The Call of God (Hebrews 11), Part 4

PalmSprings040.JPG

Communing with God and Escaping Death.

Community requires communing. That may seem obvious to most, but perhaps we need a reminder when it comes to our relationship with God. His existence is so vastly different from ours we may forget that a relationship of intimacy with Him is our life’s chief purpose. Communing with other people means talking and listening to each another, expressing hopes, dreams and core values, and seeking to understand each others’ perspectives. Communing means living life together, walking alongside one another. It’s what families and good friends do.

The author of Hebrews 11 had earlier reminded us of Adam’s son Abel, the first human to experience death. As if to swing the pendulum in the extreme other direction, he now tells us about Enoch, four generations after Abel’s time. “By faith Enoch was taken from this life,” he begins, “so that he did not experience death;” What? Is he sure? As if to explain it another way, the author adds, “he could not be found, because God had taken him away.”

To be sure this is strange. Enoch was what we might term ‘translated’ from his earthly life into eternity without having to experience the usually-essential process of human death. His experience was unprecedented. So what do we know about Enoch and what is God communicating to us about this man’s life that would be useful to people like you and me. Is it a how-to lesson on escaping death?

We have only tidbits of information about Enoch—a few verses in Genesis and a couple verses here in Hebrews. What we know about him is just a condensed, compact synopsis of his life, and that’s a handy thing to have. From it we learn six things about Enoch: he accepted God’s existence, he believed God rewards people who earnestly seek Him, he walked with God, he pleased God, and finally, he did not experience death.

What we are not explicitly told, but can surmise by these six descriptors, is that Enoch lived his life attuned to the voice of God. He had a heart attitude that was open to God, ears perked and piqued to hear anything about God or from God that could be heard by a mere man. He believed God’s promises and obeyed God’s counsel. Consequently he lived his life in such a way that he is described as walking with God. Does that sound like a relationship that would please the heart of God? Does it sound like the kind of life you and I could live?

Well, yes and no. No, it’s not possible for anyone to live a life pleasing to God—at least apart from faith in the work of Jesus. While Enoch live millennia before Jesus’ earthly life, we can safely surmise he believed God’s promise to send a Redeemer some day—a sinless offspring of sinful mankind—one who would crush the head of sin and eventually destroy death itself. Enoch’s predecessor Adam was still living in Enoch’s time, and had preserved the memory of this promise of God for Adam’s progeny.

But it’s not only no; it’s also yes, Enoch shows us that we can live for God and please Him if we will listen to Him and humbly come into a communal life with His Son Jesus. This kind of living relies completely on the life of Jesus living inside us, interpreting the truths of His Word so we can apply them, and ultimately providing eternal life for us after we die.

“…Enoch’s example,” explains Blue Letter Bible’s Don Stewart, “provides hope that believers will achieve an ultimate victory over death.” So in a way, Enoch’s life story is an instructional manual on dodging death and gaining life. Communing daily with God—seeking Him, listening attentively to everything He wants us to know about Himself and about ourselves—is the source of eternal God-present life.

The call of God inspires faith, and faith open hearts to the call of God. “Come near to God,” invites the Apostle James to all who will listen, “and he will come near to you.” Be part of the community.

(Photo Credit: Meghanbustardphotography)

Advertisements

ESCAPE AND STAND

 A321_sunspots_09.26.2014_(15359237736)

          The most thrilling adventure stories always seem to include two key elements: an exciting escape and a bold stand. Louie Zamperini’s life is no exception. Unbroken, the story of his life and the movie soon to be released, tells the tale of repeated escapes and stands. We thrill to those kinds of stories. We are excited, intoxicated and exhilarated by them, because they tell us a core truth about this life. We are in a battle for survival – every one of us.

“Be careful,” Jesus warns, “or your hearts will be weighted down…”

That’s true, we agree. Life should be fun, shouldn’t it?

“Be careful or your hearts will be weighted down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” He’s talking about the end of life.

“For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth,” He adds. He’s very inclusive. No one escapes his own mortality. No one is immune to facing her own precarious adventure story.

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36). There it is: escape and stand.

The way He talks, our triumph is not certain. There are dangers about that can inundate us, weigh us down, engulf, besiege and overwhelm us. He even cites for us the three areas that are sure traps to our ultimate goal of survival.

One trap is ‘dissipation’. Let’s use the word decadence instead. Jesus is talking about our fascination with self and the trinkets we use to prop up that self. We overeat, over-primp, over-earn and overspend. Our obsession with making ourselves feel good and look good is actually at the expense of our real selves.

“Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” the Apostle Paul counsels us. Hearts set on things below eventually become weighted down. Jesus wants more for us — much more. We know the phrase, ‘reach for the stars’; Jesus is saying, ‘reach for me’. The heart that reaches for Him is on the right path.

Another trap is ‘drunkenness’. Let’s use the word desensitization. Jesus is talking about our tendency to use various means to dull our sensitivity to His voice. Drunkenness pictures for us the use of alcohol to block out the sensations of real life – but we have other ways of doing that too. We become preoccupied with the loud to block out the quiet. Loud boasting, loud music, loud schedules – they all desensitize us to the still soft voice of God who wants to speak to our hearts.

The third trap is ‘anxiety’. Lets keep the word anxiety because we know it fits us like a glove, a grasping, squeezing iron glove that crushes our inner peace and steals our joy. The tensions, worries and fears of this life are not peripheral concerns. Jesus says they are powerful enough to rob us of our ability to escape and stand up to our life’s quest.

There is a solution to anxiety, drunkenness and dissipation. It’s faith — not faith in the ethereal notion of faith, but faith in Jesus as the sole means to our successful escape from what He calls perishing. Faith in Jesus is also the only means of our being able to stand before Him some day, beyond this life and world, in confidence of His love and acceptance.

So, watch and pray, He ends up saying. Be alert. Keep lines of communication open with Him. Avoid the traps this world holds for those who are careless. He wants every one of us to have stories to tell some day of our escape and our stand.

(Photo Credit: “A321 sunspots 09.26.2014 (15359237736)” by sebastien lebrigand from crépy en valois, FRANCE – A321 sunspots 09.26.2014. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A321_sunspots_09.26.2014_(15359237736).jpg#/media/File:A321_sunspots_09.26.2014_(15359237736).jpg)