They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
John 18:40 ESV
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:9-10 ESV
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16 ESV
The enemy doesn’t need you to be super villain level evil to be serving his purposes best – no, that would be too obvious. But if the enemy could get you to divide up your life into just enough good to keep you respectable and productive and controllable for his purposes, that’s wonderful for his purposes. Because if you are outright evil, even the world will reject to and want you put away to protect itself from you until there is a greater perceived threat to their lives.
The scariest agent of the enemy is a respectable, hard working man who is honored by his fellow man because he is able to keep his evil controlled enough to function within society, but still bubbling up enough to taint and influence those around him. Someone happy and satisfied with their continued sinful life, and who others can be happy and satisfied with being around their sin as well. Not all of the “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” promises are things that are repulsive to the world, some are very attractive to the worldly to share together in and even celebrate together.
Yes, many addicts aren’t striving for deliverance from their addiction, because honestly – they still love the addiction. They just want to learn to control it enough to be “functional”, they aren’t ready to give it up. Unfortunately, recovered addicts will tell you that is not recovery, that is just prolonging another destructive interruption to their lives once the addiction gets out of control again. Only when someone is truly ready to be free, when they are ready to walk away completely from their addiction and not keep it closer by for a rainy day, will they know freedom.
The same is true of sin, of the sinner who is tired of the consequences of their bad choices, but who really isn’t yet interested in a life lived God’s way – and this can be a great tool of the enemy to trick and trap people into settling for a false “good” instead of seeking and finding the one, true “great”.
The enemy doesn’t offer us super villain level evil as his plan for our lives. The enemy offers “good” when we are meant for “great”. The enemy offers us a little less sin than before, while Christ tells us that if He had set us free, we are free indeed. The enemy wants us clinging to sin and death loosely enough that we might even deny that we are still hanging on to it – but Christ wants us clinging to Him with every fiber of our being.
Much of the “churched” world is quite happy living a religious life of tithing a little piece of their money and time to a far off God, so they can live life “their way” far from God the rest of the week. “Good men” are satisfied dividing their time between rest, family, God, and work.
But “great men”, the kind of men that shake up the world and scare us – those holy fools, those dedicated vessels, this followers of Christ – they interrupt the comfort and security and complacency towards God in this world and they cause disruption to the status quo. They say, “It is all His! Every penny, every breath, every word, every deed – Let it all be for His glory and honor!”
Do we realize that the scariest thing to the world wasn’t Barabus, the super villain? It was Christ and his disciples who truly wanted to live and teach a godly life of repentance, mercy, grace, discipleship, and sanctification – of love as defined by God, not man. It was a message of complete surrender and complete deliverance. It was a message so divisive and so salty that men were persecuted and killed by a world that found their actions even more convicting and repulsive and disruptive than a villain – because it shines light on the darkness and sin in the heart of men who are happy to keep their sin just under the surface. It shines light on the need for real change in our hearts – for real change in our lives. Not just playtime religion to keep people out of trouble and under control now – but a real life alive with Christ to keep them out of judgement and death and destruction for eternity.
When was the last time that our level of dedication to the Lord made the world around us uncomfortable? When was the last time that our example of sacrificial love touched someone deeply? When was the last time that our stepping out in such a leap of faith, only for the Lord to catch us, left people surprised and amazed?
When was the last time that we kicked over the tables of the religious and asked hard questions about why so much “praise and worship” looks more like Amos 5:18-6:7 & Isaiah 58:1-5 instead of like Romans 12:1, Isaiah 58:6-12, and Matthew 25:31-40?
When was the last time we looked someone deep into their eyes and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” and anything less than a fire in their heart, smile on their facee, and passion in their words didn’t leave us heart broken that they might only know ABOUT Jesus, but not really know Him (Matthew 7:21-23)?
When was the last time we truly cared?
Have we ever really cared about God and not just about what we thought He could give us?
Have we wanted to be the blessing more than we’ve wanted to be the blessed?
No, we cannot work ourselves into heaven, because we all fall short of the glory of God, and our works are filthy rags – but we also have to ask, if His work is being done in my life, is my faith and His Holy Spirit alive in me producing any fruit?
We don’t buy a heaven ticket with a sinner’s prayer or a water baptism, Christian, or Church membership, that is the type of empty religious sacrifice Jesus turned over tables over. We must be born again.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3-8 NLT
If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 NLT