A series of unusual responses

It seems that most of my best days are the ones where I’ve seen most clearly how much I’m a complete idiot. As I’ve mentioned in the post below, theRebelution.com have just released the results of a massive Modesty Survey. Having watched over the last few months as they first announced it, developed it, guarded against legalism and self-righteousness and radiated grace I was excited to see it finished. Convinced that it is a valuable resource to help girls understand guys I pinged an email to some Christian friends to let them know about it. So far, so good, but over the last day I’ve realised that without its proper context my email seemed like a promotion of a set of rules that guys were demanding from girls. This might not seem like the biggest crisis since slided bread but I was concerned that the result could be guys blaming girls for our lust and girls being shackled with a grace-less list of rules.

I don’t really want to talk about me being an idiot, though, but as usual I want to talk about God! He’s used this to teach me how the gospel works out in the everyday things. As I’ve tried to think through and deal with this in a way that glorifies God I’ve had some unusual responses which come from the gospel. I can see clearly that God has been transforming my by his Spirit through his gospel to become more like his Son. The Spirit applies the gospel to us powerfully to save us, and then continues to apply the gospel powerfully to strengthen and equip us for lives of service. So, I’ve been thinking of a few ways in which the gospel has taught and enabled me to respond unusually to being an idiot.

Before I start, though, I want it to be clear that this isn’t a tribute to me. Very few of these were my first response and I know that none of them would have been my natural response if it weren’t for the power of the gospel. I want to reflect on how God’s been changing me and how I can better keep in step with the Spirit and not for a second think that I’m already there. God is gracious, though.

My instinct is to hide my failure from God, the gospel teaches me to come to him. On my best day I wouldn’t come close to deserving access to the throne of God if it weren’t for Jesus’ blood and on my worst day that grace more than covers me. The fact that I see my failure more clearly doesn’t mean that God does and doesn’t change my relationship to him. Hebrews 4:14-16.

My instinct is to be right, the gospel teaches me I’m wrong. Key to the gospel is accepting that from birth I’ve been completely and utterly wrong (in belief, behavior, morals, everything) and in this context the way I view having made a mistake changed. At first my response to gentle rebuke was self defense – “I was right – can’t you see?!” but as I thought about it I realised I had been wrong and became grateful to those who had expressed concern and encouraged me to do better. As Dave Bish says, the gospel gives us permission to fail (note, not permission to sin!) and I’m thankful to those who pointed out my error.

My instinct is to listen to myself, the gospel teaches me to talk to myself. This may sound a little odd, but it’s really helpful advice from CJ Mahaney’s book Living the Cross Centred Life. At first as I thought about things I was being passive – just listening to my varied thoughts and allowing myself to be self-pitying. Instead he urges taking control of what I’m thinking and preaching the gospel to myself – going back to the cross and applying it to my situation. Of course prayer is key here – without the Holy Spirit working through the gospel all the preaching in the world is to no avail.

My instinct is to rely on myself, the gospel teaches me to seek help and advice. God has graciously saved a people so I have plenty of support from Christians around me. Partly this came from teachers (one of Jesus’s gifts to the church in Ephesians 4) as I listened to CJ Mahaney’s message The Soul of Modesty which set everything firmly in the context of the gospel and gave me the opportunity to seek, evaluate and fight the legalism which had crept in without me noticing. It also came from friends, namely my housemate whose wise words were to leave any reply until the morning after I’d slept – truly the best idea of the evening!

My instinct is to panic, the gospel teaches me to trust God’s faithfulness. Fighting my desire to properly think through what the best response would be to my friends’ concerns was the fact that I wanted to act now! That way I could ‘save the day’ and solve the problem before anyone else found the problem. God’s sovereignty, though, tells me that he is in control and working for the best – taking the time to work out the best response (which, in this case, included a night’s sleep and an hour of listening to CJ Mahaney) wouldn’t mess up his plan.

My instinct is to trust what I think is right, the gospel teaches me to come to the Bible. Once I’d worked out what I thought was the right thing to do, I wanted to evalutate my motives and make sure they were right (that I was seeking to serve God and edify others rather than just trying to make people like me more) and was having difficulty. In the end the solution was to go to Scripture – 2 Timothy was where I went this time – to see what the right way to minister is. Once I’d checked my motives and methods against God’s word for discrepancies I was happy to go ahead.

My instinct is to dwell on my own failure, the gospel teaches me to praise God. Tempting as it was just to go over the last day in my head even after I’d dealt with it to the best of my ability it was a huge release to put it aside and turn to praising God. He is the same God, I have the same standing before him, and there is useful work for me to be doing. I’ve had a bad day, I’ll have worse, but thinking about God is so much more profitable and enjoyable.

So what now? Well, I’ve learned practically some of the ways to avoid being quite so silly next time and more importantly I’ve seen a bit more clearly how grace works out in life. Thank God! So there’s new ways for me to serve, new ways for me to mess up, new ways for me to realise I need grace, new ways to draw closer to God. Here I go…


One Response to “A series of unusual responses”

  1. americasbestrx.com Says:

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    hey i just stopped by, great stuff…

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