Sunday, May 11, 2008

Walking in the Grace of the Gospel

Also contributing to restless impatience is a failure to love as we should. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul begins his eloquent treatment of love by reminding us that nothing can compensate for a lack of love. The ability to speak in human and angelic tongues, the gift of prophecy, miracle-working faith and costly self-sacrifice are all reduced to nothing without love. Then when Paul describes the kind of love he is talking about, the first characteristic is patience. He writes: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (vs.4-5). Impatience characterizes our age. We want everything now and we want things done yesterday. God, however, is not in a rush. He takes his time and works out his purposes according to what is best. Our problem is that we cannot always understand what he is doing at the time. Often we are are not good at seeing the bigger picture because our field of vision is too narrow and as a sad consequence of our narrow focus we are ready to run over anyone who gets in our way, and this, in the name of God and truth.

The antidote to inexperience, pride and impatience is to humble ourselves under the hand of God. He is sovereign in all areas of life and he will fulfill all of his promises and carry out all of his threats. By his grace we have a role to play during our brief time on earth. In the big scheme of things our role is very, very, very small, and yet, because it is a role he has assigned, it is significant, and important that we fulfill it. Our job is to believe and live out the truth in our lives--all of the truth, not just parts of it. We must embrace the truth of the gospel with gratitude and work out its implications in our lives. But we must do so recognizing that God is working on many fronts simultaneously and his thoughts are not our thoughts nor his ways our ways.

One other thing to keep in mind is that God reserves the right to surprise us in how he works out his plan. Therefore we would be wise to remain open to what he is doing in the world. Cookie-cutter Christians, churches and ministries fly in the face of who God is as the creator who has made the world such a beautiful and diverse place. While the truth of the gospel is one and fixed in Jesus Christ, the way the gospel colors our lives, churches and ministries is diverse and glorious. Giving people space to be all that God wants them to be as they experience the grace of God is vital for spiritual health, vitality and outreach. It is my prayer that we will not only produce people who grasp the essentials of the Christian gospel but whose view of God will be big enough to produce in them patience, humility and love so that they are gracious, winsome and balanced representatives of Jesus Christ in a world in desperate need of authentic role models.

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