My husband, like many men, likes to Bar-B-Que stuff. He’s good at it. Having spent many years living in and around Kansas City, he favors specific spicy rubs but, is not opposed to the occasional pummeling of a suspected, inferior, cut of beef or a leisurely marinade to infuse flavors and ensure the tenderness of a selection about to grace our table.
Cooking is not really my “highest and best use,” as they say in real estate. So I am always happy to abdicate those duties to Mr. Moore whenever possible. Most of us, I would think, are familiar with the steps needed to prepare and tenderize a steak, but many have never even considered the most expeditious steps to tenderize our tough ol’ hearts.
Why, Miss Sally, whatever do you mean? Well, just as the steak needs preparation to ready it for the dinner plate; so our hearts need some preparation to come before the Lord and to be used effectively as his Royal heirs. Instead of specific salts and spices rubbed into the grainy surface of that steak, we must press into our hearts something very different.
In our local Bible Study I have been teaching through the Gospels, revisiting in more depth the familiar passages of the life and ministry of Jesus, I have been impressed with the absolute necessity of several things…which denote citizenship and ready us to tap into that Kingdom of Heaven which Jesus said was at hand- right there and ready! I’m not talking about working your way to heaven. However, just as the Priests needed to do some concrete things before approaching and entering the Tabernacle, so do we.
First comes that old bug-a boo, I’ll call this one the “Kansas City Rub” of repentance. Lot’s of believers are happy to confess their sins but they never bothered to Repent. We often get easy and comfortable in the middle of this messy world. Realizing that all of us are sloppy sinners and we will continue the need to lay un-Godly things down, walk away from stuff we pick up and change the way we think and act. Awareness that we are hopelessly drowning and that Jesus is the Messiah- our lifeguard and is the ONLY one who can “fix” that sin issue and save us from drowning. People, we aren’t ever called to blend in. We are called to stand apart , salted, spicy and ready for His service!
As he punches through our preconceived “religious” notions in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, our Messiah is tenderizing our hearts showing us that our ONLY righteousness is what we claim and inherit through him. Our humility is birthed when we know without a doubt that He is the Only Way and He alone sits on that throne of the Kingdom. It is the hungering and thirsting after his righteousness that in turn feeds our joy, and builds our faith. All these nails that he hammers home in his seminal, introductory sermon all devolve into: We are nothing on our own understanding, and we have access to everything because of His incredible/undeserved Love for us.
I have spent much effort lately, speaking of the importance of paying forward the undeserved forgiveness we received through Jesus- to those we encounter in life. I have harped on it of late, because Jesus does so all through the Gospels. He does it, I assume, because he is so familiar with human nature and knows we like to cling to our stupid anger, pamper the bitter, unfair wounds we have incurred and let them fester. It is SIN. Forgiveness is critical.
From time to time, I have come across folks who have a problem of feeling worthy to come before the Lord. They listen to those persistent voices of past sins or a lifetime of dissipation or dysfunction and cling to those beggars rags of low self-esteem and unworthiness.
Picking at the scabs of such old wounds are some of Satan’s favorite tricks to keep us useless; segregated from our blessings. To keep the focus on ourselves, our actions and OUR worthiness when truly, our vision should always be full of the King and the worthiness of Jesus. My righteousness, entirely, comes from King Jesus.
Jesus never came to save the perfect folks. There aren’t any. He came to save the drowning, unworthy, hopelessly lost sinners. He came for messed up people who can’t stop their addictions, adulterers, he came to love and forgive the ones who slipped and fell, who had an abortion or two or three, those who hate their lives, who crave joy, who have never known a peaceful or safe day. He came to bring peace to your chaos. He came to bring joy to your loneliness. Jesus came with healing in his wings to repair the sick and broken and to rescue those who have hurt others or are hurting themselves. He came to offer a new family to those who never had a kind word from their own, earthly family. Do not compare yourself to others and rate your worthiness on that flimsy scale. One wades into tricky, unscriptural, waters when you begin to sort SIN into your categories of what is able to be covered and what is too dark to make the list.
If there is a “perfection” qualification for Salvation, we would ALL be in lots of trouble! Only Jesus had to be the perfect Lamb and he chose to lay down his life as your Passover sacrifice. He already knew that Sally was a hopeless, hot mess and that’s why he came! Listen carefully, because I think there are a lot of people that this speaks to on some level: If you chose to continue to cling to such ideas as, ” I don’t believe Jesus can really forgive me” or “what I have done is too heinous to be forgiven”; Then make no mistake, you are really saying you don’t believe what He said ( LIAR) or that his sacrifice/ His blood was not powerful enough or sufficient to cleanse you and do the job properly. (NOT THE MESSIAH) In essence, you choose to focus or worship your unworthiness instead of worshipping Yeshuah- Jesus. If I am talking to you, It could indicate that you never truly accepted Jesus as your Messiah. You need to sort that out pretty quick. It’s serious.
As a variation on this theme, some parse their sin and think,”Yes, I’m saved. However, my past is so yucky that God can never use me in service.” I’ll just sit here grateful to have squeaked through the gate, look miserable, whip myself, while all the truly qualified do His field work. This could be unbelief, lack of teaching or it could just be laziness: Accepting the prize of salvation but, not wanting to work in the King’s service. This is something like a woman claiming to be “a little bit pregnant.” You either are or you aren’t.. There is no half way. His blood sacrifice covered your sin-washed it away as though it had never been! You are a NEW creature! This is a big concept but it is basic Christianity 101. Wake up and smell the coffee folks ! Grasp and embrace the fullness of who you really are in Christ! You can’t do more than take baby steps until you do! You either believe that the Lord saved you according to his promises or you don’t believe it. He’s seen it all and loves you anyway. Bring your life into full alignment with what God says. That’s the only criteria that matters! You need some more of that tenderizing, Kansas City Rub!!
Worship and Thanksgiving are the verbalization of honor which Jesus laid out in the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer. Receiving the full packet of the love of God is truly the change agent that tenderizes our hard-heartedness, and breaks down the toughness that we pick up living in this old world. After true repentance, Praising the Lord totally yields us, in humble amazement, to the incredible saving power of the blood of Jesus and the transformative, weaponized power of the Holy Spirit which takes over our tender “Messiah-turned” hearts- and sends us out to revolutionize the world around us with that LOVE.
Verses: John 3:15-21; Acts 4:10-12,;Matthew 5,6,7 18 , Psalms 119:11; 139:23; Psalms 28:7,;27:3; Mark 8:7, 10:5, 16:14 and hundreds more.