Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There but for the grace of God...

One of the most astounding passages of scripture in the whole New Testament is also one of the best known. It's a "WOW" passage for me. Always has been. I'm talking about the opening verses of the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul tells us that popular spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues and prophecy, and faith that can move mountains, and total sacrifice of possessions and body - all pale to insignificance when there is no love in the heart. He says that without love "I am nothing" and "I gain nothing." I have always simply thought of that as a hyperbole to elevate the importance of love. Come on! Move mountains? Give all possessions to the poor? Giving up your body to be burned alive! That's pretty heavy stuff. It certainly dwarfs anything I do in the name of Jesus! But here's the deal: the context is Christians who have been given spiritual gifts as tools to help them draw close to God, but they started focusing on the tool and forgetting purpose! THAT'S WHY IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE! Everything He has given us was meant to help us know Him, understand Him, and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Any spiritual thing we do, should be part of that desire to seek Him, or it becomes a ritual, an act of self-righteousness "to be seen of men," or at worst blatant hypocrisy and/or idolatry. If it's not contributing to our awareness of the presence of God, deepening our relationship with Him, and helping us become like Him, to use Paul's words, "I gain nothing." God must be in the private corners of our life or we will allow secret sin to move in. My heart aches for Ted and all the crushed spirits of his church in Colorado. The news media "stars" were salivating over another scandal - another opportunity to ridicule faith and values, but we need to ignore embarrassment and embrace the Father with open hearts, clear consciences, and the peace that only comes from letting His light shine in all the dark corners of our soul. I believe with all my heart that secret sin is Satan's most powerful tool in destroying Christians. He uses the shallow nature of external faith. He feeds our brain the idea that if other Christians don't know what we're doing, thinking, feeling, or committing - and our spiritual acceptance is intact, there's no need to confront and confess the sin. But secret sin is the worst kind of faithlessness because it ignores a real and present God! One doesn't have to "come out of the closet" for God because He knows exactly what's in the closet. Remember, He's the One who told us to go there and pray (Matt.6)! Love God's people and love everything about His church, but love Him enough to seek Him in the secret places. He's not interested in the "resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." He waiting to hear the whisper of a wounded heart asking Him into the dark places where pride, greed, lust, and lies are spiritual tumors. Isn't it wonderful to know that there's not a spot anywhere that His love and grace cannot reach. There are no secrets with God. I can't think of any reason why there should be any secrets with His children either! "Father, keep me from secret sin!" For God, that's an oxymoron. For me, it's a passionate petition.

2 comments:

Sherry said...

"started focusing on the tool and forgetting purpose! THAT'S WHY IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE! Everything He has given us was meant to help us know Him, understand Him, and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Any spiritual thing we do, should be part of that desire to seek Him," Wow! thanks I needed that. It's another time in my life when you have said something and I am sitting here saying "it's so simple yet so profound --how did I not think of that.

MaryAnn said...

AMEN!!!!!!! SOOOO many things (including your precious middle child) as of late have been remindind me of this. Thank you,Mike, for your words and thank you dear Lord, for wanting us JUST as we are... AND for giving us people in our lives that show your love by accepting us over and over again!!!