Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Groaning for Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth being compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
. . . .
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
. . . .
We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express... the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
. . . .
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him . . . to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
. . . .
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that [nothing] in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8, excerpts

An unexpected death, a rebellious child, a catastrophic hurricane: every day, we find things to groan about.

Now, I don’t mean griping about your in-laws or your laundry or your weight. I’m talking about the kind of groaning God describes in Romans 8 where, along with all creation and with the Holy Spirit Himself, we groan to see how short this world (and our own heart)falls of His perfection and glory. We cry out to God for justice, righteousness, mercy. We long for heaven.

This creation groans under the weight of sin’s relentless curse; it bears thistles and thorns and unthinkable tragedies. And yet, those groanings are compared with the labor pains of childbirth! The pain which feels unbearable at the time is not a senseless one leading to destruction, but a fruitful pain which will bear life and satisfaction and joy.

Christians groan inwardly as we watch sin break God’s world, the same sin that broke Christ upon a splintered cross. And yet, we do not groan without hope! For we long for what has been guaranteed, for the fullness of what we already have in part: God’s sin-demolishing kingdom, fully realized.

Even God Himself groans with us! After all, how can we know what to pray for when we can’t understand so much of what we see? How can we specifically know what God’s will is for a seriously ill family member or an unemployed friend? Speechless, stunned, we cry out for God’s help in even knowing what to pray. And His Spirit intercedes, in perfect knowledge of God’s will!

The day is coming when our groans will give way to great glory. And as we look toward that day, God guarantees us two things: nothing on earth can pull us away from His love, and everything in our lives is designed to shape us to Christ-likeness.

In light of such powerful promises, may our groanings always be for God’s glory alone.

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

- Psalm 17:15

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Open Letter

To one striving so hard to please God, yet carrying the heavy load of her imperfections:

I know you. I was once where you are: hearing God’s words, "Be holy, for I am holy" and shaking my head, so aware of my imperfection, of the hopelessness of such a command. Driven to serve God to exhaustion, knowing it still wasn’t enough. Convinced that He could not hear my prayer, through the cacophony of all my sin, in spite of all my self-improvement projects. Desperate to realize that I could never pay Him back the way He "deserved." Continually discouraged by the mixed motives, proud thoughts and selfish heart underneath every good thing I did for Him. The burden of serving God with a pure heart was heavier than I realized.

Until five years ago, when He pried my fingers away from that burden, and it dropped and shattered. I understood what I hadn’t for so long: not only did Jesus rescue me from judgment for my sin, not only did He pave the way for a relationship between me and God, but He is — at this very moment — living within me. At this very moment, and forever.

While it’s true that He has called you to holiness, it’s also true that Christ in you has already become your righteousness, your holiness and your redemption (1 Cor 1:30). While it’s true that only a blameless person can come before Him, you have already been declared blameless by Him, because of Him (1 Thess 5:23-24)! You are already worthy to approach God because you have Jesus’ holiness (2 Cor 5:21 & Rom 8:3-4). You are invited to come to Him boldly, with confidence, because Jesus has made you clean (Heb 10:22 & 4:16). He will not turn you away.

He will never love you anymore than He does today, and He has never loved you any less. He loved you when you were his enemy (Rom 5:8) and how much more He loves you now that He has called you His child (1 John 3:1)! His provision for your sin and for mine is more than enough in Christ (2 Cor 12:9). He hears your prayers not because of your perfect obedience, but because of the perfect obedience of His Son.

Because of what Jesus did for you, and is now doing in you as He grows you into Jesus’ beautiful image, you are declared perfect in God’s sight. In the eyes of your perfectly holy Father, you are His holy child.

".... because by one sacrifice
he has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy."
(Hebrews 10:14)