I recall an overheard conversation between two of our children when they were young. They were discussing the comparative merits of their parents when our youngest son declared: “Dad’s good fun, but you can trust mum with your crisps!” The more time you spend with someone, the more you get to know them and the more you get to know them, the more you realise if they can be trusted. Abram knew God – they had been through a great deal together and therefore, Abram trusted God. His trust and faith results in him receiving a new name and a new identity. Paul reminds us that when all was hopeless, Abraham believed and trusted not on what he could see but on what God had said. Abraham’s life was not his own. He was walking in the will of God and experiencing promised blessing as a result. Decisions matter.
Jesus was also walking in the Father’s will. He knew he had a very particular mission to complete; one that would cost him his life but have eternal consequences for all mankind, so, when a staggered and confused Peter rebukes him for what he sees as an unthinkable future for the Messiah, Jesus speaks to him very sternly and we have that phrase which has entered into the lexicon of so many cultures: ‘Get behind me Satan’. For in Peter’s words is the same temptation Satan delivered to Jesus in the wilderness; the call to abandon God’s will and to go his own way. Peter is wanting, in his ignorance, to shape Jesus into what he wants him to be rather than what God requires him to be. If we are honest with ourselves, we will all have done the same at some point in our lives.
It’s almost as if this confrontation triggers a passionate plea from Jesus to his disciples and the gathered crowd about making the right choice, and that the right one is not always the easiest. Jesus is always very realistic about the cost of following him. He invites us to lay down our lives for him as He has for us. It is not an equal exchange however, as Jesus did something we could never do for ourselves in purchasing eternal life through the forgiveness of sins. He tells us that it will require a life transforming decision but one that will have glorious eternal consequences. His blunt language does not hide the cost of such a decision but it is one that invites us to a life of bounty.
In the week that has witnessed the passing of Billy Graham, one of the greatest Christian voices of the twentieth century, it is perhaps right to close with his words regarding what it means to follow Christ.
‘True Christianity is faith in Christ alone. Christianity is not something you add to your life. Becoming a Christian means that Jesus Christ comes into your life and takes over. It is a totally new outlook that is not satisfied with anything less than penetration into the furthest corners of the soul and the understanding. Christianity is not a spectator sport – buying a ticket and sitting on the side-lines. Becoming a Christian means no longer living for yourself but for God in obedience to Him. You must leave the old life behind and step into a new way of living, where Christ makes possible what you think impossible. To say that you believe in Him and then continue living as though nothing has changed is to deny the power of God in your new life. Christ will not muscle his way in. We must invite him in. Accept his gift.’
As we continue our walk-through Lent, may we grow in our trust and knowledge of the God who loves us, knows us and desires that we should know Him. Decisions matter.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale