I tend to be dense, sometimes.
Over the last two years, at least, I’ve noticed a theme in God’s work in my life. A lesson, as it were, He spends all year drumming in to my head. And usually it takes a while for me to notice I’m still in class, as it were.
Last year, it was around this time that I started really realizing all God’s work in my life was not just Him being nice or more obvious about His niceness.
Rather it was Him trying to drum into my head some slight concept of his Glory and Sovereignty.
If you followed this blog for any period of time, you know I spent three weeks in Italy from the end of December 2006 into January 2007. Right before New Years I was separated from my friends in Pisa. I ended up in Rome and due to communication issues (they had the cell phone, I had the pay phone) we were unable to find each other and meet again.
I was faced with a large bill for housing that used all my cash reserves only 5 days into the trip and no idea where I should go. After panicking for a day, I tried tracking my friends down in Naples and then returned to Venice to spend the balance of the time.
After trying unsuccessfully to find an airplane ticket back prematurely, I was able to reach my credit card companies and inform them (again) that I was over seas and they should unlock my accounts because it was me making those charges, as I’d told them I would a week previous.
Things being resolved financially, I proceeded to spend the rest of my time in Italy wandering the streets of Venice, usually away from the standard tourist haunts and byways. It was a quiet time of reflection and observation. For me this was a big thing. I have at times been nearly co-dependent in my relationships, even with ‘just friends’ and to have a period where I was completely incapable of being dependent was freeing.
Prior to leaving for Italy, I’d determined that this was a good time to put in motion another long-thought plan: returning to Chicago, for good. After returning to the states I packed my belongings in my car and drove across the country in the middle of winter. Sans heater.
Arriving safely in Chicago I was at the generosity of friends in the area until I found jobs and found my feet under me again.
Grace came into my life soon thereafter, and life has continued to progress since then.
But as I mentioned, about this time last year I came to realize God’s overwhelming interest in my life.
We go about our ways assuming that at least some of the world revolves around us, and we around others. If we’re really humble we think only a little bit of the world revolves around us.
But God is the only thing important. To the extent that three possibilities are true:
- Some of the world revolves around us,
- We revolve around others, or
- None of the world revolves around us
…we have an incorrect perspective of the nature of God, and all of creations’ relationship to Him.
He is the end-all and be-all. He is the only one for whom the universe was created, because it was through Him and His planned, considered and definite action that we, or anything we naturally perceive, came to be.
To the extent that we see ourselves defined by or defining others, we are denying God’s ultimate definition of our lives: To Glorify Him.
“What is the chief end of man?” asks the Westminster Catechism: “To glorify God and praise Him forever.”
After realizing the lessons God had for me seemed to be along a common theme, it was exciting to look forward to how He’d next reveal Himself to me, and amazing to look back at His awesome provision, protection, and guidance.
But perhaps the biggest thing was to realize I’m not a power-player in this story of His abundant love. I’m not even a regular player. Nor do I have a bit part. Not even a walk on.
God is the one and only actor in His story. In His mysterious grace and mercy He has chosen to have a relationship with me, but not for my sake.
The bible over and over again says that it is for His names’ sake, for His glory, for His purpose and according to His will, that things happen and events occur.
My best hope is to follow His lead, accept His direction, and hang on for the ride.
It’s not about me.
Which then brings us to this year.
Pastor Rob found the Lord leading him to set the vision of the church this year to be one of purpose: purpose in our lives individually and corporately.
The sermon series in my bible study group, 631, is on James and it’s central tenet of the deadness of faith apart from works.
And in the sermons at church, the studies at 631, the lessons from books and passages I’ve meditated on have all pointed to salvation being so much more than what I found I’d assumed it to be.
Salvation is not a train ticket: punched once and ready for the trip.
Salvation does indeed begin, in our human perception, at a point in time. It is confirmed in our praying to admit our own guilt and accept Christ’s act of redemption and forgiveness and justification.
But it is also a continuing action.
A study of James’ and Paul’s teachings on works and faith and their balance in the life of a believer will show that faith is defining term in our moment of salvation, and that works are the evidence by which others will see our faith proved throughout the rest of our lives.
And then it isn’t about me or you or even us.
God didn’t had Jesus die because He needed us to be forgiven or justified or saved. Jesus died because God wanted to glorify Himself throughout this meager sweep that is human history. It has been often said that the most defining point in time for the entire world has been when Jesus died on the cross to glorify God.
God’s glory was brought about in the act of sacrifice in that it was His will that the chasm between God and His creation be bridged, and His further glory that He bridge that gap Himself. He was the only One who could, the only One who would, and the only One who succeeded.
So in Him choosing me and drawing me into His salvation, what do I give? Not to pay Him back, or settle a debt, because there is no way I can do either of those things. But to seek to bring further glory to the One God who chose me.
Everything. That is all I can give.
So when I do not give Him everything, as I have not, and continue to hold back, am I saved?
I know I am saved, because His Spirit bears witness in my spirit that I am a forgive child of God engaged in a justified life of sanctification.
So, looking forward, I expect that God will continue to reveal new, exciting, and convicting perspectives on His nature as revealed through His work of Salvation.