Friday, January 12, 2018

Astonished at Grace, Expecting the Same.

It is good to be back from vacation, though I will confess that coming back there is always that moment, when facing the mound of things to do, you wonder if it was worth going away 😃! Nevertheless it could not be more exciting to come back and be into the heart of this missions emphasis month! Everywhere I look there are things to remind us of the vastness of our world, the importance of our call, and ultimately of the goodness of our Lord.

Seeing, reading and hearing all the testimonies of God’s power to change hearts and lives has made me reflect a bit on why I am often slow to believe that he will show up here, in Grand Rapids, in the lives of the weary and the wayward. I wonder if part of my problem in believing the power of God has to do with my own lack of astonishment at the grace he has shown me. When I look over my list of accomplishments for the kingdom, when I compare myself with others who are battling obvious sins and addiction, when I read the news with a judgmental spirit about “those people”; I secretly pat myself on the back for being deserving, at least a little, of being one of God’s chosen. Isn’t he lucky to have ME on his team.

The problem with this way of thinking is obvious. For starters it is incredibly shortsighted to highlight only my strengths and not focus on the MANY ugly aspects of being Andrew. I am easily irritated. I waste time. I idolize sports. I even idolize myself. I frequently avoid sacrifice, even when I know it is the right thing to do. I fight the same battle with lust that many men fight. I take advantage of my wife’s giving nature. And what’s worse, these are only the appetizer portion of the full menu of my sin! When I fail to deal honestly with this, I ultimately rob myself of the chance to be astonished by the power of his grace and short-circuit my expectation that Jesus can work in the hearts of the profoundly weary and profoundly wayward. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 lays out a laundry list of sins and sinners: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers; and he affirms that these labels fit the Corinthians. But then he turns the corner and says “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Being astonished at grace is the recipe for expecting change in the heart of the lost. Paul’s own mission and expectation of the power of the gospel was driven by the realization that he was “the foremost of sinners” (cf. I Tim 1:15). The equation might go something like this: little knowledge of our sin equals a need for a very little Jesus--  which leaves us with little expectation for the power of the Gospel to manifest itself. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16). Praise be to him!

These reflections come in the flow of our missions emphasis. Throughout this month we will be encouraged by what God is doing in the world, but also invited/challenged to step into God’s call! To help us gain this broader perspective we will be hearing from different speakers, preachers, presenters over the next 3 weeks. This week we will hear from Justin Beene who is the Founding Director of the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, in the worship service. And our own Dan Churchwell, a teacher with the Acton Institute. Their focus will be on Grand Rapids as our most immediate mission field. Next week we will hear from Dr. Stephen Um, pastor of CityLife PCA in Boston and director of Redeemer PCA’s worldwide City to City program. And we will finish with Dr. Greg Perry, who is currently serving with Third Millennium ministries.

The grace of our God is so good! I look forward to seeing you this Lord’s Day.

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