When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Israel, moved by an eternal compassion to restore broken humanity, the people thronged to Him to witness miracles, or to have their physical or mental lives repaired – the ‘genie’ of something for nothing. However, when His teaching moved to that of the ‘cost’ of a relationship with Him, the idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and that death to self in this life was central to finding eternal Peace with God, the throngs departed. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him,” the Apostle John noted [John 6:66 NIV]. Only a humble few remained with Him after that.
It is fortunate for us that the true, living God of Scripture actually desires a relationship with us. “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” [Jeremiah 24:7 NIV]. He will not force it, though. His love, His holiness and His Sovereign Justice assure that He will give all people full freedom of choice.
We get to choose. Isn’t that great! I can choose to accept Him or reject Him. No strings attached. I get to keep my personal freedom, to be self-absorbed, selfish and self-directed, and pursue my “genie in the lamp,” if that’s really what I want. I am free to do anything I want to do within or without the confines of societal rules; and that part is consistent with our search for the “genie in the lamp.” Unfortunately, at the point of physical death, the gate to the ‘sheep pen’ of Jesus snaps shut. Those who have chosen to remain apart from God by rejecting Jesus and His free gift of eternal life will finally get their way. And the big problem with their ‘genie friend’ – you can’t take him with you! He disappears like a puff of smoke.
Those who stand by that choice will spend an eternity separated from God. Unfair, you say? Deep down you know you only say that because you do not want to give up your self-directed life. After all, surely you know there really is no lamp . . . and no genie. And, deep down you would admit your outright fear that this is the absolute Truth!
The wealthy and wise King Solomon wrote a Proverb that speaks to your choice: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” [Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT]
A loving father or mother will deny certain things their child desires because, in their maturity and wisdom the parent knows it is not what is best for them at the time. Likewise, a loving God tells us to deny our selfish desires and come to Him. Whereas the “genie in the lamp” compels us to believe we can have whatever we want, our wise God shows us, by the example of His Son that ‘nailing self-will to the cross and following Jesus leads to a wholly blessed and fulfilled life. “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” [John 17:3 NLT]
Recognize this, the Eternal, Triune God, who created us in His image, will not ‘play second fiddle.’ He shares His Throne with no one and no thing, because there is none equal. Everyone who has entered into a genuine relationship with Almighty God by way of His Son Jesus has found the requirements placed on that relationship to be well worth it. The “genie in the lamp” pales in comparison to the Peace, the contentment and the refreshing absolute truth found in placing our trust in Jesus, the One who chose to die for us, rose from the dead by the power of Eternal God, and offers us a personal relationship with the God of the Bible. He promises “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” [Hebrews 13:5 NIV]
Isn’t that really what we all are seeking?