Monday, March 31, 2014

"It Is An Inscrutable Mystery Why Some Are Saved, and Others Not"


 From "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, Volume 5: St Augustine - Anti-Pelagian Writings", ed. Phillip Schaff, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Now there is much significance in that He does not say, “The wrath of God shall come upon him,” but “abideth on him.” For from this wrath (in which we are all involved under sin, and of which the apostle says, “For we too were once by nature the children of wrath, even as others”) nothing delivers us but the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason why this grace comes upon one man and not on another may be hidden, but it cannot be unjust. For “is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” But we must first bend our necks to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, in order that we may each arrive at knowledge and understanding through faith. For it is not said in vain, “Thy judgments are a great deep.” The profundity of this “deep” the apostle, as if with a feeling of dread, notices in that exclamation: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” He had indeed previously pointed out the meaning of this marvellous depth, when he said: “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” Then struck, as it were, with a horrible fear of this deep: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” How utterly insignificant, then, is our faculty for discussing the justice of God’s judgments, and for the consideration of His gratuitous grace, which, as men have no prevenient merits for deserving it, cannot be partial or unrighteous, and which does not disturb us when it is bestowed upon unworthy men, as much as when it is denied to those who are equally unworthy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Start Touching

From "Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection" by Edward T. Welch, New Growth Press, 2012.

In Christ you have been drenched by the cleansing Spirit. You have been sent swimming in him. That certainly is enough to cleanse you. You have also been reclaimed as a living tabernacle. Where idols once reigned and tainted associations separated, the Spirit has come to stay. His holiness overcomes any uncleanness within you. The Holy Spirit cleanses you once and for all; you have gone from uncleanness to cleanness. Cleanness, however, can still be common and not holy. That’s why the Spirit’s residency is also important. It shows that God’s intent is to make you his own. You, who were once common and unclean, have now become holy and clean. Now, instead of contaminating others, you can touch them and somehow sanctify them. Your presence in the lives of other people is more powerful than you think. You can, in some real way, make them holy. Your presence announces God’s unique interest in the other person. I observed this on a human scale when I married. My parents did not meet my wife until a month after our wedding, but the moment they met her they loved her. My parents loved me; I loved my wife; so my parents loved my wife. They were linked to me; I was linked to her; so they were linked to her.
This does not mean that those who are linked to us immediately belong to Christ, but it does mean that they enjoy an enviable position. At the very least, they have daily opportunities to witness the Spirit within another person. In a real way they too have been set apart. The apostle Paul gave a concrete application of this. In ancient Israel there were strict taboos against marrying people outside Israel. Such a marriage brought pagan contamination into the home and defiled any Israelite. After Jesus ascended, the early church encountered similar relationships: one spouse put his or her faith in Jesus but the other one did not. A possible application of Old Testament principles to this situation was to advise the believer to divorce the unbeliever, thereby breaking the link to the unclean person. The apostle Paul, however, used different logic. If the unbeliever was willing to live with the believer, Paul advised the believer to stay because the believer—the holy one—can spread holiness to others in close association with him or her. With Christ in you, by way of the Holy Spirit, you can touch other people.
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:13–14) So get out there and start touching. This is the era of action. If you have said “I love you” to Jesus, you have all the benefits that come with your new relationship. You also have the responsibilities. In other words, you have purpose. You have a reason to live. You claim all the benefits of Jesus Christ and he claims you. Just as Jesus moved toward you in love, you move toward others on his behalf. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:23–24) There is nothing burdensome in this purpose. It is hard but invigorating. Imagine that you are the new Isaiah. You have been purified by the King. He lives in you by his Spirit, and he gives you a mission.

God Honours You

From "Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection" by Edward T. Welch, New Growth Press, 2012.

 The world is turned upside down as soon as you enter the kingdom. Jesus takes you through a gate that says—and this is amazing—HONORED. It is the only way in. Shame for one woman I know gives way when it’s her birthday. For those few hours, shame is elbowed out from the center of her life. Friends call her. She usually gets a gift or two. Someone at work keeps track of birthdays, so either a cake or cupcakes show up at lunch. She is honored. Birthdays can be a big deal. For children, they are the days when they eat whatever they want, receive gifts, celebrate with songs, and feel like royalty from sunup to sundown. On my birthday I still get to choose my dinner and dessert menu and my family treats me most kindly, even if I am a grouch. Of course, tomorrow is someone else’s birthday and I leave the limelight, but it certainly can be nice while it lasts. I, for one, am not above using “It’s my birthday” as a way to garner a little more patience and mercy from others. Birthdays can feel peculiar, though. We receive kindness we do not deserve. Who are we to receive special treatment, especially when we know we don’t deserve it? Who are we to be honored for doing nothing more than being born? Well, get accustomed to that feeling because, like it or not, there is only one way into the kingdom of God. You must receive honor—honor that is extravagant and eternal. God has honored you. The gospel is the story of how he did it. At the heart of the story is the word servant. Jesus Christ became your servant. There is no honor in being served by paid help. The servant is only doing a job; it is fee for service. Employees don’t have to like their bosses, or servants their masters. But what if someone volunteers to serve you? Jesus freely placed your interest above his own. His desire was to elevate your status; in the process he lowered his own. He gave you the royal treatment: he works, you benefit. And you must accept this treatment. Jesus made himself nothing in order to be your servant, and servants live to enhance the status of those they serve. God honoured you. No wonder the apostle Paul was immune to the shame of the world.  No amount of worldly shame could diminish the honor God had bestowed on him.  Indeed, "the Lord bestows favor and honor" (Psalm 84:11), but we never thought he would come down off the throne, willingly become our servant and serve us all the way to the cross.      When Jesus voluntarily became your servant, he lowered himself and elevated you.  Yes, you might feel laid low initially. When you first see your sin clearly, you feel like you come crashing down to earth. You acknowledge that you have no status or accomplishments to offer the King. But when you stop to think about it, there was nothing especially humiliating in that. You simply stopped pretending you were God. You finally acted like the human being you were created to be: you turned from your independent, isolated ways and connected to Jesus. It is a sign that you are moving when you see your sin and don’t immediately go back into the gutter. Sin is a fact. To be blind to it is shameful. To see it is normal and human. To confess it to the Lord and see that he gladly accepts you rather than turns away? That shows you are connected to him and becoming more like him. So the beginning of life with Jesus Christ, even when it means seeing your own sin, is honor, not humiliation. When you are served by Jesus and connected to him, it can be no other way.

 Isaiah 43:3 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.