In my last two posts, I submitted an argument that this life matters, not in spite of the next, but because of it. I think in our own individual ways this idea has been the main theme for all three writers here at The Echo Life over the past several blog posts. We care about God’s Kingdom work here and now and for all of His Kingdom workers that are involved. Christian ministry has eternal impact, and that eternal impact begins now.
The biggest concern for many of us though is still the time factor. As Richard pointed out in the last post, we often feel that preparation or practice is a waste of time. How can I begin making impact right this moment? Often times I imagine that I do not have an exorbitant amount of time to spend on preparing for ministry and life, keeping my whole being fit and ready, when I could die tomorrow. I have souls to save. Why don’t I just focus on what matters, like my body from the neck up, since I need to be able to think to do ministry, and then I can forget about the rest? But, God, as usual, thinks differently. If I die tomorrow, His ministry continues, amazingly enough.
The problem with the above mindset is the fact that it is our whole life that matters to God, for it is the life He has given us, a gift from our Creator and Father. Greek philosophy has for too long informed the Christian world that it is some disconnected, imprisoned spirit that matters to God, and not the body. However, God created us as whole beings, physically and spiritually integrated, and saw His work as very good. If He had figured later that this integration was not such a good idea, He would not be leading us to resurrection, the gifting to us of restored bodies.
As I argued in my last post, while it might be mysterious at times how all the things we do in the name of God (including taking care of that which is physical like the body and the earth) will carry over to life everlasting, we must realize that God does not work in us for naught. We can only trust that it will be clearer on the other side.
Now that we have laid this framework, the hard truth can set in. As much as we would like to avoid it, we have time for discipline. God’s grace has given us the opportunity to work with Him to mold our being into His image for the sake of others. We have time to prepare, even if our next breath is not guaranteed. God knows our that our life is as a vapor, and , in spite of that, He calls us to disciplined lives (this is why we are called disciples). If He is alright with this fact, so should we be. The real problem for us is that this means we have no excuse, which we all so desperately want. Discipline in all areas of life shares one crucial aspect: it is hard work and shortcuts are not an option.
The Eden account demonstrates two truths to us when it comes to work (probably many more, but two I want to focus on). First, work is a God-given opportunity and directive to create. Hard work is not simply a good idea, but it is part of our very reason for being. We were created by God to work with God. Second, in the original design, working in perfect unison with the Creator, work flowed. There was not the sort of resistance we experience now. I imagine labor still tired the body, for we were still to rest, even before the fall, but as we worked, the things we worked on moved with us. We still had to exert energy, but there was not another force working against us at the same time. That is not how the world works today. Because of sin, we feel resistance; the progress we make each day is often being worked against by sin in the world (see Genesis 3:17-19). Again, God knows this, and if He can accept that some of our efforts will be resisted, then we too must accept this fact.
Today we have to not only work to create, but we must also work through sin. Sin causes a resistance to God’s will and can be like digging up roots of a dead tree. Sin has been defeated in us, but the deadness still clings heavy to our being. We might wish there to be a short cut. Why does God not just dynamite the whole root system? Blow the roots to Hell. Because the roots of deadness cling to that which God wants to restore. Therefore, He works diligently along side us as we work out our own salvation (Phil 2:12), as we dig along side of God, diligently separating the roots of deadness from our old life from the new life we have been given. He wants to remove sin from our lives, and this process, called sanctification, has no shortcuts. Sin is ugly, and we often would rather not touch it. Like digging up dead roots, while sin is dead, it is still not easy to handle.
What we need now, and what we will be talking about in my future post is to give ourselves the grace to wrestle with discipline. We have to give ourselves the grace, the freedom to deal with our own sins, because God has given us grace. We have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that while we have been forgiven, sin still has its consequences. We still fight against evil, and it is not easy. Until we forgive ourselves, which is not as easy as saying, “well, my sin does not matter anymore,” we will not be able to work through sanctification. We cannot pretend that sin does not matter. It does. In fact, our very job is to work with Christ in righting what sin has damaged. What we must realize is that we have been given the grace to face our sins, and with God we may work towards maturity. While this idea will carry over to the next post, I will leave you with these questions:
Have I allowed God to not only take the punishment for my sin, but also allowed Him to begin to free me from my sin? Have I begun the disciplined, lifelong process of working with God to dig up the roots of deadness in my life?