Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Give Me That Old Time Religion"1 (Lyrics)
I often listen to a Christian radio station located in upstate New York, USA. Their tagline is "God's Presence is with you giving you eternal life". Those words are like a hug from God just for me. I like to think that God's Presence will always be with me, and that I will always choose Him over everything else. That's why I really like the verse where God said to Moses, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14b NIV). This promise included the Israelites who had fled slavery in Egypt. Even so, the promise held true for subsequent Israelite generations through God's promise to King David: "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me." (2 Samuel 7:16a NIV)
God's ultimate fulfillment of this promise came through His Son, Christ Jesus. According to Paul, those who follow Christ are grafted into Israel. "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, … you stand by faith" (Romans 11:17,20b NIV). Faith keeps us crazy-glued into the branch. No external force can pull us from God's care. No hurricane can dislodge us. No tornado can displace us. Whether on earth or in heaven, Christ's got us, "for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29 NIV)
But there's a catch. There's always a catch, it seems. Paul tells us what the catch is: "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22 NIV, italics mine)
Oh, that's not comforting or uplifting. It doesn't give us warm, fuzzy feelings. Talk about alarming! Here's the deal. We are the glitch, the catch. We need to remain connected to Christ, but our pride and ego may rip us from the branch. Paul writes, "Do not be arrogant, but be afraid" (Romans 11:20b NIV). That's enough to make us shudder.
However, here's the thrilling news. Our loving God's merciful kindness pities His wandering children. If we have moseyed too far from the path, the Holy Spirit gently, and sometimes not so gently, nudges us back. This reminds us of the harnessed toddler who bolts after a butterfly, only to be stopped by the leash held in his mother's hand. He tumbles, cries, and then, she tucks him into her arms. As long as we come to Christ, He tucks us into His arms, forever.
As Paul contemplated God's merciful kindness, he sonorously wrote:
Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (NIV)
Yep, it's not about us. It's all about God's most amazing mercy. Let us be sure to remain in Christ through word, deed, and worship, so that He may tuck us into His Presence, both now and forever.
Prayer: Father God, You call us to come to You, and when we do, Your Spirit nudges us onto the right path and gently keeps us there. But we confess that we too often let our desires lure us from the safety of Your arms. Forgive us, Lord, for we are so very sorry for choosing waywardness instead of You. We pray in Jesus' holy name. Amen.