Monday, January 12, 2009

What Are We Like?

I had a good conversation with a dear friend today. Among other things she touched on the subject of our nature as people. I’m using that as a springboard for a couple of thoughts that have been jogging up and down my head for the last three years at least.

What we think of ourselves heavily influences our approach to issues of life – both on a personal and a corporate level. For Christians in particular it can sway the way we read the Bible and think about God which as you can appreciate just puts a whole set of challenges in itself. At the moment as a church we’re going through the basic doctrines we hold to establish the foundation on which a lot of other things can grow.

My journey of faith up to this point has seen varied approaches to the issue. Without it being explicitly stated, there was a thought, as I grew up that unless you’re a Christian, you’re actually doomed because in fact you’re nothing but a low down dirty sinner headed in the wrong direction with no redeeming features. Joining the YMCA in 2006 bought me into a company of people who held a radically different view. Here the thinking was that every human is precious and made in the image of God and that in itself means that people cannot be seen as being basically bad, but at worst misguided and it’s just to re-direct them through faith and good works to what they are capable of. Into the mix thinkers and theologians throw in the argument about free will and how God won’t interfere with the decisions we make and merely woos us back to him and we are capable of responding to the wooing of our own accord and freely choose to come to Him.

One of the things about studying the Bible and in essence growing in knowing God is to never be too certain about certain things. There have to be some basics worth holding onto, but for everything else it’s best to take a lead by what the whole account of the Bible would highlight as reflected in the works of those who have dedicated themselves to pursuing God. The comments that follow do not constitute a closed creed on the issue but does indicate where I am at the moment on the topic.

From the beginning the life of man depended on the breath of God. Literally in Him we live, move and have our being. All that we’re capable of is down to Him basically but that connection to God by His breath has been severed by sin which leaves us in a precarious position. Still made in the image of God, our act of rebellion, however, leaves us at the whims of our ungodly (not-god-like) desires. We have not chosen to go the way of God and indeed we’re not inclined to go His way despite His expressed signs of grace. The whole concept of salvation doesn’t make sense without allowing for that – as far as I know anyway, especially based on what I’ve read in the Bible. Sin isn’t just an act it’s an entire default setting. It doesn’t mean we’re incapable of good acts it does mean we are incapable of being good. Even Jesus said so Himself.

So for all the good acts, it’s never been the acts alone that has been pleasing to the Father it has been the heart also. Sadly scripture indicates that the state of the human heart isn’t that commendable in God’s eyes at all. Hence the need for salvation, hence the need for Jesus and hence the need for a new life based on living by reconnection to God by His very Spirit living inside of us. How that happens is all down to God. He speaks and makes us alive again to respond in faith and from there the process of sanctification brings us to the place of at least acknowledging the new heart in us that desires to please God and not ourselves.

There are some quaint terms used in this conversation that are fascinating, like total depravity – that’s a beauty. At present I’m convinced by what they have to say again without saying that means people are just rubbish and do no good at all – that blatantly is not the case. What is the case is that for all of our best efforts, sincere sentiments and good intentions it never measures up to the standards of God which are the only standards worth living to. We know there lurks within us such dark and vile thoughts, such annoying and hurtful attitudes and a history of words and actions that have caused misery, grief and pain that we cannot hide from the fact that we’re in desperate need for help in the deepest part of our being. Thus it’s in our best interests to hear again the message of the gospel that says though our sins be as scarlet they can be made white as snow by accepting and trusting the saving work of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do.

So that’s why the song
‘Sinner Saved By Grace’ means so much to me. (By the way there are three other decent versions available online worth checking featuring the Cathedrals you can check an old one here excusing the bad dub, the newer one here and the Gaither Gathering version here.) It reflects a reality to me as I understand it at this moment. Yes I am a child of the King, yes I am a joint heir with Jesus and indeed I am the righteousness of God. This does not negate from the fact though I am a sinner saved by grace. My life is lived out of gratitude for what has been done for me by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Any claims to accolades of any sort for any good done goes to the credit of the love of a Father who gave His very best so that I could be reconnected to Him and fulfil that for which I was created.

For His Name’s Sake

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