Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sovereign

One of my key beliefs is in the sovereignty of the human will (Genesis 1:27).

I believe in the sovereignty of God; he is all powerful and holds the whole creation together. God is good.

I see in the act of creation, the incarnation and salvation sovereign acts of self limitation (Philippians 2:1-11). I strongly feel that God has limited himself for the glory of his wonderful grace and that all our wills are created sovereign. This is one way I understand being made in the image of God.

God’s will is supremely free. His will is not bound. To exercise free will, our sovereign wills  bind to his sovereign will. Free will does not mean we exercise our will outside the will of God. Our will is only free, I believe, when the will of God is sovereignly our will. This is how I understand the mystery of God, creator and God made flesh.

The futility of sin is the fact that our wills are no longer free but bound by the slavery of selfishness and disobedience to the call of God. Our concept of self determination cloaks free will with the idea that we are free to sin. We are not free when we sin, we are made free in Christ so that we do not sin.

Jesus sets people free and commands them to go on their way and sin no more. While we are still sinners and bound by sin, we are forgiven and our experience of love and acceptance illuminates our life so that we have the hope of salvation. Sin no more, is a command to us based on the grace of forgiveness(1 John 3:1-10). But God does not take away the gift of our sovereign wills, we still need to turn to him.

Believing in Christ, we never lose the promise of salvation as we struggle with sin. Belief in Christ is a moment of peace and joy, an experience that sets us on the way to be imitators of Jesus; to be holy as he is holy. Believing in Christ is the creation of a new identity from which our sovereign identity grows. It is a decision to follow Christ, to be faithful to him (John 3:16-18). The battle begins as our character and circumstances are challenged and the gift is, our hearts are turned from stone to flesh. We hear the perpetual call, Go, and sin no more.

This is a simple command; go, and sin no more (John 8:11); be holy as I am holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). It is a call to imitation, to realise the divine image within all of us. Jesus’ teaching is easy and its outworking light.  Jesus says, love God with every fibre of your being and love everyone else (Mark12:30-31).

It is a true metaphor that speaks of arming ourselves for this life. Life is not easy but Jesus’ message is (Romans 13:12). We need every defence and weapon available, as, for some of us, we meet failure after failure and despair upon despair. Some struggle against circumstances and suffer. Others, if not all, struggle with the heavy burden of self. Our hurts and disappointments and the hidden world of our experience crowd in on the truth of who we are in Christ as we stumble and stumble again. For some of us, that one word of belief, that single word of freedom, is all we have in the struggle. But it is enough; it is the seed planted in good soil which is not strangled.

Our confidence is in God, as in Christ we are new creations hidden in him. As we set our hearts to forgive and be kind, yet feel nothing; as we seek to serve others and only feel failure, we know that, even so, in Christ we are saved. God may invade us with supernatural revelation but he will not take control and enslave us to it. He may reveal himself through miracles and supernatural encounters but he will not take away grace and bind us to the repeat of transient experiences. God limits his sovereignty for the glory of his wonderful grace so that we might freely bind ourselves to his will.

When everything else falls around our ears, the word of faith; the still, small, quiet voice, speaks, …My burden is easy and my yoke is light. He does not say pull yourself together and cheer up he says, …Come to me (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows your heart; it is his new creation and he will never let go (John 10:27-30).

This is love, that I am free to love. This is power that I am free to take up my cross and follow Christ. This is grace that I am freed to live in Christ.

Provocations

Kierkegaard made an art of writing short provocative parables designed to shake us out of our comfort zone. He is often quoted, but not much read. To download a book for free visit Plough Books. From him you will gain the insight that,

There are people who handle the ideas they pick up from oth­ers so frivolously and disgracefully that they ought to be pros­ecuted for illegal exchange in lost and found property.

And so in the fear of prosecution I will share the words of others on two of Jesus’ parables; the treasure found in the field, reburied, everything sold, and the field scurrilously bought to obtain the treasure and the pearl of great price, which the merchant sold everything to obtain. (Matthew 13:44-46)

Nouwen notes in The Inner Voice of Love that having found the treasure and experienced its value you have to leave it and sell everything to obtain it;

You can only seek God when you have already found God. The desire for God’s unconditional love is the fruit of having been touched by that love.

Bonhoffer writes,

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.

Ortiz in his book Disciple combines this teaching with Matthew 16:24-25 to teach that we get to keep everything but now it is radically under the ownership of Christ.

Rollins in the Orthodox Heretic says that Kierkegaart reflected that if you have sold everything to obtain the treasure you now have nothing, as the pearl only has value if you sell it, the one thing you are bound not to do. Having obtained the pearl you are now materially destitute whilst possessing something really precious.

Sometimes we run away from simple meaning and construct a wall between us and the message…

Whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Kierkegaard writes;

All our Bible learning has become nothing but a fortress of excuses and escapes. When it comes to existence, to obedience there is always something else we have to first take care of. We live under the illusion that we must first have the interpretation right or the
belief in perfect form before we can begin to live – that is, we never get around to doing what the Word says.

Egg McMuffin

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Grapes in my garden

Woke early this morning, early enough to walk out into the countryside before going to church. What a wonderful morning; the leaves just turning and the hedgerows bright with berries. The dew was heavy and the sun shine was fresh and clean.

We walked towards the airport and breakfasted at McDonalds. Conversation turned towards thorny issues and the mess that is life. I had read Psalm 55 before heading out and I mused on the idea of being taken up on the wings of a dove and escaping into the peace and silence of the wilderness; the place of reflection and reforming (Psalm 55:6-8).

Walking back, anticipating going to church and our particular form of worship, I reflected on how worship is called out of that place of beauty and peace,  a place of grace where we know God. Luther taught that our righteousness does not do God’s work but God’s righteousness brings forth the fruit that is God’s work. Put simply he said it is the tree that swells the fruit. Jesus taught he was the Way, the Truth and the Life and that we are to worship in Spirit and in Truth.

We are in the time when we are called to worship where we are, from who we are in God. The tree is not the institution we attend it is the heart we bring with us. What a privilege it is that we can look within and explore our Inner Land and cry, beautiful! because of the work of Christ. All hearts strive for this peace; this light, and it is found in Jesus.

As I walked up the road, a cyclist came towards me, sat up on his bike, freewheeling, and cried, lovely! Let worship begin.