“How do we keep from becoming Canaanized?”
This was the question our minister sent out this week. We are in the Book of Judges, reading about a people who were given their inheritance as the children of God, yet choosing to blend in to a culture they were to be different from. Lest I begin to call out harsh judgments against them, I am reminded to look into the mirror on my own wall. How different do I look as I live in the world? Have I begun to look “of” it?
Does my checkbook look any different than the unbeliever? Do my days begin any different than the Mom who has no peace down the street? Do I handle discipline any different than the unloving, un-compassionate, unbelieving parent? Do I worship God on Sunday like everyone else and go my own way the other six days of the week like “everyone else.” Do I go into the store, oblivious to any and all around me, just trying to bear the the burden of having to go into WalMart as best I can, and get out…like every other scowl-faced person I see? Do I entertain myself the same way those who deny Christ do? Do I “spend time” with my children the way our “normal” culture does – watching tv show after tv show, movie after movie, turn the tv off at 10 minutes to bedtime, and call it a “Good Night!”? Do I teach my children the way any other institution would teach them, laying aside the opportunity to minister and disciple them daily – all day – just to to mark them off my list like I would grocery items? Do I treat my husband the way wives treat their husbands on the sitcoms – by turning them into a joke? If someone would see me, meet me, know me, would I look any different than the Canaanites? Would I look Redeemed?
To be redeemed is to be set free, rescued, or ransomed…so that our honor, worth, and reputation would be restored. How often to I think of myself as “free?” “rescued?” “ransomed?” “honorable?” “worthy?” How often do I live like I am “free” from the bonds of sin? Or “rescued” from the slavery of anxiety? Or “ransomed” from my past? Do I carry myself as a daughter of The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, of YHWH? Do I live with my face lifted high, looking into His wonderful face? Would someone know I just came from meeting with God like they did with Moses? He had to wear a veil over His face because He shined from communing with God. Do I shine? Or do I live in shades of gray in Canaan?
I don’t think the question is a hard one to answer; nor do I think there are any new, undiscovered answers. I think we want there to be, just like Israel. We have the spoken Word of God. We know His expectations – the way we can live in fullness of joy. We have examples on how to live differently, but we are still holding out for the possibility of another way – maybe even a short-cut? Wouldn’t it be nice if God would make living for Him convenient? Or easy? Or all cartwheels and cotton candy? Wouldn’t it be more pleasing if He would just tell me the steps I needed to take to be right with Him? To do enough to be on His good side so I could be done with it and get on with living? Wouldn’t it be less intrusive if I could just give Him a certain time each week or day, and tell Him He has to be done by this time because I have other things to get done!? Wouldn’t that be nice? Would it? Really?
If our spouses treated us this way, we would become resentful, hard, numb, and eventually closed off completely to them. God, He loves us far too much to allow that to happen! He has fought for us from the beginning. He didn’t banish Adam and Eve to keep them away from Him; He made them go out because He wanted them to have a chance to come back to Him. The way back to Eden would have to be a journey; one God was willing to make in order to restore communion between Himself and His children. We would cry and fuss and rebel, but He would keep on, faithfully walking to Calvary. He would not choose any short-cuts or conveniences or instant gratifications or personal rights or traditions that would keep Him from fulfilling all that was required to make a way for us to come back Home. Jesus would enter into the fullness of suffering…for the fullness of joy set before Him…so that He could set it before us.
So, how do I live like the Redeemed? (I don’t think 31 days will be enough!) I am pondering the saints of old who lived in and not of Canaan. I am asking questions of “how” and seeking the “what” of their faith. So far I see this: as far as it was possible with them, they knew Who God was…and who He was not! They recognized Him even in a culture of man-made gods and goddesses. They kept their focus on Him alone, and when they did choose the way of the culture over the way of God, they returned to the Only One they knew who could Redeem them. It really does seem that even for the Israelite who turned from God to follow his/her own way, it wasn’t because they doubted Who God was as much as it was they doubted they really wanted that much of Him. I was reading in I Kings this morning:
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 23 and he prayed,
“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.
Solomon knew it – there was no other God out there who wanted a relationship with His people like our God! All the rest are about rules and being good enough and then still hoping for some “good luck.” All the rest are about the performance of man. Our God, He didn’t just send Adam and Eve out of the Garden and say, “See ya! Have fun on your own!” No, our God placed guards at the gate of Eden…and He walked out with His children. Commandments, walls, safeguards, limits, not eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil were never meant to keep us from “living life to the fullest” – they were meant to enable us to do so! God knows full life, and He knows how to provide it. Yet, we look at how the boundary lines have fallen and instead of calling them good like David did, we call them slavery like Israel did. In the words of Beth Moore, “We’ve been punked!” We have been blinded and deceived by the Deceiver. We have listened to his slithering whispers for far too long! We don’t have to! Jesus crushed him under His very feet! Jesus went straight through the gates of hell and took what had been stolen from us – He rescued us again!
Now, will we who have been freed, still choose a place of service – because now we’re just choosing – at the feet of our oppressor? Or will we finally choose to serve alongside our Redeemer? Will we choose to take that much of Him? He gave us all of Himself, and make no mistake that is overwhelming! Still – could we still – make the unbalanced, weird choice to choose to know God like our faithful fathers did? Instead of just being willing to find out His rules, would we be willing to find out Who He is? Instead of just walking according to the commandments, would we be willing to walk with Him? Instead of just standing on the promises, would we be willing to stand with the One Who made the promises?
Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son
stop fighting a fight that’s already been won”
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed
All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”
I remember oh God, You’re not done with me yet
I don’t have to be the old man inside of me
Cause his day is long dead and gone
I’ve got a new name, a new life I’m not the same
And a hope that will carry me home
(Music & Lyrics: Mike Weaver / Benji Cowart)
Big Daddy Weave