Know Your Rights…
Before we start, I need to credit The Holy Spirit for the inspiration and revelation He gave to write this.
The Prologue: Background Check
I’d imagine (perhaps falsely) that like many Christians, Wednesday evening are a night for Bible Study/Cell Groups/Fellowship (for reasons I don’t know so if you have answers, please share).
Recently at The (Fellow)Ship, we have been reading the Lamentations of Jeremiah and in trying to understand the poetic, historic and storied meanings of Jeremiah’s convictions; The Holy Spirit delivered a powerful series of insights into His nature and the expectations placed upon mankind based on what He has done for us so far.
To summarise the first chapter of Lamentations: God had punished Jerusalem and Judah because they had played the whore! They had been unfaithful to The Lord of Hosts, He who was betrothed to them. God was their husband and they were the adulterous wife.
As Christians, there is a strong parallel between the bride that Israel was and the bride that His Church is. The Lamentations of Jeremiah should serve as a warning to us all – both the individual and the collective.
Many of us, myself included, have played the harlot. We have sought after foreign gods in our hearts and some of us have had our nakedness put on display (I’ll blog about this in the near future).
As the discussion on Lamentations chapter 1 progressed, the analogies between Jerusalem and The Church surfaced. We found ourselves wondering and asking if the same warnings Jeremiah gave to Jerusalem are applicable to The Church today. To answer the question simply: they do!
It then stands to reason that God relates in a different way to His bride (The Church) in the post-Christ age than the way He did with His bride (Israel) pre-Christ. One would think so no? We are also told that God never changes so how do we reconcile these two distinct periods of relationship in our understanding of God?
In the New Testament, Christ (God) has become our personal saviour. You will often hear many altar calls that include, in one form or another, the phrase “Christ as your Lord and personal Saviour”. This emphasis is always made that your relationship with The Lord is one that is unique to you and because it is as an individual one, it needs cultivating and requires making an effort to know more about God (pray, fast, read your Bible, fellowship, etc). This distinction implicitly (and on occasion, explicitly) implies that once upon a time this was not the case.
This is, to an extent, true. In the days of “old” when The Israelites were under Mosaic law, that is to say, the laws that fell under The Ten Commandments; the mediation between them and God was always performed through a High Priest. This isn’t to say that God did not WANT a personal relationship (He did), but rather, The Israelites did not reciprocate His drawing towards them. In the New Testament; God took His opening gambit one step further and came in flesh, removing all doubt of His intentions.
Now you may be curious as to how God demonstrated His intentions for a personal relationship with Israel (besides the various overtones of marriage that connote the deepest level of intimacy one can get). Well, let’s look at how God (and Israel) behaved when He made His intentions clear – way before the prophets and kings. All the way back when He first “officially” met Israel (the nation that is, not the man).
If we examine Exodus 19 & 20, we can gain insight and understanding into the situation surrounding God’s encounter with Israel. In the opening verses of Chapter 19, God calls Moses (apart unto Him) to give him instructions that he is to pass on to the Israelites.
Having overtly demonstrated His Power to them, in essence proving He was God; He clearly states that he has brought them (Israel) to Himself (verses 1-4). Now, God laid out the conditions for his covenant to them and they agreed to observe the terms of the covenant. The key points of interest occur in verses 10&11 and again in verses 14&15. Here we see that God gave them SPECIFIC instructions that they may be sanctified, to His satisfaction, in preparation for His visit.
When crunch time arrived, how did the Israelites respond? Let’s see Exodus 20:18-21 (just after The Lord gave The Commandments). The children of Israel were invited into a personal relationship with God but in their lack of understanding, they asked Moses to speak on their behalf – to mediate for them when God wanted them to relate to Him individually. After all, He had given them instructions (through Moses) on how to sanctify themselves to His required standards (therefore making them Holy). It may be important to note that there was no differentiation between the priests’ sanctification and that of the people.
In their moment of fear and trembling at God’s awesomeness (in its true, literary sense); they failed to seize the opportunity laid before them. Exodus 20:19-21 states:
19 And they said to Moses, You speak with us, and we will hear. But let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said to the people, Do not fear, for God has come to test you, and so that His fear may be before your faces, so that you may not sin. 21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
When I read verse 20, I think to myself “God wanted to test what type of relationship they wanted with him”. Would it be through a mediator or direct and personal? Verse 21 makes it clear which one they opted for.
I’m sure by now you’re probably wondering what this possibly has to do with “Miranda Rights”. Well, we (the Christians) are ALL in the same situation (with God) as The Israelites were back at Mount Sinai. We are chosen by God, we are called to a personal relationship. The choice to belong to The Kingdom requires nothing on our part, however, drawing near to God (after you’ve received your Salvation) is what requires sanctification. It requires us to pass a test – a test on how we shall choose to relate to Christ.
Know Your Rights…
The Miranda Rights (widely used by American law enforcement to protect the constitutional rights of an arrested suspect) convey a particular message through the following format:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
While much can be interpreted from the entire text, I think it’s important to focus on the last two sentences. These sentences (the ones that make reference to the legal right to an attorney) are the crucial part of our relationship with Christ as His own (being called Christians). Most of us should be familiar with God as Judge and understand that Christ is our Intercessor (Romans 8:34) or simply put, our attorney.
The relationship we have with Christ, as Christians, is therefore a choice between two types of relationships – both of which still center on Him being our Attorney. Consider two types of individuals, both arrested on suspicion of a crime. One is wealthy and through the nature of his wealth, has legal counsel on a retained basis. The other is not (wealthy) and does not have such recourse to legal expertise of that high a calibre.
At the time of questioning, the wealthy individual calls on their legal counsel for advice on how to respond. What becomes most evident at that time will be the familiarity between the legal council and the defendant. The many hours put into selecting the appropriate person to represent the defendant’s best interests and the time invested in knowing them intimately (the Christmas dinners with the family, working lunches and the like).
By the very nature of having him/her retained; the defendant can not only rest assured that the attorney knows the law in and out but that they also know the defendant intimately enough to accurately advise when it would be best to speak up or stay silent.
Now consider the attorney appointed by the courts for the not so wealthy individual. S/he still has recourse to a lawyer and will still have the benefit of a legal expert. The advantage, however, ends there. The lack of an intimate relationship is always to the detriment of the defendant. All a court-appointed attorney can do is offer legal counsel. Their expertise is desired but a lack of trust means that one cannot be certain of their motives and as such, one cannot fully accept and embrace their judgements when they know so little about the defendant. An attorney on retainer, however, has the trust of the client to not only counsel but to instruct with a good certainty that instructions will be followed based on their expertise.
It is very much the same with Christ. Consider this: Christ is the ULTIMATE attorney. The most expensive you could ever find, in fact, one so expensive that NOBODY can afford to have Him on retainer; not through merit, or wealth, or status. Furthermore, Christ the Attorney is so exclusive that He chooses His clients (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 22:14; 1John 4:19). We can inquire about His services and so when we are chosen, we owe it to ourselves and to Him to make sure we get to know Him intimately. Invite Him out for the proverbial breakfast/lunch/dinner; introduce Him to your family and let Him see all aspects of your life so that you may learn to trust Him to appropriately and fully represent you and your best interests in the court of law.
God has called us to a PERSONAL relationship. In much the same way He did Israel at Sinai. He has shown us His body of work – the cases He has won and His extensive list of clients who have provided outstanding references. The greatest difference between now and Mount Sinai is that God Himself has taken on the effort of “preparation”. At that time, He instructed The Israelites on how to sanctify themselves for Him; now, He is telling YOU not to just come as you are and He shall take care of the rest. Don’t outsource this unique opportunity to have a personal relationship to your parents/spouse/friends/priest.
For those of you already in the body, don’t waste an opportunity to know your Attorney on a personal level. He’s good at His job: VERY GOOD! He has all the files on you anyway so He knows you WELL, however, you need to get to know Him so you can learn to trust Him and understand how He works and will handle your case because, as my friend Samantha would say:
“Everyone is Capable of Everything and Anything can Happen to Anyone”
You’ll never know when you may need your attorney until you are having your rights read to you.
God bless you.