09 March 2016

Dancing at the edge of expectation

More than half my life has been lived as a Christian and, Lord willing, I will have many years yet to explore the vistas of God's grace. I am filled with anxious wonder about what God will reveal next. I have frequently said that in the nearly 30 years since "I was ambushed by Jesus", to steal a phrase from Brennan Manning, I have learned much more about the Bible and yet I know much less about God.  His vastness is never ending.  The boxes in which I previously tried to contain Him I keep finding too small.

Over the years, I have been interested in the development of Christians. How is it that we come to believe certain things? How do our beliefs mature over our lives? God knows.

Today I came upon a few paragraphs in Eugene Peterson's book Travelling Light (1988). He wrote, "The word Christian means different things to different people. To one person, it means a stiff, uptight, inflexible way of life, colorless and unbending. To another it means a risky, surprise filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation. 

"Either of these pictures can be supported with evidence. There are numberless illustrations for either position in congregations all over the world. But if we restrict ourselves to biblical evidence, only the second image can be supported: the image of a person living zestfully, exploring every experience--pain and joy, enigma and insight, fulfillment and frustration--as a dimension of human freedom, searching through each for sense and grace. If we get our information from the biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life" (p. 57). 

In my experience and observation, the early Christian life often represents the former, inflexible way. The focus is often on sinfulness, and particularly the sinfulness of others who do not seem to be pursuing righteousness quite as zealously as the young believer thinks is appropriate. They stay far from the edge of the cliff and cast critical gazes at those who do not.

But with life lived and daily infusions of God's unending grace, we begin to discover the robustness of the Christian life for all circumstances and that the Spirit goes with us as we go. When we begin to understand that he will never leave or forsake us, our feet start tapping and we begin to dare to dance at the edge of expectation.

07 March 2016

Believer, you still need the gospel

Beginning on page 20 of his book The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges wrote the following few paragraphs.  I have abbreviated some, though the gist remains the same.

What one word describes the message you most needed to hear as an unbeliever? I suggest that the word is gospel. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation. We need to hear that Jesus died for sinners and that if we come to him in faith, we will receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.

What one word describes the message we most need to hear as believers? I get a lot of different answers to that question, but most of them can be summed up with one word, discipleship.

But there is something more basic than discipleship, something that actually provides the necessary atmosphere in which discipleship can be practiced. The one word that describes what we must continue to hear is gospel.

We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God's grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good day--bad day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we've been.

It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship.