January 31st, 2013

I joined a cult on Tuesday, and I have some regrets.  Let me explain.

Since “smart phones” came out, I’ve owned a Treo, two Blackberries, and three Droids (I think; I lost count).  In each case, they gave a particular set of problems that are not worth finger exhaustion to detail.  Every time I had a problem with another phone, members of the Apple cult would say to me, “Get an iPhone.”  So when my latest Droid (a brand new replacement) wouldn’t charge, and Verizon offered to advance my contract date two months so I could get a new phone early, I joined the cult.  My iPhone arrived on Tuesday.  This, my children and friends convinced me, would solve my phone woes forever.  It was not to be.

Yesterday I spent 2 ½ hours either at the Verizon store or on the phone with Apple tech support trying to solve a problem with my new iPhone that nobody’s heard of before.  I was heard to mutter, “Maybe Jesus doesn’t want me to have a smart phone.”  When I try to download an App for my iPhone, I get a message that says, “Account Not In This Store.  Your account is not valid for use in the U. S. store.  You must switch to the Israeli store before purchasing.”

My brand new iPhone thinks I live in Israel.  Seriously.  I thought it must have been my fault when I was setting up the phone.  But no amount of rebooting, changing my “country code” in the phone settings or in the iTunes store, or restoring the phone to its factory settings will make any difference at all.  This iPhone is convinced it resides in Israel – or at least I do. I tried it, Mark at Verizon tried it, Apple support tried it.  Nothing changes.  When we change the settings, this phone resets itself to Israel as its home country.

My son Phil had the comment of the day yesterday:  “Dad, I think somehow you may have ended up with the long prophesied, but often forgotten direct phone line to Jesus.”  That may be, but I’m still sending it back for a replacement.  My daughter Jeni said, “I refuse to believe it. Apple doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe you were in Israel. You do holy things all the time.”  I didn’t feel as holy at times yesterday.  But the new phone should arrive today, and I’ll be fully credited for the cost of the first iPhone.  I guess I’ll remain in the cult a little longer.

I could go so many places to parallel this story to Romans 4, Paul’s use of Abraham’s story to illustrate our status before God.  (Read it again, especially vv. 18-25.)  He’s writing to those who refuse to believe, like my phone, that they are holding on to the “Israel cult.”  (Don’t get too put off by my use of that word – just follow my point.)  The gospel is trying to change their settings, but they keep reverting back to their default – that their bloodline and their obedience give them “credit” with God.  I could also talk about how this passage is really an accounting metaphor – and that just like Verizon is willing to give me “full credit” on my defective phone, this is what God does for us in Christ.  What freedom!

But mostly I’m just drawn to what Jeni said, even in jest.  When you trust Apple, you always give the benefit of the doubt.  Why do people trust Apple?  Because of its track record.  Apple makes reliable products, and their customers trust them.

The analogy breaks down, of course, because Apple is ultimately an organization of humans, and they don’t do EVERYTHING right, as I found out yesterday.  But Paul’s point about Abraham in Romans 4 is that his God IS completely trustworthy.  Join the “cult” of those who are “fully persuaded” that God has power to do what he has promised (Romans 4:21).  We know that not because of what we feel or see in the moment, but because of his track record.  So when he says, “By faith in Jesus Christ will assign the blame for all your sins to Jesus, and credit your account fully with righteousness,” even though we like Abraham and Sarah are as “good as dead,” we have life.


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