Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reflections on Grace

I would like to spend a few posts reflecting on what I have learned this semester, and even this year. It is a bit surreal to consider that at this point I have completed one year of seminary. Just one year ago, though we were living here, I had no idea what to expect. Having only heard stories of "this will be the hardest thing you've ever done" and "I got really tired of averaging four hours of sleep", I assumed those were universal experiences. And while it must be kept in mind that I purposefully made sure I did not over burden myself, I have not found either of those statements to be true for my experience thus far.

There is something to be said for going from vaguely knowing what Hebrew looks like, to being able to coherently translate and read it. Yesterday I recited Psalm 23 to my professor in Hebrew, which at the beginning of the semester seemed nearly impossible. But in the grand scheme of things that has very little importance when gauged against the backdrop of what the Lord has done in my life.

From one perspective you could say that I know more than I did one year ago, even a lot more. Yet the reality is that I know less because I have learned that there is a vastly greater amount that I don't know.

Many have said that seminary is a spiritual life killer. That focusing so much on the academics will frustrate you spiritually. I suppose that would be true at most seminaries where the academics are the highest prize. But you know you're in a good place when your professors encourage you to place grades several rungs down on the priority list. The Lord, family, ministry, perhaps then grades.

If I had to pick one thing that has been unexpected, it would be the reality and extent of the gospel. Consider Colossians 2:13-14, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your heart, God made alive together with Him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross."

I memorized this passage about a month ago, and I can't seem to get it out of the forefront of my mind. I was laying in bed the other night unable to sleep and this passage popped in my mind. Have you stopped recently to consider how much God has forgiven you? Did you notice in that passage that God nailed the record of debt with its legal demands on the cross? If He nailed it (passed tense) on the cross (past, completed, never to be repeated event), what does that mean for the sin you committed yesterday? This morning? Tomorrow?

We often think of God forgiving us of our "big" sins. Perhaps things people know about or perhaps not, but sins that by some measure are relatively large. Yet even the sin we commit when we speak with a harsh tone out of frustration, a fleeting thought of anger, a moment of pride, the words we speak when our mouth is driving faster than our minds, the times when we should be tapping someone on the shoulder and encouraging them to walk away from a situation, and we don't. These and many more sins that we sometimes awkwardly pass off, Jesus paid for with His blood.

This is not a revival of guilt, this is the context of God's sovereign grace.

Indeed the question is not how could a loving God let people go to hell?, but rather how could a holy God let me live and not punish me for what I have done?

So in this moment of reflection, I stand in awe of God's grace in my life to save me, make me alive in Christ by having forgiven me of not only my debt, but also the penalty for my debt.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.