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God Gives Up His Rights


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The prophet Jeremiah wakes up one morning, and God says “You know Bob the Potter. Go, see him today.”

Seems like a plan, so off trots Jerry. He later wrote, in …

Jeremiah 18:3-11

So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me:

"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD.

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.

“And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

"Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, `This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.'

Lots of us struggle with that kind of God! But the fact is undeniable – if God made everything, including us, if He owns everything, including us, then He has ownership rights, which include disposal!

God had a right to judge and to condemn, because he is morally perfect, because he owns us, and because we are his possession, because the sense of individuality we have was given by him.

And that is the non-negotiable statement of the Old Testament! And in that half of our Bible - that part that frames “The Old Deal” - we see a view of God which is dark – as Paul says later “like through a dark piece of glass”. The glass of the OT culture is distorting and darkening the picture of God that we have there. We don't see the whole of who he is.

What God is actually like comes as a complete revelation to some of Jesus' contemporaries. To others, it goes straight over their heads! Because in Christ, God has given up his right to destroy, and to judge us, and to punish us, and to dispose of us. And as we know, when God in Christ gave up those rights, and made a plan whereby mercy could triumph over judgement, it cost him everything.

The giving up of individual or self-rights is central to the Kingdom of God.

In the NT, we see in Christ the whole picture of God. One who chooses a different course. A course of giving up self, for others.

In Luke 14:25-33 we hear Jesus talking about what it means for a man or woman to follow him on that different course. He is explaining to the crowds how giving up those rights is costly. And how important it is to be realistic about that.

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

“For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

This giving up of rights has to become our day-to-day modus operandii! It must shape our relationships and the way we do business. Read the letter of Paul to Philemon! They were bound together in a contractual / business arrangement. Philemon 'owned' Onesimus in the old world slave sense. Onesimus has possibly stolen some stuff and done a bunk! Philemon is being asked to give up his legal right to kill the deserting slave, and instead to forgive and to welcome him back as a brother!

Paul asks Philemon to re-establish Onesimus back in relationship. See the picture below – the whole of Philemon, and note all the relational stuff. So give up your rights. The Father did it. Jesus did it. He asks you to realistically assess whether you can do it. Then get on with it. Follow him.

Philemon (NIV)

1,2 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4,5 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.

6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

8,9,10 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul - an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus - I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.

11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him - who is my very heart - back to you.

13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.

14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.

15,16 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good - no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back - not to mention that you owe me your very self.19 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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