Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Bad Boy: The Story of Jephthah

This week, our series called, "We Can Be Heroes" concludes with the story of Jephthah. He's probably the least known of the heroes we've studied, and his is the only story of the six that has a tragic ending. Jephthah experienced tragedy not because of willful rebellion against God or flaws in his character, but because he underestimated the amazing grace of God. Ironic, isn't it? When we think of God's people bringing disaster upon themselves, we think of it in terms of "gross moral failure." For example, a pastor cheats on his wife, ending his marriage and his ministry. A Christian executive gives in to greed, engaging in shady business dealings in order to enrich himself, only to be exposed and imprisoned. A Christian parent fails to deal with her explosive temper, and ends up emotionally harming her own children. Yet perhaps the greatest failing of Christians, the most destructive tendency in the church, is our failure to understand God's grace.

In my opinion, the most effective lie the Devil spreads in our culture today is NOT the lie that says there is no God. Nearly everyone knows that God is real, even if they don’t know who He is. Satan’s most effective lie is, “You’re not good enough for God.” I see it often when I invite people to church. They say things like, “Well, I have a lot of things I need to get right first.” They assume that Jesus is for people who have their act together. In Mark 2, we read the story of Jesus eating at a dinner party with a group of notorious sinners. The religious leaders came to the dinner, too, and they looked at those sinners as if to say, “You don’t belong here, boy.” But Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Church isn’t a club for the spiritually healthy, it’s a hospital for the spiritually sick. Jesus isn’t looking for people who are perfect, He’s looking for people who are lost and desperate for change in their lives. That’s why in the Old Testament, He chose people like Leah, Rahab and Gideon. It’s why in this story He chose an outlaw to lead His people to victory. He didn’t tell Jephthah, “Get your act together, and then we’ll talk.” He said, “Give your life to me, and see what I can do with you.” It’s called grace, the unmerited favor of God, and it’s one of my favorite things about God. But some people can’t accept grace. They think they have to do something extra to be acceptable to God. They assume He plays by the world’s rules. Unfortunately, Jephthah was one of those people.

I hope you'll be there this Sunday. Jephthah's story is fascinating, even if it is sad. Please pray that God would bring many people to the service who don't feel worthy of God...and that He would give them ears to hear about His amazing grace.

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