

As we follow Jesus, we are not choosing a life that by-passes the law or negates the need for boundaries, but we are looking for trust and love and hope in all of our actions.  A lot depends on why we seek to live a good life, to be responsible and to have principles – essentially determining why we want to live.  If by fear, then we play safe.  If to exclude and condemn, then others are right and others are wrong – welcome to structure turning life into a prison.  If out of trust in God, then we love how He purposed our lives to be – a world of caring for one another and having hope for the future no matter what life throws at us – in other words, real life.  If our life is lived in any matter resembling that of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is making our life real and that discovery is what makes real life, the only life worth living.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Free from hopelessness

Jesus met a man named Levi who happened to be a tax collector. The encounter was an amazing illustration of love from Jesus, not only meant for Levi but for all sinners and a clear model of how we followers of Christ are to live.  The story starts in a public setting and in front of this large crowd of people surrounding Levi who is doing business, Jesus calls him out to follow Him – Levi, a man from a particularly hated class of people – to follow Him.  One had to wonder what Jesus was thinking at the time because tax collectors were the scorn of the religious leaders and accordingly, Levi had no hope – he was excommunicated from all religious fellowship.

It was a simple enough invitation – and the invitation to come back into fellowship with God that set Levi free.  It set the scene for one big dinner party where Levi wanted all his friends and fellow sinners to meet the One who set him free from hopelessness.  The guest of honour was Jesus Himself and he never hesitated.  That was His pattern – if the religious leaders avoided, He and His disciples were pleased to attend.  How else was the Good News of the Kingdom of God to be shared with those who needed that good news?

You imagine our own scene today if were to gather at such a party.  Most of our trouble would come from those who are a bit overly devoted to legalism and the appearance of righteousness.  Unfortunately, many would not accept an invitation to such a dinner party.

Choice is rather straight forward – keep to those who are just like us or meet the lost and broken where they live, sharing the hope of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus showed us how to live that night at Levi’s dinner party.  We are to share the good news with those who need it, in humility and gratitude that we have been set free.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:27-32

7 BIBLE VERSES FOR WHEN LIFE SEEMS HOPELESS

Scriptures Against Hopelessness

Psalm 146: The Source of Hope

Five Pursuits to Lead You Out of Chronic Hopelessness