Frustration. Joy. Anger. Wonder. Disappointment. Excitement.
All of these things are profound realities in our lives. We live in this world that is filled with extreme pain and failure as well as moments of such ecstasy that we can hardly contain them. Being that our world is “fallen” because of sin, we live with these polar opposites. All is not as it should be in the world. However, by the power of the cross, we have/and are: been made into new creatures, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit and will one day meet Christ in the complete fulfillment of His glory.
Yet, we are left with these opposites in the now.
Sunday evening in our Adult Disciple Group, we watched an interesting discussion with best-selling author Donald Miller and theology professors Dan Allender and Tremper Longman. Honestly, I must admit that the discussion created more “discussion” among our group of 13 than I would have thought. It was candid and challenging to hear what was happening in our midst. A few of the highlights (at least the ones that really stood out to me) were:
-God works in the desert places of our life. In fact, it is often in the desert that the Gospel
is most fulfilled in our lives
-There is no hope for ultimate fulfillment in this life (we live "east of Eden")
-The struggle we have in this life is that “we” want to be in control and we will go along with God's plans as long as they meet what I want
-We are tempted to misread the Bible as, merely, a self-help book
-If we are not careful we become the very thing that God hates – legalists. Believing that if we do certain things, then God is obligated to bless us.
-The life of Job and so many other faithful followers of God leave us with many unanswered questions about living in this life
-It is frustrating when we encounter folks that have “false expectations” of God and we have met them in those times where they have asked us, “If God is good, why did He let that happen?!” (We struggle with how to answer)
-We struggle over the fact that we believe that if we can get those we care about to church (we tell people, “If you come it will help you.”) then maybe they will get fixed
-We mourn over those same people when they finally come to church and their lives do not get better and they leave. (They must be thinking: “I tried God and he didn't work.”)
-We fear that perhaps we are the ones causing people to have false expectations and it even causes us to not want to say anything at all!
Whew! These are some big issues that we kicked around last night. The discussion did not leave us with merely being depressed because our “discussers” turned the conversation in reminding us that we are called to “fear God” and to understand that our hope is in the resurrection of Christ.
Yes, we have many unanswered questions. Yes, we struggle when things are difficult. Yes, we fail to have the “right” answers when asked tough questions. Yet, it seems to me that many in the room Sunday night have come to learn in the midst of all those realities that Jesus and His Grace are sufficient.
Why? Because we have come to understand the perspective we must have about our lives as shared by Dan Allender. The starting point of our lives is to understand that we are not the creator but the creature. We live “east of Eden” because of sin and left in that sin, we will continue to be apart from God. In that condition, the might, loving God acts on our behalf to justify us through His Son.
Practically speaking, we have to remind ourselves to what are we inviting people. Yes, we want them to come and be apart of Arabi Baptist Church. However, what we really want is for them to come and follow Jesus in the forgiveness of sin. We know that anything the people we care about substitute for Jesus will fail them. We are not always completely sure that what we think or have to say to them will be right. However, Peter, James, John, Stephen, Irenaeus, Caedmon, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, Lottie Moon, Billy Graham, and generation after generation of followers of Christ have been convinced that the Gospel is enough and it is worth going to great lengths in order to communicate in this painful, joyful, frustrating and wonderful world!
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23