Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beautiful mess.

Couldn't God have found someone better?

I ask myself this question as I think about how often I mess up. When I actually sit down and evaluate my life- wait, that's overwhelming. When I sit down to evaluate my day it becomes quickly apparent that I say the wrong things sometimes, fail to do something when I should, give bad advice/guidance to people, make stupid decisions, etc.

I see, daily, that God uses my imperfection to bring about His perfection. It still doesn't make sense to me.

Seriously, God, why me?...

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." -Ephesians 2:10

When I was reading this passage the other day it brought two thoughts into my head. First, that God is the artist. We are His "workmanship" which, according to Webster, is "something made or produced; the quality imparted to a thing in the process of making." This isn't about me. I am the canvas, I can't make myself. God is the one who literally imparts His qualities (love, grace, peace, gentleness, etc.) into me and also through me (i.e. "to do good works").

The second thing that came to mind is that the most beautiful things about art are the quirks and imperfections in it. I do ridiculous, selfish, unloving things sometimes- no, a lot of times. Through encounters with other people, (amidst my disobedience and selfishness, even as a child of God), people are still brought to repentance. God uses me despite my personality.

But He also actually uses me because of my personality. As J.I. Packer writes, "It is a staggering thing, but it is true- the relationship in which sinful human beings KNOW GOD is one in which God, so to speak, takes them onto His staff, to be henceforth His fellow workers and personal friends. From being Satan's prisoner, you find yourself transferred to a position of trust in the service of God." He created us each with unique personalities. We have to fight against these personalities every day because we want to do what WE want to do, not what HE wants to do. The amazing thing about all this is that because of the way we were made- imperfections and all- God can use us to show His own beauty to those around us.

Bent. Chipped. Blotched. Uneven. Inconsistent. Broken.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

My heart turns violently inside of my chest.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ...So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." - Galatians 3:26-27...4:3-7

These verses scream two Truths to me: freedom and adoption. Right now, I want to focus on the Truth that, if we have placed our faith in Jesus, we are ADOPTED into the family of God. 

The gospel tells us that we are all sinful people but that, because of God's unbelievable love for us, He sent His son to die in place of our sins. If we choose to believe in and follow Jesus, we receive the blessing that we don't deserve. The blessing is that of eternal life, which starts now and goes on into eternity, as we worship and glorify God in everything we do. Not only are we forgiven but we are, by grace, given the gift of "sonship" or, in other words, we are adopted into God's family. God literally becomes our Father.  "We do not fully feel the wonder of the passage from death to life which takes place in the new birth till we see it as a transition, not simply out of condemnation into acceptance, but out of bondage and destitution into the safety, certainty, and enjoyment of the family of God" (J.I. Packer). Because of this adoption, Christianity is not a religion but an actual, meaningful, loving relationship. 

The knowledge of this love and acceptance through adoption should radically change us and it should bleed into every facet of our lives. Without this adoption, we are orphans- lost and confused. With it, we are given a new identity as a Child of God- and now God treats us as if we have done everything Jesus has done. In the words of Tim Keller: "We are given freedom from liability and rights as sons. If we only think Christ has pardoned us and removed legal liability we are only "half-saved by grace" (requiring us to earn and maintain God's favor and rewards)...but Jesus also gives us the blessing he deserved- we are received and welcomed as heroes." 

Isn't that crazy? God sees Jesus INSIDE of us. We become His "sons" and have access to all the blessings and all the joy that radiates from such a Holy God. The only way, I think, to understand our adoption is to continually see how sinful we are. God requires humility from His children. The second we lose our humility is when we either stray from our Father and His grace, or we turn to "religion" and rule-following. Either way, we become our own savior, trying either to fill our void with an idol or trying to earn our way into the Kingdom by being 'good' and never 'messing up.' Both of these roads will lead to destruction and they will tear us apart. 

Which brings me back to grace. It is by GRACE we have been saved and it is by GRACE that we continue to live and change from the inside out. I just can't get over how amazing it is that God "will not leave us as orphans" (John 14:18).

Instead, He stands on the front porch. As we humbly walk up the driveway, knowing that we can't do it on our own nor with the help of any drug/person/achievement/etc., ...He walks out to meet us- not to reprimand us or say 'I told you so'- but only to HUG us. A loving Father waiting for His messed-up child to come home. Yet, when He looks into our eyes, He sees the beauty of a pure heart. 

"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And pardoning love to know;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go." - Unknown

(The previous thoughts were inspired by: "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer and the "For Freedom..." Bible study on the book of Galatians, by Timothy Keller.)