Friday, March 27, 2009

Completion equals Freedom

Well hello there! It has been awhile. I am ecstatic to be on a forty-eight hour pass right now, due to my completion of the first three levels of Minnesota Teen Challenge, and moving in to level four last Monday. God's Grace has sustained me and will continue to.
I turned 25 two weeks ago, that was fairly uneventful yet held a meaningful reverence in my heart and mind that evening. I was on a men's advance trip with all the men from my house. As I sat in the chapel around one a.m., I reflected on the last twenty-five years of my life. I am so grateful for the place in life that God has me at right now. The "fun" or "experience" aka Sin. Took it's toll and had its time. And now it is time for God. It is time for growth, faith, wisdom and passion. The last two weeks, the week prior to level four and my first week of level four have been critical.
I received a birthday card from Renee's family with a gift card to target and some cash in it. With the cash I bought a thinline trutone esv bible, I have the study esv bible, but it weighs like 17 pounds and i have not been down in the gym lately. And I bought a book called "Whiter than Snow" 52 meditations on sin and mercy, by Paul David Tripp. I highly recommend this book. It gives us a wonderful yet shameful picture of our continued lives of sin. And an even more amazing crafted masterpiece called God's Mercy. So I was reading this a few days ago, i am reading one a day, so it was the fourth day of this, and I just want to share a few quotes. That for lack of sugar coating, cut me to the core, and brought me to my knees.

So i just spent a minute trying to decide what to quote and what not to, and came to the conclusion that it would be unjust to not share it all. So i am going to sacrifice my desire to take short cuts, and submit and type it all out.

4. Big Grace
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 51:5

What a devastating and hard to swallow description! Maybe you had it happen to you? A friend tells you he wants to talk to you, and when you get together, you realize that what he really wanted to do was confront you. You're no really excited about being told bad things about yourself, but this is your friend, so you're willing to listen. As he begins to lay our his concerns, you begin to feel pain inside. You can't believe what you are being told about yourself. Silently and inwardly you begin to rise to your own defense. You marshal arguments that you are a better person than the one being described. You want to believe that what you are hearing is a distortion, lacking in accuracy and love, but you know you can't. You're devastated because deep down you know it's true. Deep down you know that God has brought this person your way. Deep down you know what you are being required to consider is an accurate description of yourself.

Such a description is found in Genesis 6:5, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
What a devastating description! It's hard to swallow, isn't it? You want to think that this biblical description is of the people who are more sinful sinners that you and I are. But this verse is not describing a super-sinner class. No, it is a mirror into which every human being is meant to look and see himself. It is capturing in a few powerful words what theologians call "total depravity."
Now, total depravity doesn't mean that as sinners we are as bad as we could possibly be. No, what it actually means is that sin reaches to every aspect of our Person hood. It's damage of us is total. Physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, motivationally, socially, we have been damaged by sin. Its ravages are inescapable and comprehensive. No one has dodged its scourge, and no one has been partially affected. We are all sinners. It reaches to every aspect of what makes us us. Sadly, when each of us looks into the mirror of Genesis 6:5, we see and accurate description of ourselves.
Now, you have to ask yourself: Why is Genesis 6:5 so hard to accept? Why do we spontaneously rise to our own defense? why are you and i devastated when our weakness, sin, and failure are pointed out? Why do we find confrontation and rebuke painful even when they are done in love? Why do we want to believe that we are in the good class of sinners? Why do we want to believe that we are deprived, but not depraved? Of that we are depraved, but not totally? Why do we find comfort in pointing to people who appear to be worse sinners than we are? Why so we make up self-atoning revisions of our own history? Why do we erect self-justifying arguments for what we have said or done? Why do we turn the tables when someone points our a wrong, making sure that they know that we know that we're not the only sinner in the room? Why do we line up all the good things we've done as to counter-balance for the wrong that is being highlighted?
Why is this all so hard to accept?
There's only on answer to all of these questions. There's only one conclusion that fits. We find this all so hard to accept because we studiously hold onto the possibility that we're more righteous that the Bible describes us to be. When we look into the mirror of self-appraisal, the person we tend to see is a person who is more righteous that any of us actually is!
We were at the end of a wonderful service at Tenth Presbyterian Church that had been punctuated by a powerful sermon from the Ten Commandments. I immediately turned to my wife at the end of the service and said, "I am so glad our children were here to hear that sermon!" She didn't even have to say anything to me. She simply gave me that look. You know, the one that says, "I can't believe you are actually saying what you are saying." Immediately I felt embarrassed and grieved. I had happened to me so subtly and quickly. I had placed my self out side the circle of the sermon's diagnosis. I had accepted the fact that whatever Exodus and Phil Ryken were describing did not include me. And I was glad that the people in my family who really needed the diagnosis had been in attendance.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2). If the Bible's description is accurate, then God's grace is our only hope. Thank God that he has given us big grace! Each one of us needs grace that's not only big enough to forgive our sin, but also powerful enough to free us from the self-atoning prison of our own righteousness. We're not only held captive by our sin, but also by the delusion of our righteousness. Resting in God's grace isn't just about confessing your sin; it's about forsaking your righteousness as well. So we all need the big grace that's found only in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must all, with humility, say to the God of big grace, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me....Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:5,2). And then rest in His righteousness alone.

Well there she is! I will leave it at that for now. My God's grace guide you and keep you.
Pray for me, that I submit to God's will in my graduation planning!