Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Child or Joyous Child?

licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by anyjazz65
In the last two posts, we talked about the children of God.  Being child-like in our faith, that there are two levels of the relationship, and the stability of the relationship.  The more I think about that, there always seems to be more.  So, let's explore further.

I saw the picture at the top of the post and it reminded me of one I'd seen, years ago, of me.  A similar kind of walker and an equally big smile.  It got me thinking about what caused me to smile.  I know why I was smiling.  But it also made me think of the general causes.  And I wanted to look at those, today.

As we've already seen, John 8:44, Jesus berated the Pharisees as being from "your father the devil". But imagine for a moment that we're one of the Pharisees.  And we're cultivating our child-like qualities, but in a different way.  It's something I considered, with our starting photograph in mind.

Adult behavior mimics how we learned to respond as children.  Except, as adults, we learn to fake some of it to be polite.  But a young child will give an honest response to what they experience.  At least till an adult teaches them to hide their negative feelings, out of politeness.  Before that, the emotions displayed are pretty much "what you see is what you get".  Which took me along an interesting line of thinking.

My responses, as a young child, were based on experience, not knowledge.  If I was smiling like the child in our illustration, it was because I was happy to see the person taking the picture.  And that was because I had mostly pleasant experiences with that person.  Then I took that a step further in my thinking.  I still have a terrible sweet tooth.  So, as a child, something sweet would get a much stronger response than, say, meat and potatoes.  Think of that in terms of the Pharisees.

Proverbs 9:17-18 (KJV)  Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.  But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell. 

I was considering the behavior, thinking, and attitudes of the Pharisees.  The additional laws they added onto The Law were for their own benefit and pleasure.  More control over the people, more seeming to be holier than others, greater income from tithes and offerings.  They were driven by their earthly experiences.  Think of it like a child with a sweet tooth.  A sweet liquid with poison might seem better to a child than a great burger would, because of the experience of sweetness.

We'd call that kind of thinking childish.  And it is.  With a child, there's some adult control.  We need direction from an adult to stop living only in our experiences.  Spiritually, we have a choice of two "fathers".  The devil tempted Christ in the desert for forty days with much the same things the Pharisees succumbed to.  Even though God offers us spiritual steak, lobster, and caviar, the devil offers the sweet liquid poison.  Besides that, God never forces Himself on us.  Satan, on the other hand, is constantly putting himself in front us.  If the Pharisees are using experience as a barometer of value, then they focus on immediate happiness over long term joy.  Or, as Paul put it:

1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

Paul was a Pharisee.  It took an explosive encounter with the risen Christ to show him he needed to change his thinking.  Jesus overcame the world, but it sometimes takes something spectacular to get a child's attention so he or she can realize that there's something better than what's in front of them.  Satan may be a great marketer, but his product never lives up to its promise.

That's why evangelism is important, why pastoral care and teaching are essential, and one of the reasons why we're important in the plan of God.  We're God's earthly mouthpiece.  And, if you've ever done any evangelism, have you ever noticed how often the words God gives us address an immediate experience and need in the life of the person we're talking to?  It's that spectacular moment they need.  And it's a sweeter experience than Satan's poison.

We've all seen the difference evangelism has made in our own lives.  We've also seen our spiritual lives refined and enhanced by good Biblical teaching.  Our spiritual tastebuds learn to appreciate the filet mignon of the flavorful relationship with God instead of the sweetness of the sugar water of our limited experience.  What are you tasting, today?  Is it the immediacy of spiritual sugar water, laced with the poison of self satisfaction?  Or is it the long term satisfaction of the joy of being one with God, an experience that lasts?

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