Monday, April 30, 2007

"God says "Yes" to creation; he says "Yes" to life."

Daniel Blanche writes:
"I am convicted that I need to out-feel those around me who do not know God, because unlike them I have reason to believe that my feelings are a response to real joys and real tragedies. I need to be involved intellectually and emotionally in all the real good and all the real evil of the world and of the lives of those around me. I need to laugh more. I need to cry more."
Life is for living. Some say that to err is human. Others say thinking makes us human. We could speculate all day long, but we do actually already know. The first page of the Bible is often ignored because it's perceived to be controversial. Yet, most of the most important words ever said are on that page. The Guardian is publishing a 14 part series on Great Speeches at the moment - they really should include Genesis ch1. We get God speaking. We get God speaking and the universe-happens. Spaces are formed, and then filled. And his approval is stamped on it all - "good". God makes life happen and it is good. He says Yes.

And then something "very good". Actually us. Human Beings. Image-bearers. Pale reflections of God himself, but reflections nonetheless. Sixty-six books and however many years later we're now marred by sin but we're not lost causes. We can be redeemed. Not by ourselves, we can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps - that wont work. The one who is The Image-Bearer can bring us back. The Cross of Christ is the one and only way that the complete job can be done - wrath-averted, sin-cleansed, relationship-restored, community-created, heart-changing, mind-renewing transformation. What that could lead us to conclude is that the only thing to do is evangelism. Skip living and just preach the gospel, right?

What does it mean to be image-bearers? Relational - echoing the Trinity. Creative and communicative (just look at everything God does in the 26 verses of scripture before he makes us). Creation-subduers and rulers (in the very best sense of what that can look like). And there are ways to bring out that from the darkness. The music teacher can help a child express creativity. The speech therapist helps someone communicate. The biochemist explores the world that God made, finding out how it works best. The agriculturalist cultivates the world - a few steps short of a Global Eden but better to get it working a bit rather than not at all. Planet Earth (and the rest of the Universe) is God's place and it's corrupted but it's still pretty phenomenal.

I work for a mission agency and our passion is evangelism. But not even Roger Carswell spends every waking moment doing evangelism. We can live. And we must. Christian Students have a job. It's studying. I want to see them know how to study their course to the glory of God, and to take their gifts and their talents into the marketplace, into the workplace. We need Bible Teachers, apologists and evangelists. But mostly we need an army of life-living Jesus-loving people - who love what is good, who live - work - and play to the glory of God. Limping along from one moment to the next as best they can with the help of God.

The Christian has their eyes open to this. Their mind-renewed. Their heart-awakened. We have a taste of the new creation and that means we can really live in the first one. We're able to get our heart broken and our mind thinking. We can breathe deeply. We can experience the boredom and the excitement. The writer of Ecclesiastes wasn't a freak he was normal (and honest). We can have fun and we can mourn. We can feel gain and we can feel loss. We can see the big picture and we can delight in the details. I spent the first 18 years of my life soundly asleep unawares of the most beautiful things in life. Sadly there have been plenty of times in the last 10 that I've dozed off. Someone keep me awake please! I need an IV drip of caffeine for my soul. I need the Holy Spirit. I need the Word of God. Life is there for living.

12 comments:

  1. "But not even Roger Carswell spends every waking moment doing evangelism." - He doesn't? Oh.

    PS AMEN!

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  2. He probably gets closer than anyone else, but I'm sure I've seen him spend time eating, sleeping and selling books amongst other activities... like his God-glorifying modelling career.

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  3. lol modelling career...wasn't he on, what not to wear?!!? ;o) hehe

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  4. A great article. I guess the question I'm wrestling with at the moment is to do with the balance and whether some things are more glorifying to God than others. For example you can glorify Him as you build a model aeroplane, but surely it's better to be telling your friends about Jesus...

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  5. Richard, good question... similar issue raised by Romans 9 - God gets glory in showing mercy and in hardening... but surely we'd say more glory in mercy... so I suspect you have a point there.

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  6. But if God gets more glory through showing mercy (and He works to maximize His glory), why would not all be saved? I thought God could receive just as much glory through mercy as from justice. Maybe I'm just thinking about it too much

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  7. Hi Paul. Good question!

    "22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- 24even us ." (Romans 9, ESV)

    God desires to display his wrath, power and mercy. Showing his wrath and power leads to his showing mercy. The first is order for the second... Which I think probably tips it towards salvation as glorious but that hardening is necessary.

    God's glory isn't just his mercy but the full range of his character - so if all he did was show mercy he would appear glorious. Yes, wrath would be shown in Christ but it would lose value if everyone was saved - though of course none deserves saving.

    This bears thinking hard about so don't stop doing that!

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  8. Yes, that makes sense. Thanks.

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  9. Quoth Richard:
    "A great article. I guess the question I'm wrestling with at the moment is to do with the balance and whether some things are more glorifying to God than others. For example you can glorify Him as you build a model aeroplane, but surely it's better to be telling your friends about Jesus..."

    The problem then becomes that you end up in a creation-denying place. If we think that evangelism is somehow more important than enjoying creation, we should just do evangelism all the time. A friend of mine used to say that it was a terrible thing that Christians were involved in art, because after all if people are in a burning house and need saving you don't sit down and paint a picture! Needless to say, I argued with my friend a lot. (I won in the end. Hurrah!)

    I wonder whether some of this comes from anxiety and a sneeking suspicion that we're not really meant to be living. I think taking God's affirmation of creation seriously will help us out of that hole, and will also make our evangelism something that fits with our whole lifestyle.

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  10. "anxiety and a sneeking suspicion that we're not really meant to be living"

    Evangelicalitis, if I can say such a think in a self-depracating kind of way. The life-loving puritans would be appalled at us. Luther would be appalled, as he dranks his beer. And I suspect Jesus would also be sad for us.

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  11. Daniel,
    Thanks for taking the time to reply, I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. WE don't want to deny creation at all, but can relate to tit in a whole different wat.
    The difficulty comes when people to use your example, say that because they are painting pictures to the glory of God (and genuinely are) they don't get involved in glorifying God by doing evangelism and serving in the church or their CU at all. Getting the balance of where we glorify God in busy lives filed with church, friends, work, children seems to be very hard, and I guess my question is are come of these things better 'places' in which we can lgorify God than others. I hope that makes sense!

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  12. Emma Balch says:

    I just wanted to confirm that Roger Carswell doesn't spend every waking hour doing evangelism. I can personally confirm that while he has given his life to sharing the gospel, he spends a lot of time just being a good dad, and friend (to his family, but also many other people), and also has lots of other interests - painting watercolours, for example, and he loves Victorian art and collects postcards of 19th century paintings that tell a story and hunting down the originals as he travels round the country, or during his reading/study weeks in Holland. His life's work is do evangelism and prepare/encourage others to do the same - and he loves doing so - but I guess he doesn't feel it's so important to enthuse about all the other things he's interested in or spends time doing - as much as he enjoys those
    things too!

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