I was listening to Bill Bohline preach on Acts a few weeks back. He discussed 4 general steps that the bible discusses.
- We were created in Gods Image
- The fall: We sinned
- Christ Came: He loves us and came to save and rescue us
- Restoration: Living in the restoration and the victory of the Cross.
Point 1 is generally assumed. Bill said quite often Churches are stuck in points 2 or point 3. The legallist will stay stuck in point 2 wanting to remind people of their sin. Usually, understanding well the new covenant of grace but living functionally in the old covenant of the law. The antinomian will stay stuck on point 3 only wanting to talk about unconditional love and Gods Grace and the new covenant … always forgetting about sin. As I have discussed in previous posts…. the 2 errors of the Gospel are those 2 extremes. Staying stuck on point 2 or 3 both miss opportunities for change and growth in the Gospel message of grace toward sinners.
As is the case for many Martin Luther purists …. we pride ourselves in having the proper biblical distinction between law and gospel and keeping the “bullseye” in front of us!
Bill then made a very good point. He said churches don’t always tell the rest of the story. They don’t often show the rest of the story where Jesus has restored and his people are living in freedom and the victory of the cross …. and to be bold people who share their stories while helping others overcoming their brokenness. We just don’t live in the victory of the cross! In our religiosity we continue to live in bondage! The victory of the Gospel is where we should live! The victory of the cross slowly rewrites our story into Gods story!
Why did this come to mind…. well, I had an interesting thing happen to me a month back and came to some enlightening observations about myself …. but mostly I had some God moments where I saw God writing a different story of me than what I was trying to write for myself.
I have mentioned on previous posts about some friends that have a long line of broken relationships. He was/is a good friend of mine for the last 35 years. I was the only person from his side of friends that was invited to their wedding. I am fairly certain they no longer have a relationship with his brothers. Also, as I said they have other broken relationships of his friends before marriage. I am sure there are others I am not aware of as well. These conflicts normally started from a tension with her religious legalism and then later on him coming to rescue and protect her in the conflict.
Well, a few years back, in a time after my sin and transgressions… it came to light that he was struggling with some pretty deep issues. However, in her fear based world she no longer allowed us to even meet for lunch…. and since our issues had some similar roots I really saw and felt that God had designed this moment for me to be there for him… to talk to him, and to share insights and stories. I felt like God was calling me to be there for him…. and I still believe that was the right thinking. Unfortunately, she felt like I was the exact wrong person to be there for him. In her decision to no longer allow us to meet for lunch I heard the words real loud, “your not worthy to even meet my husband for lunch”.
I met with her a few days later and she positioned her decision as punishment for her husband… but I can’t imagine how lunch with a friend for accountability in any world would be punishment. That still no longer makes sense to me and Sue. And in later e-mails they did say that they were looking for a different source of accountability and mentoring. Once again …. my unworthiness. Then, also, in her defense, in my frustration…… because their was partial truth in some things I said, I am sure I pounded her worst nerves and fears with the things I said…. hurtful things!
Over the years I have been pinging them with e-mails and going to her BLOG. The night after a new set of exchanges of e-mails … my wife and I had some deep and heated discussions about our friends.
A few months back I was at a conference and a person defined daydreams and fantasies as replaying the tapes of past painful events in your life with different results. I was preparing the night before my mens group the same day I had received this set of e-mails from them. An exchange of e-mails where they continue to not want me in their lives. And on the white board I wrote “what tapes are you replaying in your head in your day dreams and fantasies”.
I do have a recurring daydream about the four of us getting together and talking much like my mens group — being that close. Being on a forward moving spiritual journey of growth and change. One where we could openly challenge her and him with the root of reasons for all their broken relationships. One that would allow him to reconcile his relationship with his brothers…. and other friends of the past as well. A relationship where everyone is honest — including honesty about the fear that drives her attitudes. That story of closeness and growth was my dream and that was the story I was trying to write as I e-mailed them and pinged them over the years.
However, as I was looking at my white board the night before my mens group meeting and pondering why I was replaying this tape and day dream of my friends over and over in my head, I then wrote on the white board “What is God telling you?” In my pain and suffering over this…. “What is God telling me?”
I then began to see that while I was trying to write one story in my head …. God was busy writing another one. Even though this relationship and story had come to a dead end when she indirectly told me “I am not worthy”. God had brought people in front me … without me even trying …. a ministry that restores the relationships of men. Furthermore, Sue and I are on the verge of a new ministry at our Church that will reconcile broken marriages. With the gospel and grace being central to that ministry. Where his wife told me “I am unworthy, God was saying you are worthy and this field of men here is your mission field”
While I was trying to complete my old story… God was writing a new story. While I was trying to fix the old reality …. God was showing me a new reality. Keeping the cross and grace in front of you ALL THE TIME does that …. it ushers in a new reality. We need reminding of the grace and mercy of the cross! We need to keep the gospel central! We forget!
Change and growth happens when you face your sin and pain (and suffering) and ask yourself “What is God telling you? in the pain, conflict , and suffering.” You begin to see a new reality based on Gods grace. You begin to see how the Cross not only gives grace but that also grace is the catalyst for change!
The old story is gone and a new story is here! The old reality is gone and a new reality is here! I like the new reality and the new story! A story and reality that sees the sin of my past … but lives in the victory of the cross and the restoration of Gods people!