Saturday, 3 July 2010

Seeing and believing

On Wednesday night I went to my house group (a Bible study group that meets in someone's house). As we were looking at John 9 it struck me how easy it easy to get everything totally wrong. Let me explain.

The Jewish Pharisees were so sure their rules of religion were right that when God showed up among them, they discounted him - and worse, opposed him. His work amongst people did not fit into their ideas about what kind of activities could be carried out on the Sabbath - and some held this against him, seeing his new way as undermining what they "knew" to be God's way.

Their desperation with the situation and growing hatred of Jesus is apparent, yet He is the one they must wake up and see is God.

The contrast in the chapter is of course with the man whom Jesus has freed from blindness, who answers their questions plainly and as best he can. His words start to point out the Pharisees' spiritual blindness!

There's a whole lot here to learn about how we must relate to God: humbly, coming to Him for salvation. The gospel comes and it offers a message which is bitter to someone who is confident in their own righteousness. It points us to the ways we have all failed God's standards because it's the inward thoughts and intentions of the heart towards God and others which matter most.

The sweet good news of salvation comes though God's free gift. He initiates rescue, and the Pharisee or the self-righteous can't do a thing to save themselves - we all must only accept this gift by accepting the great Saviour Jesus and coming under his rule. He achieves our salvation by the cross - we merely throw ourselves at his feet and receive this work of grace into our lives.

May I never NEVER never forget this Lord of love and his gift of grace. As I see what He has done, my desire increases for Him. And so I try hard to follow Him in my life.


The sequel to thoughts like this is living this out in reality. Sadly in reality, my desire for and love of God is far too weak. At times I will serve God forgetting that I rely on him and, as Tim Keller describes in his excellent book The Prodigal God, I'll try to control God by doing things I think should please him. And I'll get frustrated when things go wrong.

There's much work still to be done on my heart. I need to tell myself that I need Jesus. Above all else. I need Him as He is my only salvation.

Another thing that spins out of this is how we show this message to others. How do we show people that while being good is important, it's the inner life towards God and others that matters the most? How do we model grace (as Ed Moll recently described it in a talk at my church)? How do we show the love of God instead of dishing out approval or disapproval based on outward behaviour, like the Pharisees would have done? How do we show that God accepts us when we have broken all the rules - when I have broken all the rules? Can we be as accepting of others as He is, and yet, of course, never saying that evil behaviour is right in any way.

I think the way I relate to others rarely shows this. I'm sure that people around me still get the impression that the way I relate to them will depend on their behaviour towards me - this will determine whether I give my approval. Surely God's way is far better! I should love and keep loving whether I approve or not, whether I am treated well or not! I should be patient, generous, giving, listening, bearing with others, when it's far too easy to fit in with the expected culture which shows either that it does not care about a person and their lifestyle, or that the lifestyle ought to be of a certain standard in order for me to pay attention to the the person in question.

If anyone has done some further thinking about how to model grace in relationships, let me know!

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