A Glimpse Into the Gospel of Grace

“The question the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.

Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can’t.

Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.

Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children’s future? They can’t.

Negative self-image? It can’t.

Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can’t.

Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can’t.

Persecution by authorities, going to jail? They can’t.

Nuclear war? It can’t.

Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can’t.

The gospel of grace calls out, ‘Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord!’

You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever.

In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.”

(Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel; pp.87-88)

The Definition of Idolatry

There is a difference between sorrow and despair. Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through it. Despair, however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit.

 

What is the cause of this ‘strange melancholy’ that permeates our society even during boom times of frenetic activity, and which turns to outright despair when prosperity diminishes? De Tocqueville says it comes from taking some ‘incomplete joy of this world’ and building your entire life on it. That is the definition of idolatry.

~ Tim Keller (from Counterfeit Gods)

Three Astounding Truths

I wanted to provide three bulk quotes from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. These quotes have challenged me and intrigue me in more ways than I can put on paper. My recommendation: read them and then reread them. Apply these to yourself. Challenge yourself to see how this relates to you personally and what we ought to do in response. For many of us, we need to just absorb the amazing truths presented herein.

Page 23 –

The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

Page 25 (1) –

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

Page 25 (2) –

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #15

Resolved never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

This one set me back a little at first; “irrational beings”?

When I thought on it a bit longer what I think he was getting at, or at least my interpretation of it based on my own understanding, is that we are quick to apply one set of values, standards, and expectations on someone or some thing which may not even hold to those values/perspectives/etc. in the first place.

That may have been a bit more vague than I intended, so allow me to explain.

The way I think about this for myself is the types of expectations I put on myself based on my beliefs. I don’t really drink–not because it’s evil or immoral, but because I don’t see it ever being fruitful for me–but it would be out of line for me to impose that mentality on others. I have friends who drink, and friends who get drunk. I don’t always agree with it, but I don’t think I should be surprised. Why should they not drink? If it’s in line with their worldview then it only makes sense that they think this way and do those things.

More generally applied, I think we–as Christians–have a tendency to mentally project our convictions onto others who don’t even believe the same things we do. We expect the world to not be having sex outside of marriage, hold the same views as we do in regards to abortion and marriage, and yet we often do not pause to think about it. Why should they act the same? We have a paradigm shifting set of beliefs that changes everything about us.. and yet we get bothered when others aren’t conforming to that.. others who don’t even have personal reasons to conform to it in the first place.

Now don’t hear me wrong.. it’s important for us to notice these differences and know, each for ourselves, why we do or do not do the things we do, and why others around us may do and believe in certain things. Additionally, we are to “always [be] prepared to give a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) as to why we believe the things we do or live the way we do. This means being face to face with others who don’t believe the things we believe, but loving them all the while.

Understand that the actions of those apart from Christ should not necessarily provoke us to anger–because we can’t expect them to want to act differently if the rest of the world constantly says it’s OK–but it should stir up in us a grief. It should fill our hearts with a longing to show them that God has provided something something better to be experienced (see Hebrews 11:40).

So at the end of the day, do not let the patterns of this world provoke you to anger, but use it as an opportunity to pray to God to open channels of communication–through relationship building–to share the Gospel. May these instances not turn us to anger, but help us “abound in hope” (Roman 15:13).

Christmas Love

C. S. Lewis put it like this,

‘Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’

There is no way to have a real relationship without becoming vulnerable to hurt. And Christmas tells us that God became breakable and fragile. God became someone we could hurt. Why? To get us back. And if you believe this and take it into your life, you’re blessed. As you take in the truth of what he did for you—how loved and affirmed you are—you’ll be able to let down your defenses in your own relationships with other people. You won’t always need to guard your honor. You’ll be able to let down the barriers down. You’ll be able to move into intimate relationships with other people.

What is in the package of Christmas? His vulnerability for intimacy with us, which gives us the vulnerability to be intimate with the people around us. If you believe in Christmas—that God became a human being—you have an ability to face suffering, a resource for suffering that others don’t have.

~~ Tim Keller

Christmas Suffering

We sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just end suffering. But we know that whatever the reason, it isn’t one of indifference or remoteness. God so hates suffering and evil that he was willing to come into it and become enmeshed in it.

Dorothy Sayers wrote, ‘For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – he [God] has the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with this creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.’

The gift of Christmas gives you a resource – a comfort and consolation – for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering with us and for us.

~ Tim Keller