Monday, January 21, 2013

Saved by Faith

I am amazed at how much I am learning from the Children's Bible.  My latest "aha" came while reading the story of the ten lepers and Jesus.  I taught a Sunday School lesson on this passage this past year sometime, which focused on thankfulness, but I had another thought while my kids and I were reading the other day.

In case you're not sure what I'm talking about, I'll do my best to paraphrase the story from Luke 17:11-19:

Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem.  As he was walking along, a group of ten lepers called to him, calling him "Master," and asking him to have mercy on them.  Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests, so they started off and found that they had been cleansed from the leprosy.  One of them turned around at that point, loudly glorified God, and then fell down at Jesus' feet, thanking him.  Jesus asked where the other nine men were, and wondered that only this stranger - a Samaritan, of all things, was the only one who returned to give glory to God.  So, Jesus told him to stand up, because his faith had healed him.

Now, here's my "aha."  The whole point wasn't really that the man came back to say "thank-you," and the others were ungrateful.  The others were actually doing exactly what Jesus said to do.  The interesting thing is, that so was the man who turned back.  The question here is, who is your priest?  

Jews under Levitical law were required to show themselves to the priest when they were healed from a skin disease.  Until that point, they were quarantined, and considered unclean.  The only way they could be considered clean again, and able to be around other people, was to offer sacrifices, and have blood and oil put on them by the priest, in a pretty long, tedious process (Leviticus 14:1-32).  

So why did this Samaritan come back?  

I think that he realized who Jesus was.  The writer of Hebrews points out that Jesus was "a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebrews 5:6).  So when Jesus told him to show himself to the priest, he decided to bypass the priests in the temple for the "Priest Forever."  He gave glory to God.  He realized where the healing came from, and to whom he owed the praise.  He was the only one to have faith in the Salvation of Jesus Christ, instead of faith in the Law.

So, where is your faith today?  It is so much easier to believe in doctors, in treatments, in science;  in short, in people and laws, than it is to believe in a Messiah we can't see, and a God we can't touch.  I know that when I am faced with an illness or a problem, I try first to fix it myself, usually with information from the internet, the library, or a friend.  Maybe a doctor or counselor, if it seems serious enough.  But I hardly ever go directly to the Great Physician!  I don't make the necessary sacrifice to my High Priest - the sacrifice of faith, and of praise.  

I know that my life is in God's hands.  I know that nothing can happen to me that He does not allow.  And I know that He allows things to happen for a reason.  So why do I doubt?  And why do I try to fix things on my own?  

Jesus was always commending people for their faith, and lamenting for the lack of faith in others.  Interestingly, it seems that his disciples were the ones with the lack, while strangers, Samaritans, and Gentiles were the ones to show themselves faithful.  Is it the same today?  Are those of us who have known Jesus the longest the ones with the least faith?  We've seen him work.  We know about the miracles.  We believe that he CAN do it, but do we believe that he WILL?  Or maybe we think he needs help?  I'm not really sure, but I do know that I need to practice what I preach a little bit more.

Now, I'm not saying that you should never see a doctor, or that asking advice is a bad thing.  I don't believe that.  However, I know that I am personally more likely to do those things first, and to go to God as an afterthought, or if nothing else works.  I think it should be the other way around.

So, I am going to try to step forward in faith, and to offer sacrifice through Jesus:  

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."  Hebrews 13:15-16.

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