This was my staff devotion for 11th May 2018
In recent times I have found myself challenged to complete old work in order to release the new. Losing someone I used to work with to cancer just before Easter this year heightened this also, and I was and I am confronted more with God’s call to use what is in my hands, to be used by God and in what ways does he want to use me. We know the impact that photos, images, video and various visual forms can have in creating and developing connections with what we teach in our classes to our students, with what we post on social media to our friends and family and in our personal journeys. The visual language that comes from an image can give words to parts of our journey, to our life experiences, that often we have no words to express.
This week’s reading comes from Romans 3:20-24 (NIV) it says
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
In the Message it reads like this…
9-20 So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
This painting has been in the planning since I drew this drawing as a response to my first personal realisation of the existence of God.
“They were the tears for what would come next in my life”, not just next, but for all the things in my life that would not have happened in an unbroken world. The aggression and belting I would meet when I returned home that day, marked the last time I wandered away from the family home. The destructive behaviours of others over my life as I grew up. My destructive choices that I made towards myself and others. The tears of the Father and his love for me, and all that he would allow to happen in my life after this meeting with him. That God would allow all these things, and yet not waste a single one, but instead show his amazing grace and love through it.
Prevenient Grace is the grace that comes to us before we know God. God takes the initiative, even while we were still sinners, separated from Christ, God’s grace was already active in us, perhaps in ways we could not identify. Hindsight reveals this to us.
Through Justifying Grace we find pardon for our sin. “God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace with accepting and pardoning love. Wesleyan theology stresses that a decisive change in the human heart can and does occur under the prompting of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit”
And Sanctifying Grace is a purifying and cleansing process that continues throughout our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Sanctifying Grace is the “bearing fruit” part of God’s grace. We are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love of our neighbour. Sanctifying Grace is the power that leads us on towards being more Christlike.
Just as I have left this artwork intentionally unfinished, we too are intentionally unfinished and continue to be unfinished until we arrive back home. The tears, God’s tears continue to flow as he watches us continue to live broken lives in a broken world. His sanctifying grace continuing to purify and cleanse us through correction and often as a result of consequence.
God’s tears flow for us as we weep through the small things, to the things that bring us to our knees. His tears flow for those who he continues to speak his Prevenient Grace to. Those who are yet to know him as Father and Jesus as saviour and who are yet to respond to the grace they are being shown and not seen. The grace understood through hindsight.
As we continue to be transformed to be more Christlike, what breaks our hearts to the point that we weep for the lost? What has God placed in your hands that he calls you to use in this time of harvest? And as I am reminded that God has and does walk in the mess, how do I respond to his promptings of outreach to others in their mess? The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Just this week I was speaking with someone who suggested this could be the generation that sees Jesus return. I suggested that we need to be more active as Christ followers instead of waiting for others to do the work. Could this be the generation that Christ returns? But how when we wait for others to do the work that God has placed in our hands to do.