Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rest in Work

We all know that life is work. It is action. We are always on the move, both on the outside and on the inside. When the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says we ought to enter God’s rest he evidently isn’t talking about idleness. This is by the way the only “ought to” left in our lives after we became God’s. So what is this rest we are to enter into?

“God’s rest isn’t rest from work….. it is rest in work”, Norman Grubb so masterly put it. We are resting when we have the sufficiency to do the work. Unrest or strain is to do something from a position of insufficiency. In this not so insignificant difference lies the freedom to be who we are created to be!

Our God is a God of action. Joyfully He runs the universe. He has the sufficiency to do so. In us God also is a God of action. Life is action, movement, change of seasons. We are caught in the middle of this creative life force. When we are caught by God there is no escape. He won’t let us go. He has stuck Himself to us. Isn’t that wonderful!

A state of insufficiency or unrest occurs when we become self-centered in our outlook. My life, my status, my position, my money and so on – we can make the list endlessly long. That really wears us out. However, God won’t let us be there forever. Only until we have learned our lesson. Our greatest problem is perhaps all those expectations laid upon us by others. It is impossible to live out our life from the inside when we are burdened down by faulty expectations on how to run our life and what to do.

To work from sufficiency is to have more than enough to do the job. There is an undertow of joy in everything you undertake. Your special gifts and talents are in action. Your dreams are being realized to such an extent that you have to rub your eyes in utter amazement. That is rest! That is God in action in your life. Take heed of yourself; respect your desires and dreams. Let everything God has put on your inside have leeway. Allow your uniqueness to shine!

Norman Grubb concluded, “So ‘rest’ is adequacy in action….it’s inside action.”

(Both quotes by Norman Grubb are from The Meaning of Life, pages 50-51)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

They Have Been Satisfied By the Truth

One of the most heartrending episodes in Jesus’ life was when He at the cross cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Our Savior came out of the womb of the fallen Israel to join the ranks of a fallen humanity. If He was to be a savior of all mankind His identification with man had to be absolute. He became like one of us in order to live our life in the flesh. We are not exaggerating when we assert that one of the most astounding events in all history took place when one member of the Triune fellowship became flesh.

He came down to share in our fallen condition so that we could share in His fellowship in the Heavenly realms. The Triune fellowship is characterized by an unspeakable joy. The three members’ desires are in total harmony and they are completely devoted to each other. The camaraderie and love which flows unimpeded between the Divine persons is so pure and beautiful and radiates with such a light that the fallen man cannot approach its presence without being devoured by its fire.

Jesus descended so that we could ascend into the Heavenly realms and be partakers of the unspeakable joy and love of the Trinity. He identified Himself with us so that we could identify with the Triune fellowship. Perfected through what He suffered He blazed a trail which we could follow when He after the resurrection ascended to where He now sits by the right hand of the Father.

What seems as the pinnacle of Jesus’ identification with a fallen mankind was when He at the cross cried out those famous words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That is our cry. Ever since the fall our insides have cringed under the burden of a penetrating sensation of abandonment. As an attempt to alleviate the pain we have created gods in our image. Remote and aloof those gods have mirrored our perception of the living God.

Psalm 22 answers our cry which Jesus articulated: “He has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” Paul elaborates in this manner: “He is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being”. The Temple’s veil which tore apart revealed God’s presence in every man. Concealed behind the veil God, the sustainer of all life, dwelled in the Holiest of Holies. From now on every man could find God. Not lo here or lo there, but inside every man God has erected a temple not made by hands.

Whereas large numbers of new creations are still groping in darkness and perpetuate the cry of abandonment there are those whose hunger and thirst for righteousness has driven them into the mystery where they have been satisfied by the truth, that is, they have found that Christ is their life. They have discovered that they are irrefutably intertwined with the Trinity and joined as one with the Godhead.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let There Be Light

Paul discloses a profound secret to the saints in Rome when he asserts, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:4-5)

There have been times when I have read this and thought; really? I am the first to admit that I am like an averse little kid when these seasons of suffering occur. I don’t like it the least. An inevitable question is why do I react in this fashion? I believe it is because those sufferings reveal something about my faith, notably the fact that sometimes I resemble that wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. In other words I am not completely convinced that God is in full control and that He is love and love only. Moreover, I am not totally persuaded that everything that befalls me is His perfect plan for me in any circumstance.

I assume this was what Peter had to learn when he was sifted and as a consequence denied Jesus three times. After the revelation where he saw that Jesus was the Messiah he must have thought that now he was the initiated one and hence knew everything. His testimony from that moment onwards must have been that God is love. Peter was convinced that he loved Him back and on account of that not so small fact would never ever deny Him. However, there must have been a slight doubt in his mind regarding those things he took for granted. The only way Peter could become aware of his delusion was through testing.

Now we have come to the core of the matter. Our reason to rejoice is that God’s prime concern is to make us safe in His love. A most fascinating evolvement or perhaps it is more correct to say fascinating unveiling of our new heart takes place when we become settled in His love. Unimpeded by doubts regarding our Father’s character our new heart begins to produce what Paul calls character. This is a recognition of who we really are, that His love is poured into our hearts and that that is the eternal source from which our life flows.

Even though we have received a new heart it seems like it needs reassurance and love in order to blossom and mature. In a matter of speaking it is softened when we understand that God is love and that He is for us. I find that this law is operative in me: The more I recognize God’s love towards me the more loving and understanding I am towards others. This is definitely a fascinating aspect of the new life. It displays my humanity and that I am created for meaningful relations shrouded in love.

Most importantly, though, is the fact that love is the most significant characteristic of the Triune relationship of which we now are invited to be partakers. Hence, we are trained in love. We are not responsible to become more loving. God is the one who through our different experiences in this life see to that our new life is manifested in love. Norman Grubb said, “I am not a maintaining self. I am a maintained self.” God is my keeper and maintainer!

From this perspective we realize that those periods of testing also involve a subversion or erosion of our self-sufficient-self. A process which is absolutely necessary if we are to grasp the enormity of God’s grace and how comprehensive Jesus’ finished work is. After the incident outside the high priest’s courtyard Peter’s self confidence was in disarray. He must have doubted God’s love since He allowed this calamity to come his way. Perhaps worst of all, Peter must have felt his nothingness as a devouring darkness.

Into this vacuum God’s light and love flows unobstructed and fills Peter with a new understanding of who he is in an eternal perspective. It is the kind of emptiness the Genesis account alludes to into which God commanded: Let there be light!