Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How Deep The Love?

It's been said, and rightly so I believe, that the Church is unique in that you have to admit just how bad you are before you can get in. And as true as that is, it's just as true that a very large portion of believers (the Church) still think they need to be "good enough" for God's love to be effective in their life. There is a bondage that believers find themselves in when they focus on God's justice apart from His mercy, and His plan. God is completely just. So when we sin, when we do wrong things, when it truly is "all our fault" what should we expect of Him? What is He like in these situations? The question is; How deep into your evil heart can God's love get?

Oh, it's a fundamental question. And one that rightly preoccupies many a man face down in prayer and supplication. Come on admit it. You've been on your face (or maybe on your knees?) asking for mercy because of something you know you caused. When you're there are you truly expecting mercy or is there some part of your heart that believes God would show His true character by crushing you... or letting you suffer the consequences of what you did? Come on be honest, I can't hear what you're thinking. I've been there. Face down and saying something like "Father God, I know it's my fault but will you rescue me again?"

It's an interesting question that "will you" isn't it? The very question answers our prayer. We're instructed to pray with expectation are we not? When teaching about praying for wisdom for trials the Apostle James tells us what we can "expect" if we don't pray with faith, and that is simply - nothing. As I type this I realize, this is a tough teaching. I know how tough it is, I've just learned it myself. So what kind of "expectation" can we have when the problem we're facing is truly "all our fault"?

God will glorify Himself. That is our purpose in the world. It is God's purpose for History. He will do this in every situation. God is glorified when He gets all the credit, when what He has said happens. As He says in Isaiah 46:9-11 that He declares the end from the beginning. It's how He identifies Himself. This is a fundamental characteristic and identifier of God. God says we can identify false prophets, or prophets who are not from God by the fact that what they say is not true, does not come to pass. Deut 13 Deut 18:21-22 OK before I go too far off track I'll try to make sense of this paragraph. God has said a number of things about His glory, redemption and His plans for believers. And if what He has said is not true then He Himself would by His own definition be a false prophet. Since God can not lie, and therefore can not be a false prophet it follows that what God says is true and that would include what He has said about His plans for believers.

Let's get back to the beginning and then put the situations we find ourselves in, in perspective. When a person is saved they "repent" or judge themselves guilty and unworthy and God holy and completely worthy. We transfer trust from ourselves to Christ. In effect we admit we're evil. And then we trust that Christ really did die for all of our sins. That He truly paid the full price for us. Grace, or unmeritted favor, is shown by Holy, Just, and Righteous God towards the evil unworthy sinner and the sinner is instantly justified, is reborn and becomes a child of God. It's an amazing thing that every Christian depends on.

And then we do something wrong. We really mess up. Maybe intentionally. What then? Was God's grace only good enough for salvation and now we have to pay the price for the rest of our sins? I hope not. Because the payment required for sin is simply death. But on the other hand, once a person is saved do they get a free ride? Can they simply "get away with" anything and everything? Or is there a third option revealed in Scripture. I'm sure you're all smart enough to figure out I'm going to go for the "third option" so I'll save you any further build up.

God is just. But our Eternal Life depends on the fact that Christ died for our sins on the Cross. There is nothing more to be "paid" or "made up for" by those who trust Him. His stated plan for us is this - to conform us to the image of Christ. It is a worthy and fundamental study for any Christian to find out what the Character of Christ is. Not only because He is God and our Savior but because it is this state of Character that God is working each of us toward. But the Lord Himself gives a really good description in Mat 11:27-30 This is God's ultimate purpose for every believer. To bring them to the point that they look just like Christ Jesus. Perfection will not happen in this life but will be fully realized when we stand face to face with God. This is God's stated purpose and since His glory rides on the truthfulness of His Word we know that He is going to make what He has declared, actually happen.

And this becomes practical in the life of a believer who's failed in some regard, either big or small, because God's purpose is not to punish the believer for sin. His purpose is to make the believer more like His Son Jesus Christ. He gets glory when He does this. When we are rescued from our sin, our screw ups and even our intentional misbehavior it is God showing Himself faithful. Our part in this is to humble ourselves. Mat 18:4 Mat 23:12

Think about the Glory of God. If someone is good, does God show His power by setting that person in a high position? Or does God get glory when the most unexpected person is cleaned up, changed, and put in a position he or she could never have reached on their own? James explains this thought in James 1:9-10

The Lord explains what the person with failure is to be like Himself in Luke 18:9-14

9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

13"But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

14"I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Let's say a Christian gets a speeding ticket because they were really speeding. Is God's justice served by the Christian paying that ticket? Nope. God's justice was served at the Cross. So does that mean that God won't make a Christian pay a speeding ticket then? Nope. The truth is that paying the ticket doesn't satisfy God. We are saved by faith. It is God's purpose that we are purified, we become more like Jesus. That's the reason why God came to die for our sins.

So when a Christian has messed up and it's his or her own fault can they pray to God to be saved from the consequences? Yes. We can pray that God's real purpose for us is fulfilled. We can humble ourselves before Him. We can go before the Mercy Seat and pray for the mercy that was purchased for us at the Cross. We know God's heart for our lives. And knowing that gives us a sure foundation to base our prayers on. It might be that it's going to take paying that speeding ticket for us to be humbled. It's going to be different in every situation. But God's purpose is that we are humbled, not destroyed or punished. His purpose is that we would be purified to be more like Christ so that we can be "zealous for good works." And He gets the credit, or the glory, for those good works when the only way we could have done them is by His power.

So if you're in a situation that is you're own fault, you've just realized you're part of the club. That's the problem that Humanity faces. We truly have all sinned, or fallen short of the Glory of God. You are not unique.

You know God's purpose, and if God was willing to die for this purpose you know He's serious about it. So while you're praying for a way out of paying for your ticket you MUST get serious about God's purpose too. And you must have faith that God really did die for all your sins. That His love goes to the deepest, darkest portions of your heart. That it brings light to these dark caverns that harbor the evil that leads us into sin even after we are saved. Go before God in confidence that will do what He has said He will do. Confess your sin before Him, and whoever else He tells you to confess it to if anyone at all. Know that this confession is part of God's plan of humility in your life and that through it He forgives AND cleanses all unrighteousness. Look carefully His plan is not just to forgive, it is to cleanse us of these things. Walking or living in this kind of openness and humility is called "walking in the light." It is having your heart exposed, to yourself, to God and to your brothers and sisters in Christ. This will not only keep you out of trouble it will foster the character of Christ in you that is God's purpose for our lives.

And if God's purpose is being fulfilled without you having to suffer the consequences for sin then it is completely reasonable for the Child of God to pray for rescue with expectation that he or she really will be rescued. In all things God's purpose is to make us more like His Son, not to punish us. To hammer this home, if God's purpose after we screw up is to punish us by paying a speeding ticket (or whatever) then He's lied about what the "wages of sin" actually is. And He's lied about Who died for our sins, and what that accomplished. Need I remind you that God cannot lie?

So Christian, stop praying against the consequences of sin and start praying in accordance with God's purpose. In that you can be confident that no matter what happens God is working out His plan to bring you closer to the very image of Christ. And if God is working such a great plan out in your life could you possibly have reason to fear?


Kevl said...

As I was laying in bed last night I was thinking about this post. Basically two things kept me occupied. First was how I hadn't really planned the post so it isn't really concise at all. Second is how easy it is to take yourself very seriously.

This blog is primarily about where I'm at on my walk toward Christ. This post is my current interpretation of a lesson He's got me learning. I think it's an important thing and I think that He doesn't teach us things so we can horde them. As one grows so does the Church and vice-versa.

So my hope is you'll forgive the rambling and any pretension you find here.


God Bless!

Only Look said...

I am strengthen by your post and I gain a deeper insight into God's character and am encouraged by your admission of weakness. It helps me see Him in my weakness as well.

I know we are growing and that He is so very patient with us.

Grace upon grace,


Kevl said...

Hi Brian,

You're always so encouraging. Doesn't seem to matter which blog you post at. Thank you for your kindness!

We depend on grace upon grace don't we? God is being merciful with me. He's working His work, but His hand is soft and His leading kind. Even when the fire is very hot.

You're a blessing!

Only Look said...

Thanks bro...you are as well.

Not just grace...but grace upon grace. It doesnt get any better than that.