"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dead Man Walking

            There is a tradition on Death Row. When the condemned man begins the long walk from his cell to the gallows, the electric chair, or the gurney, other prisoners along the way express their empathy by uttering the phrase, "Dead man walking."
            Regardless one's opinion of capital punishment, such a scene provokes a sober reaction. But there is no guessing the thoughts and feelings of the one actually doing the death walk.
            Once a man traveled from Jerusalem toward Damascus, fully intending to imprison anyone in that city who followed the Way of the alleged Messiah called Yeheshua, or Jesus, as we know of him. Saul of Tarsus zealously pursued Jesus' followers, believing he did God's work, but Jesus had other plans for him.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
(Acts 9:3-16 ESV)
            The last verse shows that, beginning with his vision on the Damascus road, Saul consciously began his own "death walk," knowing how he would live the rest of his life and that he would die in the service of his newly-found Messiah. Did that disuade him? Hardly. Saul the Pharisee, who became Paul the Apostle, began spreading the good news of his Lord and Savior with the same uncompromising zeal that had fueled his campaign of persecution.
            How clearly did Paul "get it?" Death became one of his main themes while writing God's New Testament letters to the churches. In them, he proclaimed the eternal truth of humanity's broken fellowship with God, the fact that our sin has irrepairably estranged us from Him. He revealed the inevitable consequence of our willful disobedience, the unimaginable tragedy, the unparalled torment and agony of eternal perdition. Yet, while this apparent preoccupation with death might seem morbid, the divine promises of which he wrote are anything but morbid. He proclaimed Christ's sacrificial death as the only certain means of atoning for our sins. He wrote of trading our temporary, corrupted life for Christ's eternal, perfect life. And he promised the spiritual fruit we would necessarily bear, once Christ has restored our fellowship with God.
            If we belong to God through Jesus His Son, we are indeed "dead men–or women–walking;" dead to our old self, with its questionable motives and lying spirit, but alive to God through Christ Jesus our Master(Romans 6:11).
            So you're the rare bird whose motives are pristine and has never lied. Then obviously you are the exception to God's inerrant word. When God said, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God," He apparently forgot to except you from the rule, was mistaken, or lying. But more likely, you are like Egypt, split by de-Nial, and you are indeed a "Dead Man–or Woman–Walking," directly to your judgment.
            Is that dark fate inevitable? If you fear that, you didn't read the previous paragraphs very carefully.
            Your sin hardly took God by surprise. Before time's beginning, He finalized His plan for your salvation. When the Word(His Son Jesus) was made flesh, He, who was God incarnate, was a dead man walking. As a twelve-year-old boy teaching the teachers in the temple, He already knew He was God's perfect lamb, being prepared for sacrifice. As He trod the dusty Judean roads, healing and restoring the sick and maimed, He knew His destination was the cross. And as He knealt in the garden, sweating drops of blood, begging His Father to let the fatal cup pass from His lips, He committed Himself to His Father's will.
            All that is standing between you and a right relationship with God is your refusal to accept His good news. Polish off your pride! Dump your doubt! Slay the serpent and his lies. You'll still be a dead man walking, but you will walk with Jesus to eternal, blissful glory.

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