God is letting me feel so much, see so much, of life and me and Him. It has not been with the rosy-hue I am used to holding onto, but more like an investigation of cold, hard facts; uncomfortable realities that splinter your soul, making You need the holy One more than the common illusions of safety and control. Love is taking me on a roller coaster; my God is not Who I have thought He seemed. I’m getting an education, a sorrowful education in what He did, how true love has finally been revealed.
Love in this world is not without sorrow, not without a vulnerability to pain. Yet, what hope do we have without it? Is life worth living?
I used to have a very closed basis for what made life worth living; the elements whose presence made me capable of experiencing full enjoyment. Considering those things now, I see how much fear ruled my life and how little I was able to let love in. Life felt safer when approached fear first, rather than in faith; what then might love seek to do with me?
That question sounds ridiculous now, but that could only be because love has cast out fear, destroying the claim of lies upon my heart with truth. At the time, it was the basis of all my interactions and expectations of relationships, to shelter myself from the perceived negative intentions of others, even God.
But, what do we have to gain in sheltering ourselves according to our own methods of personal security? Certainly not peace. Hope, I think not. Confidence? Not without love.
Love is the secret to discovering all that life was meant to be. But not just any representation of this soul-supply; this does not begin with a virtue we seek to sow within, and cultivate in our behavior, but so much more. This secret is in letting Love, who really is a Person, invade the sequestered quarters of our fearful hearts. It ceases to be about what we can do in and about ourselves, but about God — who’s love for us puts our own to shame — and what He longs to do with our mess.
Because that’s really what we are: a mess. No, our problems are not really with our situations or handicaps or our upbringing or our families. Jesus must have been the most aware of the inadequacies of all these things, yet He was not crippled by them, instead He fulfilled His call with glory that we appreciate all the more because of His background, which corresponds so acutely with our own.
He came to live our life, but without our sin, pleasing God and releasing us from the penalty of sin. With that redemption work comes also the promise of knowing the same freedom from sin’s power as He did. As we grow in Him, stage by stage, we release our flesh to His disposal and receive His Spirit to produce new fruit.
This is the most intense process I know of in life, but I also believe it is what makes life worth living. We can only have so much as we live for ourselves with a close watch on our surroundings. We were not meant to live dominated by fear — a force of Satan that would destroy us — but by love — the began with God pouring Himself out for us in death, that we might submit ourselves to Him in life.
See here the abundance we were meant to know in life, according to God and His gifts, not our own performance or set parameters for survival:
So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:
Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord does not keep score.
Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don’t we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?
Now think: Was that declaration made before or after he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? That’s right, before he was marked. That means that he underwent circumcision as evidence and confirmation of what God had done long before to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.
And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the “outs” with God, as yet unidentified as God’s, in an “uncircumcised” condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called “set right by God and with God”! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God’s action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.
That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.
This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.
We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
Romans 4 (emphasis mine)
19-25Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.