January 10, 2016

Does Hell Know You?

“Does Hell know you?” a stranger asked me this week.  What an interesting question. 
Leo’s path and mine crossed as he was assigned to draw nine vials of blood from me. Yes, nine.  It was a tall order for him.  But he didn’t know who he was interacting with when his assignment came down.  He knew me better than most before we parted ways.
Leo received his orders from the computer screen and moved slowly through the material prep.  I thought he was delaying the inevitable in fear that I wasn’t up to the task, preparing himself for my screaming or fainting.  Perhaps he was taking a long time in hopes that another technician would relieve him before he had to be the bad guy.  I knew that he had nothing to fear, but he didn’t. 
Eventually he confronted his assignment and began the blood draw.  I leisurely and pleasantly proceeded with small talk to convey I wasn’t going to create any problems for him.  It was probably his easiest assignment of the day.  When he finished I thanked him for doing such a good job and let him know that I was an avid blood donor so blood draws were no big deal to me. 

“You’re a good Samaritan, aren’t you - in ways outside of donating blood, aren’t you?” He asked slowly and suspiciously.
“Sort of,” I smiled.
“Do you know the Good Shepherd?” He asked.
“Oh yes, very well. I strive to live for Him every day,” I said.
With a concentrated, narrowing of the eyes he continued, “But does Hell know you?”
Ah, I know where you are coming from,” I said and recounted the following scripture for him.
Acts 19:13-16 tells us,
“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you? Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

“I think Hell knows me.” I said to Leo. “Would you like me to tell you how I know? It is because of a conversation I had with the devil last summer.”
His ears perked up.
“Last summer when I was outside mowing the grass - I usually talk to God while I am outside doing my yard - I guess I was probably praying or thinking about something existential when I heard,
                 ‘What are you still saving yourself for? You are practically too old to have children, so meriting a godly father for your children is no longer an issue.  And anyone who would marry you now would forgive a 40-year old for waiting that long and then committing an indiscretion.’
                His question stabbed at my heart.  I paused to consider it.  He had a point.  I had never thought about it that way.  I could not dispute him but I knew I had a reason.  So I dug deep within myself to find the truth where it was buried.
                ‘Well, I suppose you are right.’ I responded, ‘But now I am saving myself for God’s will.  My motive is to live every day to glorify Him and being disobedient to Him now is not going to help me accomplish that,’.”

I explained my experience to Leo as follows.  When you are young and walking in obedience, by default you build up a sense of entitlement.  Plus there are so many scriptures you can read what you want to into them, like Psalm 37:4 and Jeremiah 29:11.  Although the Lord keeps His word in ways we cannot comprehend, He is not obligated to fulfill our expectations.  He doesn’t owe us anything.  He has already blessed us way more than we deserve. When you walk according to His commands in pursuit of blessings, you cannot know the limit of your loyalty. 

It is only when your hope of blessing is off the table that you can see that God IS the blessing. 
Walking with Him and knowing Him is the ultimate reward no matter what it costs.

I don’t know at what point in time I switched from being faithful to Him for the rewards He could give me to being faithful to Him because He is faithful to me.  I do know that it only came at the tail end of a lot of suffering, self-loathing, disappointment, and depression.  I cannot tell you if it could have been accomplished any other way.
When I was younger I read about the “mortification of the flesh” in scripture and I attempted every way I could conceive to surrender things I thought God might desire from me including career possibilities, relationships, certain behaviors and habits, and large sums of money.  I voluntarily relinquished them all.  But that was me striving to mortify my own flesh.  I knew that death to Self was a quality of a true disciple and I wanted to be one.  However, nothing in me died through these attempts. My will was very much alive.  As I made these voluntary sacrifices in my own effort according to my best logic, my sense of entitlement for God to reward me grew larger and larger.  Not until God distanced Himself from me and withheld what I wanted most in life, did He accomplish the work of mortifying my flesh.  The Self put up a long, hard fight. 
I would advise Believers to be aware of the types of things God requires of His people.  Study how Abraham was ordered to leave his homeland and venture into unknown territory never to return and how Moses’ was charged to confront Pharaoh and spend 40 years supervising a godless people in the wilderness.  Don’t forget how God allowed Job to be made destitute as an example for us.  Take heed that God would not remove Paul’s thorn from his flesh or let the cup of suffering pass from Jesus.  Realize that some like John the Baptist and Jim Elliot will be required to forfeit their lives in faithfulness to Christ.  Gird yourselves with an awareness of these possibilities and grasp the greater goodness of God overshadowing man’s suffering. 
Seek to understand the depths of God’s love, His inconceivable will, and the boundless options at His disposal.  Pray for aid to remain faithful to the terms He ordains for your life.  And then, cling to Him.  Always and only Him.  Considering no other alternatives.  Last but not least, despise sin.   Sin is where the devil makes his will for you personal.
For all true disciples, God will require of you that which is hardest for you to relinquish.  The pattern is evident throughout scripture and the history which follows it.  He will accomplish the mortification of your flesh in you, for you, through hard terms.  As a result, this world will grow pale, Heaven will emerge crisp and clear, and Hell will know you.

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