Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room in the quirky little town of Gatlinburg, TN, home of Dollywood and at least one million pancake houses. I used to wonder what Tennessee was like when I was little, especially around Christmas time when we would listen to Amy Grant sing "Tender Tennessee Christmas" (shout out to the 90's!).
It's funny where God brings you in life. I remember being young and thinking that "The South" was practically a foreign country where people eat grits and say things like "yes ma'am" and "y'all" and "bless her heart, she just can't help it..." Most of that is in fact true, but somehow it has become my home, and I feel as though I have always been here, even though it's really only been six short years. Six of the most formative years they were however, and here I am, practically a southern bell (yeah right).
Honestly, though, who would have thought that the Lord would see fit to bless me with such a life? A friend and I were just talking about our lives and how blessed they really are. We both admitted to a nagging fear in the back of our minds that something bad will happen to us because things are just too good. God certainly couldn't have meant to bless us with this much, could He? In talking we realized that bad things very well may happen. That isn't the point of the matter, not really.
The Word that God gave us does not portray our Maker as a sick or sinister prankster who is out to get at us for a laugh. Neither does the Bible portray Him as some kind of a vending machine you can use for temporary satisfaction. There can never truly be a fair transaction with God because we have nothing to offer Him that He doesn't already have. The truth is, we are the needy and He is the rich. We are the helpless and He is the helper. Are you humble enough to accept this? I know I don't always want to.
Isaiah 64:6 says "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."
Our sins sweep us away. We were born into sin, and as we grew we chose to continue in sin. We are guilty by heredity and we are also personally guilty. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the garden, and we all choose to disobey God every day in the big and the small ways. These days one rarely hears of anyone taking responsibility for their own bad choices. We all want to be a victim, but it seems like no one is willing to be the responsible one. We almost never see somebody who is willing to take the responsibility for someone else's bad choices.
The Lord in His sovereign plan did all of this and more. Psalm 103:4 says "for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." The Lord God clothed himself in skin like the humans He created. He took on the form of a man, and that man was Jesus Christ. He knew that we were too weak to take responsibility for our sin. He knew that we could never pay the debt we had incurred.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Like I said before, the point is not whether good or bad things happen to us. The point is that we are unworthy to receive anything good (yes all of us), and yet while we were insolent and hateful towards the very One who truly loves us He suffered and died for us so that we could be reconciled to Him. Some of my favorite words are "reconcile" and "redeem." To reconcile is to restore. To redeem is to compensate for the faults and the bad aspects of something. We were powerless to change ourselves even if we wanted to, but our great God made a way.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Did you read that? We have gained access by faith into this grace! We glory in any sufferings because God works even the temporary sufferings of this life out for our good and for His glory! I am so overwhelmed and amazed at the goodness of the Lord! How I long for the day when we will all see Him face to face in glory. Every tear will be wiped away. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord over all.
There is so much more to all of this that I can't put in this one post. If you have any questions or clarifications, feel free to comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May our eyes be opened to the truth and our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit.