Monday, November 18, 2013

Un-Holiness and Grace

Everyone has wondered at some point how they can grow spiritually. 
                Perhaps you feel God’s absence.  “Where IS He when I am praying?  It seems that I am just praying to the wall.”  Perhaps you feel frustrated at God’s lack of action.  Haven’t seen a miracle like in Acts lately.  Relationship with your kids is still on the rocks and, boy, have you prayed a lot about that.
Or you don’t get a thing out of church.  Singing is ok.  Sermon is ok.  Fellowship is ok.  But you still go home not feeling like you had any experience with God or made any progress towards Him…and don’t’ know how to move.  Feeling isolated and lonely.  God should take care of that shouldn’t He?  He is for me, isn’t He?
                First, anyone who is actually engaged in their faith is always going through this.  And it will never end…sorry for that bit of bad news.  It is a peculiar thing about Christianity among all other religions, that as you grow in holiness, instead of felling better about yourself and more holy, you actually become increasingly aware of how great your sin is and how much distance your sin creates between you and God and between you and others.  In essence, you feel worse about yourself.  Not very encouraging I know.  “Hey come and join us at our church and you’ll feel worse and worse about yourself.”
                But therein lies the beauty of grace.  As you begin to more fully understand the depths of your sinfulness and the impossibility of you making things better, you begin to despair of yourself, others, the world and self-help.  As you grow into spiritual maturity, God reveals more and more the state you are in.  God does not do this to punish you or to rub it in, but He shows your sickness so you can be made increasingly holy….which makes you increasingly understand how really unholy you are and the process begins all over again.
                Now here is the payoff for this unseemly process:  As you enter more and more fully into what would appear a hopeless downward spiral of despair, you begin at the same time to uncover how much God must love you.  You begin to experience in a real and tangible way, the peace that God has promised.  You begin to have experiences of God that are so profound that words cannot adequately explain them.  You become less and less dependent on miracles and overt signs from God because you interiorly, as Charlie Walton used to say, “know in your knower”, that God IS actually for you and that He IS there listening to your prayers and that He IS working on your children. 
                I have talked with many of you who have had an extraordinary closeness to God at some point in your life.  Unfortunately, the result of this experience for many of you has been increased frustration, in some cases to the point of anger at the church or others or the leadership - sometimes ending in church hopping trying to duplicate that experience or even leaving Christ.  The problem is that God has allowed you to taste this experience not so you will have a 2 year old’s hunger for more but so that you will grow the tree that produces it.  He wants to develop in you and through you in those around you, the tree that the fruit comes from.  Water flowing from you.  John 4:14  Simply handing you another pear will not help you.  It will taste good but you will sit on your couch waiting for the next delivery instead of being in His story of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20) which is His – and, in reality, your – deepest desire.
                So how can you get on this bandwagon of understanding your unholiness and therefore grace?
                First, accept that you are treasured by God.  God’s relationship with you is as intense as marriage. 
                Second, quit having an opinion/agenda.  Take a back seat.  Do what others tell you to do.  Offer your agenda-less service and then simply be humble and do what you are asked to do.  If you cannot do this with your spouse, with the people around you, you will not do it with God.  (1 John 4:19, Philippians 2)
                Third, evaluate everything you do by starting with Christ.  He is not first on your list.  He is the arbiter of the list.  Christ controls you at work.  Christ tells you how to act in your marriage.  Christ controls the course of your hobby.  God speaks to you about your ministry.
                Lastly, for this short note, show up… no matter what.  Don’t miss your 6:00am appointment with God each morning.  Be at church.  Meet with a discipler.  Take on a job at church (Walt has a list if you need direction.)  Say “God” to someone outside your church family every day.  You can do this….You want to do this.  This is what grace is about...the freedom to do what will fulfill you instead of being controlled by desires.