Monday, July 03, 2006

My Consistency; My Sufficiency Pt.2

Growing up in the south as I did and growing up very poor, one of the staples in our household was grits. We didn't eat grits everyday but we did have them occasionally. We also had another breakfast food that Mom called "mush." Mush is another corn product like grits only ground to an almost powder like substance. Here in the south one can order grits in any restaurant that serves breakfast. And believe it or not, there are southerners who do not like grits or mush for breakfast; they prefer hashbrowns or "home fries."

When I was a drummer with a rock 'n roll band our bass player and I were best buds and we shared an apartment together. Not long after becoming friends and bandmates we went to breakfast with the band after playing a "gig" one night. I ordered grits with my eggs and my buddy, George, said he didn't like grits. I was stunned. I asked him why and he said he didn't like the "consistency" of grits. That was the first time I had ever heard the word consistency and grits used in the same sentence. And like my friend not liking the grits because of their consistency, the consistency of my Christian life is one of the things I do not like about the Christian life. But I learned years ago that there is a wonderful relationship between the consistency and sufficiency in Jesus Christ and the inconsistent life I now live, as Paul said, "in the flesh" (Gal.2:20). Galatians 2:20 isn't Paul expressing a wish, but a fact.

If I as a Christian, am focused on my consistency or inconsistency and am persuaded that God's love and grace are given to me on the basis of my being consistent, then I have redefined (for myself, at least), the meaning of the cross, i.e., grace, justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, propitiation (the satisfying of God's wrath completely in Jesus Christ), peace with God, the love of God, and the words of Christ on the cross, "It is finished" (Rom.5;Jn.19:30). And for all true believers who think that their performance makes God love them more or less, then we are perched precariously upon the precipice of the deep abyss of a joyless, yea, miserable, Christian life.

After David began living in adultery with Bathsheeba, and after he murdered her husband, and after Nathan confronted him with his sin, David was rightfully and greatly dismayed. Every time I read 2 Samuel 12 I have the feeling that David was shocked when Nathan said those famous words, "Thou art the man." David was so indignant when he heard about the rich man taking his neighbors little lamb and killing it and offering it to a visitor when the rich man had so many sheep of his own, yet he was so blind to the fact that the story was about him. The next words out of David's mouth (v.13), "I have sinned against the Lord."

But here is the reason behind the story of David being recorded in holy Scripture. When David said, "I have sinned against the Lord," the very next words from the man of God were, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." How fast was that? How long do we wait for God's forgiveness? How long do we, as those who by God's grace have come to faith and sonship in Jesus Christ, think it takes God to ponder what we have done and make a decision about what He is going to do to us? It is that fast! "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn.1:9).

Why does He do it so instantaneously? How can He do it so instantaneously? Because we are "in Christ" and not "in Adam" (1 Cor.15:22); we are "in the Spirit" (Rom.8:9) and not "in the flesh" (understanding that here "in the flesh" refers to our former spiritual condition before by God's grace we were brought to faith in Jesus Christ and not the "in the flesh" as Paul uses it to refer to our remaining human condition while in this mortal body, Gal.2:20); we are "raised up together, and made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:4-6); we are "all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" and when God looks at us He sees us "in Christ" (Gal.3:26-29); and, beloved, "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before 'This is the new covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,' then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.' Now where their is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." This is how and why His forgiveness comes so swiftly; it is called the finished work of Jesus Christ.

He is the "one offering" by which God the Father "has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" and we are the ones being sanctified, beloved! And He is the promised seed of Abraham through whom we have received the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life and adoption into the family of God (Gal.3:26-29; 4:4-7). He is the One that David cried out to in Psalm 51 when he pleaded with God to "have mercy upon me, O God...blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly...cleanse me...purge me...wash me...make me hear joy and gladness...hide Your face from my sins...blot out all my iniquities...create in my a clean heart, O God,...renew a right spirit within not cast me not take Your Holy Spirit from me...restore to me the joy of your salvation...uphold me...deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed." And our merciful and gracious heavenly Father said through His servant Nathan immediately, "The Lord also has put away your sins; you shall not die."

What good is our agony over our sins but for repentance? Yes, we must repent. But our repentance doesn't save us, beloved follower of Jesus Christ. Repentance is our act of obedience to our Lord and Savior who died for our sins, the sins in our past, our present, and our future. Repentance is befitting of those who love the One who died in their place and are genuinely sorry for that sin. Repentance is befitting of those who are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (who Himself did no sin)and whose greatest desire is to bring glory and honor to His name. Repentance is befitting of those who call Him "Lord." Repentance is befitting of those who are acutely aware that their sins were paid for by the suffering of the Son of God on the Roman Cross. And repentance is a gift from God (2 Tim.2:25).

He is our sufficiency and our consistency. I am neither consistent nor sufficient nor adequate of any redeeming value on my own. My consistency and my sufficiency are in Him and in Him alone. And in Him, praise God, I have those things and more. I am and you are, dear Christian, "complete in Him" (Col.2:4-15). We are, beloved, "blessed...with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph.1:3-8). "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal.6:14). We are, dear ones, "redeemed from the curse of the law, ("Christ") having become a curse for us...that the blessing of Abraham might come upon (us) in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal.3:13-14). "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who ALSO MADE US SUFFICIENT as ministers of the new covenant..."

My heart's desire is to draw believers and non-believers to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and not to leave them their but to help them discover and own the blessings that are ours as Christians. My heart aches and breaks when I see or hear about believers suffering for their sins because they are ignorant of all that is ours in Jesus Christ. God is not glorified by His children when they are continually whipping themselves as the Muslims do in order to pay for their sins. What kind of a god is pleased when his followers mutilate themselves thinking that they are indeed pleasing their god and paying for their own sins? How can it possibly glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when His followers know nothing of grace and true repentance and substitutionary atonement? What kind of gospel can we possibly be preaching to our loved ones and any who are around us when we are miserable human beings who call ourselves "Christians?"

It is finished, beloved. We are free in Christ. But I feel compelled to remind all once again that we are not to use our freedom as a cloak for our unrighteousness. The children of God remember, are being conformed to the image of Christ. Does our sin reflect that image? No, indeed, it does not. Has God ever given anyone permission to sin? No, of course not. As John wrote to his readers, so I write to mine, "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 Jn.2:1-2).

I am free in Christ. And rather than finding that freedom to be an encouragement to live in a manner displeasing to God (an odd thought, isn't it?), I have found it to be my greatest source of joy and my greatest incentive toward holiness. As I become more consistent in my walk with the Lord, I find that my joy, my happiness, my contentment without worldly things, cause me to focus on Him and how I can glorify Him. His consistency and faithfulness and sufficiency as applied directly to me in my daily walk also causes me to wish this same experience for others.

The blessings that are ours as believers have a wonderful effect on those around us, don't they? Our "light" shines so "that men may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven."

He is my consistency, my sufficiency, and my adequacy. And His consistency, sufficiency, and adequacy are the sources for my consistency, my sufficiency, and my adequacy. My consistency is improving, like a pot of finely cooked grits.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome Awesome Awesome. Thank god for you, and the holy Spirit continue to fill and guide you.

In His Name