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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Mat. 11:15
Date Posted: July 26, 2019

The message of salvation has many layers, some of which take a while to fully grasp. Much of the New Testament, largely embodied in Paul’s pastoral letters – particularly his message to the Roman’s – focuses on the reality of unmerited mercy and grace; followed closely by the response we are expected to make in love and appreciation for all that’s been done for us.

The Gospels convey to us the life and times of Jesus from four different perspectives. Matthew using the Sermon on the Mount to highlight the kingdom’s radical ethic. Mark interpreting much of the Christian life as a battle, graphically depicting Jesus’ confrontation with a demoniac early in his ministry as an example. Luke highlighting the fact that the real kingdom of God is reserved not for the financially well-to-do, the politically powerful or the famously well-connected; but embraces the poor, the captive, the oppressed, and sick. John relating Jesus’ response to his mother’s request of help at a wedding feast, revealing his true nature and power for the first time as well as reminding us of the joy to be found in listening attentively to his words – and obeying them even if they don’t appear to make sense. The resulting theme throughout them all being that Jesus’ mission on earth – then and now – is to make the unclean clean, redeeming the useless to usefulness once again.

Jesus declaring, “…the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 And as with Zacchaeus in the preceding verses to this statement, to redeem people from one set of values and responses to another. Jesus’ retort to the “superior” and self-righteous being, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous (or those who fail to hear and respond to his message of healing because they can’t or won’t recognize their own disease), but sinners.” Mark 2:17

All of which reminds me of a passage from, “The Magicians Nephew,”1Aslan, representative of Christ, has just created the world of Narnia with all it’s possibility for good. He has also subdued – for a while – the evil interjected into it by a witch and the bumbling Uncle Andrew; who had steadfastly refused to believe the good things he saw and heard and, out of fear and suspicion, saw only threats and evil at every turn – especially in the activities of Aslan. In response to Polly’s request that he say or do one more thing to convince Uncle Andrew of his goodness, Aslan sadly assured her that the reason Uncle Andrew (representative of those who fail to understand or refuse to listen) failed to comprehend was that he, “…thinks great folly child. This world is bursting with life for these few days because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground. It will not be so for long. But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” Jesus himself frequently challenging men likewise reluctant to hear well and respond properly by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15 Further commenting that, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47 (See also 2 Timothy 4:3)

Which reminds me of another passage from “The Magician’s Nephew.” The witch had eaten an apple from a special tree growing in the center of Narnia which granted eternal life and youthfulness. Having done so, she tempted Polly’s traveling companion to do the same; his true mission being to take one back to Aslan to be planted for the benefit of the Narnians. Having resisted temptation and delivering his cargo, Digory and Polly mention to Aslan what the witch had done; wondering at the consequences; to which Aslan replied, “Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unswerving strength and endless days like a goddess… But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want, they do not always like it.”2 A condition that aptly describes many who refuse to believe or who fail to make any real effort to consider the consequences of unbelief.

Jesus calls us to perfection. (Matthew 5:48) Paul likewise admonishing us to, “Aim for perfection,…” 2 Corinthians 13:11. Peter instructing us to, “…not conform to the evil desire you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do,…” 1 Peter 1:14,15 Again, Paul – the Apostle of Grace – exhorted the Romans to offer themselves, “… in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” Romans 6:19 As, “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 Holiness setting us apart for divine purposes; not so much a state of perfection – which none of us can achieve on our own – but revealing itself in a desire to be righteous, which we accomplish through God’s grace and the attempt at living rightly. (Which Paul characterized as, “…the obedience that comes from faith.” Romans 1:15) God wanting nothing less than for all creation to be completely dedicated to him.

But the prospect of that level of commitment often frightens us even as an encounter with the real Jesus likewise unnerves us. His profound holiness accentuating the deep chasm between Him and our unholiness as well as our inability to compensate for it. (See Is. 6:5; Matthew 8:5-14; Mark 5:1-17, Luke 5:1-10 & John 6:16-20) The response of the faith-challenged father of Mark 9:24 being representative of most of us today, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

The real Jesus is a paradox for us, someone we can’t live without but someone we often fear getting too close to. He is after all, the Holy One who desires to make all things new (by definition – something we presently aren’t); redeeming us to His will and purposes. Which means He is out to literally destroy the habits, sins, notions, addictions, preferences and self-justifications which have become such a part of our daily routine. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Paul emphatically writing, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:17-24

1 C.S. Lewis, Harper Collins Pub.

2Same as above

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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