Okay, last week I took a brief pause in this series, “Misfits & Rejects”, to clarify that the word “rejects” in the title doesn’t mean rejection from God. If there is any rejecting going in our relationship with God, it is the other way around. When we are unwilling to believe or accept what God has to offer, He won’t force us to change our minds. He allows us to go our own way, “turn away” (Romans 3:12) or “gives us over” to our own desires (Romans 1:24). It’s our decision. However, God is always extending an invitation even in our final moments of life. A perfect example is during the crucifixion. Jesus isn’t crucified alone. There are two thieves being executed with Him.
“32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left…39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:32-33 NIV
One mocks, insults, and rejects Jesus forfeiting his opportunity for redemption. The other defends Jesus, admits his own guilt, repents, and asks Jesus to remember him. That’s confession, repentance, and acceptance of God’s invitation. God doesn’t want us to wait to the last minute, but this demonstrates that it is never too late, even for thieves and misfits.
The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament persecuted and even murdered Jesus followers before his conversion in Acts 9.
“1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2 NIV
Paul was a radical extremist, strong man, and muscle for the Jewish Sanhedrin. He was present at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. It says that the witnesses of the stoning laid their coats at Saul’s (Paul’s) feet. Which tells me that he was one of the instigators of the stoning. He got everyone stirred up and then watched. He was part of it, and yet two chapters later Jesus reaches out to Saul (Paul) and extends an invitation.
“4He (Saul/Paul) fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:4-6 NIV
Saul was a bad dude. Does he deserve another chance? He’s had people thrown in prison, tortured, and even killed. Again, that’s not the route that God wants us to go. He has a standard of holiness that he wants us to follow. He doesn’t overlook our sin, but He can forgive them if we are willing to change. He can take the old and make it new. He can turn tragedy into triumph. Saul was transformed by the power of God and got a new start with a new name, Paul.
Even after Paul’s conversion, he wasn’t perfect. He and Barnabas, who had been on missionary journey’s together, had a falling out. We don’t know what it was about, but it could have been over something petty. However, Paul was aware of his imperfections. It was an ongoing battle for him just like it is for us.
21So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-25 NIV
Again, like the thief on the cross Paul is willing to admit his guilt, “wretchedness”, and his need for deliverance through Jesus. God can work with that. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We just need to be willing to let go and let God have His way with us.
Okay so on to the next misfit & reject! Hope you had your seat belt on for this abrupt change in direction! Sorry I’m going to bounce around a bit for the remainder of this series.
Rahab is one of the more interesting characters in the Bible. Her short story can be found in Joshua 2 & 6. The Israelites are trying to cross into the promised land, the land that God had promised to Abraham many years before, but there are giants and enemies in the land, so Joshua sends two spies into the city of Jericho to check it out. Somehow, they end up at Rahab’s house. Shortly thereafter, city officials hear about the spies and that they have been seen at Rahab’s. Rahab is confronted, but denies they are there. She says, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (Joshua 2:4-5 NIV)
She lied. She had hidden them in her house. After the city officials leave, we get an idea of why she hid them. She tells the spies that she or “we”, the people of Jericho, had heard everything about them. How God parted the Red Sea and destroyed the Ammorites at Sihon and Og. She tells the spies, “11When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:11 NIV)
If you’ll notice, Rahab has just become a new and true believer who confesses and acknowledges that “God IS God in heaven above and on the earth below”, She then asks the spies “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign”, which they do. They tell her to tie a “scarlet cord” (Joshua 2:18) on her window and to stay in the house so that she and her family will be spared when the Israelites attack the city, then she helps them escape through a window in the wall. The promise is kept in Joshua 6:25, which says “Joshua spared Rahab with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.”
If you go back and read this verse, you will notice that I omitted something. Something that I have kept from you until now. Some of you already know, but I’m trying to build suspense. Is your heart beating faster? What has Robby kept hidden? What is it about Rahab that he isn’t telling us?
Well, it’s not exactly a secret. It was revealed when she was introduced in Joshua 2:1. She is a prostitute, a harlot. Someone that we might reject and say, “no way God would use someone like her to accomplish His will!”, and yet He did. In fact, Rahab is mentioned in the faith “hall of fame” in Hebrews 11. Her life changed when she hid those spies in her home. She was transformed when God showed up and she responded willingly by faith. In James 2:25 we read, “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” She is even mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew 1:5. Jesus was one of her decedents. She is a part of His bloodline. WOW!
This is one of my favorite examples of what God can do. He can take something broken, redeem it, and use it for His glory. Much like Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. He delivered her from certain death and then told her to “go and sin no more”. We don’t know for sure, but I believe her life was transformed after her encounter with Jesus. Remember the woman at the well? She was never the same. When we say yes to God/Jesus, our lives can be changed-transformed no matter who we are or how much we have failed. Out with the old, in with the new.
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV (Read the whole chapter. It’s awesome!)
Let’s see where God takes us next week as we continue this series of “Misfits & Rejects”. God’s word is filled to overflowing with encouraging stories of those who are lost and find redemption through the power of God. Hallelujah!
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC