|Vol. 14 No. 3 March 2012||
Betty Burton Choate
I wake in the morning to the consciousness of the presence of God. My heart words thankfulness to Him that while I slept He continued to be watchful and loving, caring for all the parts of life that required His attention. Satan trails a thought through my head. “You haven’t seen God. Suppose He is, as the skeptics say, only a crutch in your head. What then?”
In willingness to be fair and open-minded, I try that concept. What then? There is blankness in my heart. The warm love I had directed toward God dries up at its source. My feeling of security disappears. I no longer have an anchor and a certainty to life. There is no longer a sense of direction about where I am going, ultimately. With nothing greater in my head than myself, no purpose greater than the demands of today’s physical existence — because tomorrow may not come, and there is no eternal existence on the horizon — blankness, and then fear and futility flood every crevice of my mind. Without God, it is worse than, “Nothing is left.” It is, “I still exist, and all of the challenges of this world still exist, and yet I face this existence with the acceptance of the dead fact that I have no help. There is no one greater than this frightened self to turn to.” I marvel that suicide is not imminently on the horizon for all of those who lose faith in a Higher Being.
However, a persistent thought pierces the fear of aloneness. “Yes, you do exist. And all the wonders of life and of the physical world around you exist. And your greatest devastation would not be the loss of a husband, or the loss of a parent or a child, whom you have seen. The greatest devastation would be in the very loss of God, even though you have never seen Him. The absoluteness of these facts in your heart speaks to Satan’s mockery and doubt-raising. In all of man’s ‘progress’ and ‘sophistication,’ would humanity not have outgrown this ‘primitive’ belief in God, if He were only a crutch, dreamed up in the minds of humans?” The very soul of humanity cries out the existence of God (Psalm 27:7-10)!
Even today, there are two classes of people in the world: the minority who are conscious of their rejection of God and who would have, statistically, a higher problem rate (behaviorally and emotionally) and a higher suicide rate than believers. On the opposite side are the believers, who are the majority. In some form or another, they cling to their conscious awareness of the existence of God. They may be a million miles from the truth in their understanding of Him, but their hearts confirm that there is a God.
In both minds, the base-factor deals with God! No other single topic can claim such universal and total preoccupation, even while some people are in the throes of denial! This fact alone speaks decisively. If there were no God, in Whose image we are made, and to Whom our spirits call as a lost child to a parent, this universal and continuing outreach to Him would have “evolved” out of existence eons ago.
Another thought comes to mind: I have never seen Satan, either, but there is no doubt about his existence. Why? Reason number one: I can look around and see his work on every hand, as sin and evil and the resulting destruction take their toll. Reason number two: In contrast to Satan’s tactics, God does not trail through our minds a barrage of questions and doubts about Satan’s existence! God, Himself, tells us that Satan roams the earth, like a roaring lion, looking for the souls he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). God fosters our belief in the reality of Satan — because he is real — and God wants us to be forewarned so that our defenses will be up.
Following this line of reasoning, since the prevalence of evil in the world is unquestioned testimony to the existence of Satan, is not the unquenchable good, in contrast, evidence also of the existence of God? Would we not expect that the enemy of God would be the continual instigator of doubts, since God forewarns us that Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44)? “Thank you, Father, for Your watchful care while I slept, and for a living faith to sustain me during my waking hours.” “‘I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Savior. … Therefore, you are my witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘that I am God. Indeed, before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand…’” (Isaiah 43:11-13).
Remodeling in Progress
Have you ever seen a sign at a business that reads something like, “Please excuse our mess. Reconstruction (or remodeling) in progress”? On the way to work over the last several weeks, I have seen a sign on a church building with a similar message. Whether the sign was meant literally or figuratively I do not know, but I did think of a spiritual meaning.
The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” No one who lives on the earth today is perfect. However, those who choose to obey the commands of Jesus and become Christians become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) when they are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4). God does not expect new Christians to instantly be perfect in their behavior and knowledge of the Scriptures. Consider 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Just as newborn babies cry for milk on a regular basis, Christians both new and mature in the faith should yearn for God’s Word. Immersing oneself in God’s Word promotes growth, just like a baby grows from drinking milk. Also like the growth of a young child, a diet of only milk will not satisfy for long. Eventually the child needs to eat solid food. Christians also must progress to “solid food.” The Hebrew writer stated in chapter 5 verses 13 and 14, “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” An individual who has been a Christian for many years should have greater knowledge and practice more than the basics of Christian service. Those Christians who do not show growth and maturity are like a baby who does not grow and develop at a natural pace.
This process of growth in the faith is a type of spiritual remodeling as indicated by Romans 12:2. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Here Paul instructs Christians not to model themselves (conform) to the things of the world. Instead, Christians should transform themselves. The word transform comes from the Greek word we commonly know as metamorphosis (Strong’s Talking Greek-Hebrew Dictionary). Think about a caterpillar and a butterfly. The metamorphosis from one form to the other is a complete change, a significant remodeling of the physical body. Since the verse in Romans indicates the transforming process involves the “renewing of your mind,” instead of a physical metamorphosis, the Christian should go through a spiritual remodeling. Isaiah and Jeremiah use the analogy of a potter forming vessels from clay as a similar image to the transformation God’s children should undergo (Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6).
In Acts 3 and 4, Peter and John heal a lame man and preach about Jesus. In doing so, they incur the wrath of the religious leaders who throw Peter and John into prison until the next day. When the religious leaders begin questioning Peter and John, the leaders are amazed. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Notice that the religious leaders acknowledge that Peter and John were changed because they had spent time with Jesus. Scriptures show that Peter transformed from impulsive and aggressive (Matthew 14:26-33; John 18:10) to patient and sober (cf. 1 Peter 5:1 and the qualifications of an elder, 1 Timothy 3:1-7). John transformed from a selfish and vindictive individual (Mark 10:35-37; Luke 9:53-54) to one whom Jesus entrusted with the care of His mother (John 19:26-27). John also became the author of 1 and 2 John, letters full of gentleness (addressed to “my little children” 1 John 2:1) and addressing the love of God and instructions for Christians on how to love one another (1 John 4:7-8; 2 John 1:5).
Just like Peter, John and many others in the New Testament, Christians today need to actively seek to transform their lives. The life of a Christian should be modeled after the example left by Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:2). The process is never ending; Christians must constantly perform self-evaluations to see what needs to be remodeled (2 Corinthians 13:5) and must continue until death (Revelation 2:10). Can you say about your life, “Remodeling in Progress?”