Friday, June 7, 2013

The Great Wall of Faith

The majestic lion, walking toward the two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve, looks into their eyes and sees their hearts.  The children look with wonder at this great and powerful creature, full of awe to be in His presence.  They see their true selves, through His eyes, for the first time.  Their greed, pride, mistakes, harsh words, depravity all radiate from their own hearts.  But in the eyes of the Beast is only one thing:  Love.  In that one moment, the walls of protection around their hearts are washed away like open floodgates.  The youngest son looks away, ashamed.  It is too hard to look at the Lion.  He has gone too far, destroyed too much, built up too many barriers because of his actions.  The flowing mane surrounds the animal’s warm eyes and says, only discernible to the boy, “I know your heart, let down the walls, and come to me.  Have faith to let go.  You have been brought near by me.  I will never let you go.  Just let go…and believe.”  

Walls.  We see them everywhere.  They surround me as I write the devo for this month’s newsletter.  They surround you when you sleep at night and when you go to church.  Like I said, walls are everywhere.  Like the boy, we build up walls around our hearts.  Fearful of letting go.  Unable to do the right thing.  Torn apart by the barriers we have carefully constructed to keep us “safe” from any and all harm.  The problem is that sometimes, walls keep good things out too.  If we knew how many good things we might miss by putting up walls we may think twice about putting them up in the first place. 

Did you know that the Great Wall of China is over 13,000 miles long, and because of its enormous size it can even be seen from outer space?  It sounds like the Chinese dynasties of history really wanted to make their presence known that their land belonged to them and only them.  They went to great lengths (literally) to protect their lands from invasion and destruction.  Yet with all 13,000 miles of stone, mud, and even the graves of dead laborers, they could still not keep people from getting through the massive structure.  Throughout history many walls have been constructed to either keep people out or keep people in.  These barriers were created for one thing:  protection.  Whether that is protection from the enemy or conspiracy from within, people have for centuries been trying to put up these walls of protection.  Another great wall from history is the Berlin Wall.  This wall, though providing protection, also brought oppression.  As millions and millions of persecuted Jews faced death and horrible mistreatment due to their religion, this great wall brought on by the vision of one terribly great and evil person changed the history of mankind.  This wall would, in the end, turn out to be a voice of victory and triumph for those who survived.  When, Ronald Reagan said, “Tear down this wall” a great victory was written in the annals of history.  But you see, the wall had to be torn down to receive the victory.

So what is the deal with walls anyway?  Why do they continue to stop us, to not allow us access?  Walls separate us.  They are built with that purpose to divide and isolate us from the rest of the world.  These physical walls are just a representation of what we do with the walls in our hearts.  We let sin become the barrier that keeps us from God.  It keeps us from having the relationship that He desires to have with us.  Before Christ, the Temple of God was separate; its inner workings were only for certain people.  A veil was set between the altar and its people.  It was intended that way then, but not anymore.  The Temple may have stopped us from having the relationship that God intended, but when Christ’s last breath ripped the curtain from top to bottom, the walls between us and Christ were abolished forever and ever.  And that is not to be forgotten, yet we do.  Christ changed the landscape of our access to Him for all eternity.  The way things were having been destroyed.  These walls exist because the sin in our lives separates us from God.  This sin brings death and destruction.  It creates alienation from the Creator and we are foreigners in a land that was designed to be ours.   

Jesus’ life, ministry, and most especially his death was all about breaking down the walls.  Everyone that He met needed some kind of wall torn down.  It is in our natures to build a dividing wall between ourselves and God.  Jesus revealed to people that walls weren’t necessary.  He knew full well the destructiveness of our sin.  The consequences were on His shoulders alone.  Our barriers brought His pain.  Our walls lead Him to the cross.  Jesus saw the depravity of mankind and willingly took our place so that the barriers we built would be destroyed forever. 

So why do we create these walls?  Why do we let our lives be dictated by anything other than the Savior?  Our communion with God is based on His ability to break down the walls we have constructed so we can be in perfect union with Him.  We create walls because we think we can do it ourselves.  We think we don’t need God.  That is what sin does:  it tells us that we don’t need His protection but the protection of our own constructions.  We put on the foreman’s hat, develop all the blueprints for what walls go where, and go about making it happen.  What is wrong with this picture?  Everything. 

The walls we build between ourselves and God prevent relationship, communion, and intimacy with God.  They make us feel abandoned by God (even though it’s our own faults of course).  Like God doesn’t care what happens to us or how we turn out.  We reach out to God, hoping our prayers will reach His ears, thinking He’s asleep in the boat, oblivious to our need for Him and scared out of our wits because of the stormy sea raging around us.  Our faith has gone right out the window.  In the case of the disciples, Jesus himself was on the boat with them and they were still afraid to death.  Their lack of faith built a wall around their hearts, uncertain of what to do and who to turn to.  They felt abandoned when the one person to keep them safe was taking a nap.  It’s not surprising that we live our lives like the disciples did.  We feel that abandonment, lacking faith to believe that He is right there beside us.  He is telling us to let go and just believe.  He may not be physically in the boat with us, but His presence is undeniable, even when we lack the faith to see Him.  He is with us, calming the storm with his Hands, rebuking the winds and saying to be still.  We have Jesus in our very beings; the Holy Spirit is inside of us.  The power of God is for our hands to use…for Him. 

You see, it takes faith to tear down the walls that we build for ourselves.  What we see as protection, God sees as separation.  But even our lack of faith cannot be stopped by God.  He sees our hearts, the Lion of Judah, wants to bring us near to Him, to look us in the eyes and say “Just let go…and believe.”  He nuzzles his large nose against us and lets us find warmth and reassurance in his royal mane.  He forgives and remembers no more.  He lays down His life on the stone tablet, knowing his death is not the final answer.  Remember, the stone tablet, was a place of sacrifice, a place that if one willingly gave his life for another, that death itself would be turned around.  In the darkest moment of history, when the great Lion felt abandoned by the Father, blinded by suffering, yet surrendered to God’s will, He commended His spirit to the only One who could restore.  His humanness cried out “Why have you forsaken me?” but his pain did not overshadow his Spirit.  A Spirit that would never forsake God or be forsaken by Him.  The difference between our feelings of abandonment and Jesus’ is that there was never a wall built between the Son and the Father.  Yes, the Father turned His face in that instant of necessary, but tragic history, but His son knew in faith that all would be torn down and made right for all eternity.  Jesus was the example to us that He understood the feeling just like us, like humans.  He did that so we would not let walls of guilt and grief separate us from His unconditional love and understanding.  He wanted to let us know He had been there, in our place.    

As the sun rises, the two daughters of Eve begin to dry their eyes as they try to find warmth next to the form of the great Lion.  They cannot comprehend the act they have just witnessed.  But as the rays of sunlight begin to highlight the archway above the stone tablet, taking one moment to admire its sad beauty on this tragic day, they look down to see the Lion’s body gone.  Disappeared.  As the sun crests the horizon they look up and see the most majestic being on earth!  He is here!  He is alive!  He has broken down the wall of hostility and separation forever!  He has come back as Conqueror and King!  Hope is not lost.  Faith is not gone.  We are not abandoned.  We have seen the dividing wall crushed by the mighty hand of the Almighty.  We are free and nothing separates us from the Love beaming brighter than the sun on the Lion’s face.  And with a great and mighty roar all of the earth will rejoice at His Rising Again!      

My God is not dead

He’s surely alive

And He’s living on the inside

Roaring like a Lion!