keeping up with appearances

A young woman was living the high life in Beijing. She resided in a private villa, danced her weekends away, and had her own chauffeur.

But she lost it all when new comrades rose to power and threw her father out of his government office. The young woman, however, was not exactly humbled. When friends offered to pay her rent or give her a ride, she would say, "Yes, I will allow you to purchase that for me" or "I grant you permission to do me this favor." Her feeble attempts to retain a charade of privilege annoyed her friends. They would have preferred a simple, "Thank you, I don't know what I would do without you." It's easy to see that she needed a hefty helping of humble gratitude. But don't you and I act similarly toward God when we say that we permit Jesus to be our Lord or we accept Him into our hearts?

We enter this world needy and rebellious, under the curse of sin and death and bound for hell (Romans 3:23, 6:23). When we learn that Jesus gave His life to save us (Philippians 2:8), we sometimes grudgingly announce that we will grant Him this privilege. Theologian Karl Barth noticed this tendency and explained that our professed "openness" toward God may actually be a spiritual way of remaining closed. We concede that we need God's help. But by granting permission for God to save us, we try to retain the power in our relationship. We refuse to admit that we are "this needy man," and even in our poverty we strive to play "the rich man closed against God." Like the young woman from Beijing, we're dying to be in control. That's fitting, because our attempt to keep the upper hand is killing us. Salvation comes when we confess that Jesus is Lord, with or without our permission (v.11). , Mike Wittmer

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