Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amazing Grace for the Jacked Up

Read the Bible, and you'll conclude that the best of God's people are jacked up. Any cursory survey of the lives of God’s messengers and ministers confirms that the answer to the rhetorical question “who is sufficient for these things,” is in fact “no one” (2 Cor.2:16). We find multiple blights and blemishes in the very people presented as paradigms.

Abraham, the father of faith, has his bouts with fear and faithlessness (e.g. Gen.20). Isaac is a spitting image of his daddy by buckling under the same temptation (Gen.26). Jacob deceives and manipulates to possess God’s promises. Moses strikes when he should speak. David embodies the ethos of worship on the one hand, but then manipulates, lies, kills, and covers up on the other. Solomon waxes in righteousness in the first part of his ministry, and wanes in idolatry in the later part. Elijah surges with faith before the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth, only to dwindle into despair with the threats of Jezebel. The apostles are seen foolishly jockeying for positions of power as Jesus walks the path to Golgotha. The disciples are repeatedly labeled as faithless and hard of heart. Peter denies Christ when pressured by the Jews. After the advent of the Holy Spirit, Peter compromises the message of the gospel when pressured by… the Jews. John Mark defects. Paul discloses the chasmic gulf between his desires and his faith.

All this to say, the biographies of great men of God remind us that they are no less in need of the pure and perfect righteousness of Christ than anyone else.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slain In The Spirit

"And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last" (Acts 5:5)

Ananias and his wife were Slain In the Spirit.

No..really, they were.

However, this "Pentecostal" phenomena probably won't gain much popularity among our many of our chaos-matic brothers and sisters today. There was no barking, laughing, gyrating, or rolling. Just falling to the ground...dead.

Ananias and Sapphira were dispatched by the Spirit for pretending to give all the money they pledged to the apostles from the sale of their property. They allowed for others to think they did more than they had done; that they were more righteous than they were; that they "sold it all" for Jesus. Ironically, they go down in church history as hypocrites and spiritual spend-thrifts. In the attempt to fool men, they foolishly sin against God, and are forever remembered as fools.

I can't help but to see myself in these two. I can't help but to think of my tendency to make people think that I follow Jesus with more intensity than I do; to allow them to suspect that my depravity does not run deep in my most noble actions; to allow folks to think that my deeds are not propped up by the pure righteousness of God in Christ; to fool men and women into thinking that I am sold out, have "sold it all," have given it all to and for the glory of God, when I have "kept back" plenty. So much of my religion is a sham needing to be Slain In/By the Spirit.
Spirit, would you slay those parts of my heart that refuse to believe what the gospel says about my righteousness and yours? Would you slay the desire to be pleasing to others at the price of pleasing you?
Ananias and his wife should have slew their own pride and simply given the little they wanted to give. Yet, they attempted to garner respect and admiration from their peers at the price of grieving the Holy Spirit.

Sad...and common.

With the last bit of dirt placed over their bodies, and with the news God's startling chastisement spreading, the fear of the Lord waxed and the fame of this couple waned.

Slain In the Spirit.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Hungry Grace

When most people suspected Saul of Tarsus' conversion as being a trick to roast Christians, Barnabas saw true signs of the grace of God underneath the unchanged exterior of a notorious enemy of Jesus. Barnabas became Saul's advocate when very few would (Acts 9:26-28).

When Paul would later look upon John Mark as spineless and useless for the ministry due to his desertion of them at Pamphylia, Barnabas perceived signs of the grace of God underneath a timid and sometimes wavering young man. Barnabas became Mark's advocate when very few would (Acts 15:36-40); when it meant separation with Paul (btw. Paul would later seem to recant his estimation of Mark - 2 Tim. 4:11).

When Peter needed a trance and a thrice-repeated command from Jesus himself to accept the Gentiles as candidates for the gospel, and the elders of Jerusalem needed the appeals of Peter, Barnabas "witnessed the grace of God" in the Gentiles and "rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord" (Acts 11:22-23).

Barnabas was convinced that the power of the grace of God given through Jesus can and does change people. Moreover, Barnabas trained his eye to see the smallest seedling of grace sprouting in the expansive, hard, and hostile ground of people's lives...and proceeds to celebrate and encourage it where he sees it.

Thank you Barnabas for believing and modeling the gospel for us. Thanks for teaching us that the grace of God empowers a person to see hope in hopeless people: in people who are hostile towards God and man (Paul); with people who are weak, flaky, and cowardly (Mark); with people who are indifferent and unlikely to find the right path (The Gentiles). People like us.

Whenever the testimony of experience says, "look at how sin abounds," the testimony of grace boldly shouts back, "grace does much more abound."

In fact, grace has a voracious appetite. Grace looks at sin in broken people and salivates; the hunger pangs overwhelm; there is no sin not viewed as edible; no depravity viewed as unworthy of consumption. Grace is hungry.

Moreover, even the smallest bit of grace has both the hunger and capacity to consume the greatest of sin and sinners. And so the smallest amount of grace present in a person consumed by their own junk, is grounds for expectation.

I pray this morning that I would have far more confidence in the grace of God to change myself and others then I have had in the power of sin to keep us the way we are. God, train my eye to see grace when others only see ruin.