Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Theological Calibration on Life

So, I'm a seminary student, and part of the curricula is to engage in a mentoring program that fosters character growth spiritually. I chose this semester to work on that aspect of faith for the Christian regarding confidence and identity, where the believer not only knows about God's grace, but responds to Him with adoration and service. I described it as actualizing the Scriptural description of being "more than [a conqueror.]" Romans 8:34-39 says this:

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I wish to start my calibration from the Scriptures with this truth from Paul. We can have the confidence that Paul had (and exhorted the Romans to have) because Jesus intercedes continually for us, who trust in Him. It says that in Hebrews 7:25 as well: "Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." The love of God rests on the Son; the love of God is in Christ Jesus! So if Jesus is interceding and acting as a mediator between us and the Father, then who or what can separate us from the intimate love our gracious God offers us? The answer is nothing!

I need to own this more than I do. I often fall into thinking that my sin separates me from God. That even sounds biblical. But the truth is that I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and He dwells in me. In grace, He reveals truth to me and patiently waits for me to truly own it. I can grieve the Holy Spirit in me and silence Him for a time, but grace trumps sin. That is, in part, the gospel.

I started this semester more energetic than normal for me, and sought to completely alter my character, eliminating my flaws through a systematic evaluation of every lie and stronghold from the Enemy. I based this off of 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, where it says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." I do recognize that many of the character flaws I have are due to me agreeing with the lies that intend to deter me away from God (at least from my perspective). I planned to use this semester to attack every thought and test it to the knowledge of God, to see if it was contrary to Scripture.

Well, that got exhausting and lost a lot of steam after a few weeks. That, and the excitement wore off. I still think it is a valid and useful practice and that I need to do that often, but I realize now that I was operating more out of my own ability and strength than allowing the Holy Spirit to simply nudge me when I was buying into a lie. I whole-heartedly believe that God gave us the Spirit in order to serve us. He receives great joy from doing so. How often do we feel like a burden to God for being such a mess? I feel this way, as if God will breathe a sigh of relief when we finally arrive and no longer sin. What a lie! My heart, please understand how treasured I am to God!

One thought I have taken captive was this great plan I developed for myself to realize a more godly character. I developed an ideal Michael in my mind as to what I would be like fully living for God. This Michael was joyful, inviting, assertive and outgoing, readily eager to share the good news of Jesus as God with us. I imagined that I needed to be a bubbly extrovert...

I'm not a extrovert. I can't muster it. With the help of my mentor, I began to realize that there are some aspects of my personality that do not need redeeming. I do not need to operate by default as one who pursues strangers for the gospel. This is not to say that I am off the hook from God ever wanting me to serve in that role, but I don't need to become one who feeds off of such interactions... quite the opposite occurs, in that it takes a lot of energy to play that type for me. That yoke would not be too easy.

So what of one of my goals to initiate conversation with random strangers with the intent of sharing my faith (at least twice a month all semester)? I had the grandest intentions... but whenever I found myself in a cafe` or bookstore around such people, it felt disingenuous in that I would more be serving my needs, in fact I'd be using them, to "better" myself. A forced gospel presentation is not authentic and edifying, it is means to a selfish end, if not motivated out of a genuine love for neighbor.

Also, as I found from Scripture, those encounters I imagined having are out of context with where and how the disciples witnessed. Throughout the account in Acts, when Christ's apostles and others were sharing the gospel, there was occasion for it that was fitting to the environment. Peter and others taught at the Temple almost exclusively. In that culture, religious centers acted as a recreational hang out, and the topic of discussion was religion! If I were to intrude on the man at the coffee shop, interrupting his reading to force God on Him, I would not be aligned with the Scriptural model given me. Now if this person was reading a Bible or some other Spiritual literature, and looked perplexed, I have more of a legitimate context for engaging in conversation, as there is a logical link.

So, I am in need of adjusting me contract goal to better suit my purpose. I need to be willing and available for God talk, but within an appropriate context. I have the thought to offer a Bible study and meal at my apartment once a week to my neighbors, the vast majority I do not know or interact with. By offering such fellowship, I anticipate it would meet several needs for my neighbors, and there would be no pressure or awkwardness to respond to a piece of paper. Who knows how many might need and want social interaction who otherwise gets very little? Who knows how many might have questions about God? Who knows how many might just need a meal?

This might flop, but I'm going to give it a try. The point is that I try to be a person I would want to encounter. I feel compelled to share what hope and joy I receive from God, and alleviate the hurt of this world by offering guidance toward the Cure. Is this not the Great Commission, to immerse and submerge and dunk everyone in the Name and subject of the Triune God, to His glory?

2 comments:

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