I watched Ragamuffin last night, and it reminded me of a teaching I did a few years ago. It took root in a lot of people’s hearts, and it would do most of us good to root it there as well.
First, let me say that from what I could see in Ragamuffin, Rich Mullins desperately needed a church. Not a denomination, not a meeting to attend every week … a church; a family of people closer than an earthly family.
But that’s not the subject today. The subject is where I liked the film.
It is one thing to be appalled at your own sin. That’s a good thing. It is good to war against the flesh by turning your back on its evil desires and setting your mind on the Spirit (Rom. 5:5-13). Those who belong to the King have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
That means that a guy like Rich Mullins, if he really belonged to Jesus, wouldn’t have smoked and wouldn’t have had those drinking problems, right?
Of course it does!
The little problem in that conclusion is that it requires the popular but bizarre assumption that our sharp tongue; our self-righteousness; our unexposed secret sins; our anger when we are wronged; our love for position, prestige, and raises; our comfort in the world; our friendship with the world; our questionable use of time; our lack of prayer; our lack of Bible reading; our disinterest in the deeper things of God; and our overall mediocrity in the faith, which is a sure indication that we do not love God with all our strength, are less important sins than smoking and drinking.
Maybe I covered one or two of you in that list. I’ll just direct the remainder of my comments to those one or two people. The righteous, of course, have no need of a physician, so y’all can just go do something else now.
Why God Is Not Disappointed
God is not disappointed.
Another way to say that is: God is not as ignorant as we think he is.
God says through Isaiah that he has known the end from the beginning. He predestined us, Paul and Peter tell us, because of his foreknowledge. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slain from the foundation of the world.
Adam didn’t screw up the world. He provided its only valid opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever.
God is not looking for innocence. He is looking for purity.
Innocence can be corrupted. Purity was once innocent, lost that innocence, then exchanged it for purposefully rejecting evil. Innocence doesn’t know evil. Purity has overcome it.
The plan to redeem fallen Adam in order to raise up sons of God was a good one. Immortality is dangerous in the hands of innocence. It can be safely put, however, in the hands of the one who has overcome evil.
The kingdom of God is a hospital for those who have lost their innocence. Grace is the transforming power of God for those who have become entwined and trapped in the lusts and corruption of this world.
God is holding out his hand to you. He is trying to triumph through the weak, the helpless, the unwise, the unimportant, and the nobodies. He is trying to display his glory, not yours.
He’s not disappointed in your foolishness and rebellion. He’s not ignorant. He knew and knows how you are.
And there’s his hand.
Do you want to qualify to take it? Then lose the belief that you can dust yourself off, get up, and become worthy of that hand. Just take it. Not only are the hopeless qualified, they are the only ones qualified.
God is waiting around for everyone else to expose their own sin like you have. He wants to glorify the Son, not us, though he will do so by revealing his glory in us.
“But I’ve sinned so much!”
Yeah, you’ve sinned so much that you have no hope of living up to God’s standards.
Congratulations, you’re the one he wants. He wants to make you great.
I’m not explaining this very well. The following section will help.
Examples of the Mighty Power of God
Moses killed a man in anger, then when God called him to come redeem the people of God the right way, he tried to refuse. He tried hard enough to refuse at the burning bush that he made God angry. Aaron was not a gift to Moses as a speaker for him. Aaron was a punishment because Moses would not obey God.
Worked out pretty well, anyway, except that the same anger problem that got him run out of Egypt for murder kept him out of the Promised Land.
So God called him up a mountain and buried him himself.
Samson. Who is like Samson? Disobedient and disrespectful to his parents; a womanizer; just an all around delinquent.
Samson never knew when the Spirit of the Lord would fall on him, but when the Spirit fell, no one could match him.
David committed adultery, then murdered. He showed mercy, then sought revenge. He was in severe trouble with God three times. He married nine women! He was a terrible father.
David was a man after God’s own heart.
Give God what he wants … your faith, your absolute delight in him. You can lament and mourn and weep over the other stuff, but don’t spend too much time on it because you have to look at God … at Jesus sitting at the right hand of power … and remember that he is coming back to get you.
It’s important to overcome weaknesses. It’s important to repent. It’s important to ask for help. But don’t let any of that get in the way of rejoicing over the unfathomable and abundant mercy of God. Don’t let any of that get in the way of listening to God and responding when the Spirit of God falls on you.
And every time the Spirit of God touches you, you will remember that he’s not disappointed. He knew and knows everything about you. Work with him, and he’ll crush all the other stuff, bit by bit, never getting in the way of the encouraging, empowering stuff he has for you to do each and every day.
Rejoice! And again I say, Rejoice!
I read once more the other day that Christians rejoice with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” That must be why I don’t speak my joy more often. It’s unspeakable.
No, the real problem is obvious to me. I don’t believe the above as much as I should, or I would really be rejoicing all the time.
God sees me as a saint. I have had an incredible life, and I have done amazing things that have encouraged people all over the planet. I believed that if I submitted to his shaping hand, then the Spirit of Jesus would be released through the broken, damaged parts of my own soul and will. IT WAS TRUE!
All this despite the fact that I had an almost psychotic anger problem as a young man. I had serious problems keeping my eyes where they belonged through most of my adult life—well, a lot of my youth, too. I was cocky and way too proud of myself as a young man, and I’m sure there’s plenty of patches of that fault still in me. By nature, I’m a master at obliviously ignoring the needs of others.
The ones I mentioned in that last paragraph are faults I know about and I am diligently working on them and letting God deal with me on them. Some of them I have had remarkable, radical success with.
Other things I have had modest to little success with. Often I eat like an American. Sometimes I spend money like an American. I’m still scared of uncomfortable or awkward situations.
I’m sure the list of faults I don’t know about is at least as long as the ones I do know about.
Yet in all of this I have done great things; really great things. I have known for decades about the just judgment of the Lord and that people with my kind of faults really ought to be condemned to hell. Just read the list in Galatians 5:19-21. Do you not find things you have, at least at some time as a Christian, been stuck in and practicing?
Yet God has remained with me. He has spoken to me, used me, delighted me. He has both let me succeed, and he has allowed me to suffer as a disciple and be disciplined like a son.
Why? Because he’s not disappointed. He knows my weaknesses.
I do, too, but I worry about them more than he does. I worry about them enough to get in his way. When I ought to be overflowing with exuberant joy at the inexpressible love of King Jesus, I am moping over the easily expressible love of Paul Pavao.
Joy inexpressible. It is indeed for those who have believed … that Jesus really loves us.