The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

All of us were in the same boat (for Sunday, March 26)

with 4 comments

Here’s a conundrum: How do I remember where I was when God found me without embracing the shame of it afresh? Maybe you can help me think this through. More down below …
Ephesians 2:1-10

He Tore Down the Wall
It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.

We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.

See, this is pretty dramatic language: “All of us in the same boat.” It blows up a storm of confusions.

Two come to mind. One one hand, there’s the temptation to think “I never was really in the same boat as person X.” X is usually someone who has yielded to temptations that haven’t particularly bothered me. Since I’m not seriously tempted by that which tempted him, I can’t imagine why he did it. I figure anyone who does what X did must be depraved, indeed. And a gulf opens between us.

A friend of mine tells of visiting a church early in her days of seeking God. Someone there said something like, “Ooh, we’ve never had anybody here who’d been in dirty, dirty sin before!”

My heart freezes as I think of it – for hasn’t her host said, “We’ve never been in your boat”? I want to say, “Do you understand the gospel at all? Did you never see the deplorable filth of your own choices? Is it not more rotten for regarding it as ‘not so bad’?”

At the other end, I have sometimes seen (and been!) the Christian who could see the cross-earning evil of his own past, but could only think of it in shame, not rejoicing. I couldn’t get my mind around how totally gone it was. I couldn’t enjoy the good that had been there at the same time. I didn’t dare (I thought) abandon myself to to atmosphere of these next thoughts:

Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Seems like the two must come together, somehow, in trust.

Dare I recognize the wretchedness of my own sinful past? Dare I realize I rode the same boat as, say, Saddam? Milosevich? I don’t mean to exaggerate. Sure, my sins were different – but I was never in their situation, never learned their behavior. What if I had?

And if I’m no better, if all are my kin, doesn’t it change everything about how I relate to others?
Second dare: Dare I trust the enormity, the no-exceptions certainty of God’s cross-bought release from guilt and shame?

Leaves me wanting it for all my boat-mates.
Sounds like the psalmist was on board:

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Oh, thank GOD-he’s so good! His love never runs out.

All of you set free by GOD, tell the world!

Tell how he freed you from oppression,

Then rounded you up from all over the place,

from the four winds, from the seven seas. …
Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life,

your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;

You couldn’t stand the sight of food,

so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.

Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition;

he got you out in the nick of time.

He spoke the word that healed you,

that pulled you back from the brink of death.

So thank GOD for his marvelous love,

for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;

Offer thanksgiving sacrifices,

tell the world what he’s done–sing it out!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Written by Monte

March 21, 2006 at 5:00 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Indeed – and have you noticed how the Psalm and Ephesians and John all end with something about the work we have to do – as in, “Send Me!”?

    Monte

    March 24, 2006 at 8:18 pm

  2. Hi again,
    I’ve come to the place where I’ve had to make friends with embarrassment. Even shame. I don’t like it much but to continue to leave them, as roadblocks is just too costly. I cannot afford the distance from God. As soon as I’m able, my strategy is to give them a name and talk about how they do not fit into His world and some how He seems to lessen the sting of it.

    Wow I just realized that process is the process of making amends. God is so consistent.

    Anyway this reminds me of Isaiah in chapter three. When my shame is comforted by God’s character revealed (like Job too), I invariably have a noticeable pain and it doesn’t matter much. Like Isaiah I’m eager to be sent. There is no greater thrill than to risk change. Sure… my unclean lips – Your Coal – my pain – I’m here. SEND ME!!!

    This is good for me to remember the shame and the victory and to ‘say it again’.
    Sharon

    Sharon

    March 23, 2006 at 7:00 pm

  3. Yeah, I’m struck by what looks like something daring from our end – trusting in all this grace – but must be a no-brainer when seen objectively!
    Thanks, Sharon!

    Monte

    March 23, 2006 at 3:59 pm

  4. Hi all,
    Wow, the words of Paul, “….filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.”
    When I’m on a project and don’t want any outside accontability this is exactly how I behave and i say..”Well God’s doing the whole thing!!” It is soo cool to be able to see myself in these scriptures and know that I’m changing and also know that the nudge that I felt to ‘tell my story…what is going on’ is possibly embarrasing but certainly worth the effort. When My plans go astray and they mostly do, I’m in a deperate condition indeed and then I call out. Wow how glad I am that He loves me and is the God of relationships and second chances. All I have to do is live what I believe. If My belief is faulty He is faithful to love me into seeing where I am distant from Him.
    At least He has been so far.
    I never thought there would be so much comfort/ freedom/ confidence in being exposed.
    Sharon
    But I start hiding before I realize it…. mostly.

    Sharon

    March 22, 2006 at 7:01 pm


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