Why is it that, we as humans cry out to God to heal us, to free us, to save us from something, to release us from some form of bondage . . .
And when He does and time passes, we so often end up turning back to what it was we were freed from?
Why is that?
Why is it that there are thousands of stories of people who were released from some form of bondage - whether it's a bad situation, a painful event, or even some form of addition - but after time - for some reason - they end up back in the place from which they were freed?
It seems that this has been the human condition / human flaw since creation.
Because we can see this same problem throughout scripture.
We just finished studying the book of Joshua and the Israelites wanted so desperately to be saved from slavery and when God brought them out of Egypt and was leading them to the Promised Land, but along their journey they started complaining and said that they would rather be in slavery.
"We want to go back to what you released us from."
Or how about the story of the lame beggar. Who cried to Jesus to heal him and Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk but after time, he ended up back begging in the very spot where Jesus healed him.
Or, the story of the Jewish Christians that were addressed in the book of Hebrews - who had found salvation through the long awaited messiah - Jesus Christ - but when faced with persecution - wanted to return to Judaism - a faith still waiting for the messiah to come.
So, why is it that when being released, being given freedom - we can't seem stay the course?
Perhaps it has to do with our understanding about God.
I think that we have limited our understanding of God to the now - putting him into our own contextual box, where He is just one of many things and pull him out in certain situations or contexts but only when needed? And then when our needs are met and we are out of that context, we tuck him away until another need arises in our lives.
Think about it. When do people typically pray? I am not talking about church prayers or dinner prayers or good night prayers - I'm talking about when do people really fall on their knees before God? I would image that most people are like me, they really pray when things seem so huge in the moment. Times when we just need God to show up and to fix our problems . . . and to make everything better.
Or think about this. When do people typically show up to church on a regular basis? Remember 9/11 - it seemed that everybody wanted to get back in touch with God. Never in recent history have we had such a surge in church attendance across our nation.
You see, people want to go to church when there is crisis or we have a need for God.
The problem with this kind of faith is that when we contextualize God in the now and can only see him in the context of our needs, we are unable to see that there is more to God - than our desires. We are unable to recognize that we are part of a larger story or narrative of salvation and redemption and reconciliation that God has been writing since creation.
In 2nd book in the Chronicles of Narnia. There is a conversation between Lucy and Aslan. Aslan represents the Christ figure in all of the Chronicles of Narnia.
And in this story, Lucy has not seen Aslan for a long time and she is looking for him in Narnia
When they meet again, Aslan says "welcome child"
Lucy says, "you're bigger"
but Aslan says "it is because you are older little one"
Lucy's says, "its not because you are?"
And Aslan reply is this, "I am not . . . but every year you grow, you will find me bigger"
You see, God doesn't change. He isn't more distant or less distant. He is not going to get any bigger or any less bigger. Added to or subtracted from.
What changes is the lens in which we see God from.
We either see God from a really weak lens that can only see Him in the now and the context in which we find ourselves and with that lens we can't comprehend the bigness of God and as a result we have a very little God - whose job is to simply fix problems as they arise. And to whom our responsibility is to simply show up every once in a while.
Or we can see God through a larger lens - a lens that sees beyond the now.
A lens that allows us to see the bigger picture of God's story. A lens that lets us see that there is more to God than our current need.
And this can only happen when we grow.
As Aslan says, "when you grow you will see me larger."
This is the reality of our faith, the more we grow the more we begin to see God for who He is and not just what we need him to be in the moment.
You see, God is and was and always will be - we are simply a part of His bigger story.
And he is not in the business of fixing problems as they arise, He is not interested in making things better so that our lives will be easier - he is interested in doing things that will build His Kingdom.
And He doesn't just free us from something, he calls us to something. He doesn't just fix a problem, he offers a better solution and sometimes, when we get caught up in the now and don't see the bigger picutre- the better solution seems too hard and so we slowly end up back where we began.
So the answer to our question that we posed earlier - "why do we so often end up turning back to what we were freed from?" Is this . . .
Our understanding of God is limited
And our understanding is limited because we never grew from the point that God saved us. After all God fixed the problem - And I went to church a few times to let him know I was appreciative of his work -I even gave a little bit to the offering last week but now I don't need him anymore. The problem has been solved. See you again in a few weeks when I recognize another need.
But when we limit God to the now - then we miss the big picture of God's narrative and we don't see that God took us out of that situation in order to bring us to a better situation. A situation that would build God's kingdom.
The word translated as "church" in the New Testament is Ekklesia which literally means "the called out ones". It means that we weren't just saved by God's grace but we were called to do something about it. We are called to grow in our faith.
But we act more like babies, whose lives revolve around our neediness - than spiritually growing Christians who recognize that we are a part of a bigger story. And that we are "called out" to continue this story of salvation, redemption, reconciliation and the building of God's kingdom.
And the book of Hebrews address' this problem.
It is a book that is designed to help us see the bigness of God and in particular the bigness of Christ. It is a book designed to help us see that there is more to God than the now. It is a book that will remind us that the more we grow in our faith the more we will see and understand God for who He is. And the more we understand God, the more we will want to press on toward the goal in which God called us to.
This is a book that will encourage us and prod us to continue moving forward with who God called us to be
It is a book that depicts the supremacy of Christ.
It is a book that tells about a better covenant
It is a book that tells us about a better faith.
But it is also a book of warnings - reminding those of us who have called upon the name of the Lord through Jesus Christ - to not give up the pursuit of holiness (12:10-14) . . . do not stop growing or we will face the anger of the living God (10:31) and experience the same judgment that came on the rebellious generation of Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years and did not inherit the Promised Land.
It is a book for us - a new church who has been called to build the kingdom of God in a changing culture. To think and to act differently so that we can be a place that nurtures people in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ so they can grow.
This evening, you may be one of those who are crying out to God to free you from something, to save you from something, to release you from some form of bondage.
And I want you to know that God can free you.
But God won't just free you from something; He will call you to something. He won't just fix your problem; he will offer a better solution.
And to say yes to God's freedom is to set out on a journey of faith that at times will be difficult - at times you will want to turn back - but you must remember that growth sometimes hurts. But he gives you the resources you need for your journey - He gives you his Word and he gives you a group of others who have been called out - and together we will make this journey with you.
Or perhaps tonight, you realize that you are not growing in your faith because you have allowed other things to take priority in your life and church has become one of those things that you will get to when it is convenient or when it doesn't interfere with your busy life and your crazy schedule.
But I want you to know that God longs for you to know Him more. He wants you to stop putting things before Him. He wants you to know that He is calling you to something better because what He is calling you to is eternal.
Are you really ready to accept God's call?