Friday, September 21, 2012

NOW is the time

Paul is one of my favorite New Testament people - his teachings are so down to earth and genuine.  He is not afraid to confront issues head on and he is compassionate in his efforts.  As he writes to the Church as Ephesus, he come to this idea of comparing the "old" life we lived "before Christ" and the "new" life we now live "after Christ".  In his opening words of this chapter, Paul lays out his premise for writing - the old way of life was stagnant.  Now, if you have ever tried to get clean in stagnant water, let me tell you, it leaves you feeling every bit as dirty as you did when you got in it!  You just don't might not realize it until you "dry out" a bit!  Then you realize how "ripe" you are!  Really, Paul wants us to recognize the "old way" of living as one of constantly "doing what we wanted to do".  We pursued the stuff we wanted to pursue - not really conscious of how much it was polluting us even further.  The new life is one of direct contrast - "dead lives", polluted beyond our ability to clean up, made new in Christ.  

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.   (Ephesians 2:7-10 The Message)

Paul reminds us this new life "puts us" in a new place - in the company of Jesus!  Our "associations" changed the moment we came to Christ.  We were taken from the place which "pollutes" into the place which not only promotes purity, but provides the means of purity!  Paul then goes on to use a very descriptive three-letter word most of us would skip over:  NOW.  Why is it we miss these little words with such significant impact?  I think we just rush on past them because we don't pause long enough to consider them.

Paul says, "NOW" God has us where he wants us.  It is not in the future we are finally where God wants us - you know, that day in eternity when we finally reach some form of "perfection" in our lives.  Nope, it is NOW.  This is the basis upon which he builds his next statements - we cannot miss it.  It is for the PRESENT - not the past or the future, but NOW.  Since we finally understand this, we can move on to explore what he tells us next.

Since God has us where he wants us - all by his actions on our behalf, I may add - he is free to do WITHIN us what he desires most.  The thing he desires most is to shower us with his grace.  NOW is the moment of GRACE.  NOW is the day of his KINDNESS.  Woohoo!  This should cause us to pause in order to consider just how awesome it is to be exactly where God has placed us!  He has us where he wants us in order to do what it is he wants to do within us!  Now, you may not think this place or time in your life is "exactly where God wants you", but if we read this passage correctly, we will see NO PLACE and NO TIME is without God's presence and purpose when we are brought into this new life with Christ!  

In moving on with this passage, we find that NOW is the time to TRUST.  It is not the time to fret, or to try to figure out your way out of the mess of your past.  It is the time to trust in the GRACE of the present.  It is God's joy to have us in a place where his grace can permeate every fiber of our being - making us "feel" the way he SEES us.  It takes a while for our feelings to catch up with God's image of us, doesn't it?  For a while we "feel" unworthy of his grace.  We struggle with the "pollution" of our past - feeling shame for past wrong deeds, dealing with guilt over missed opportunities, and just not associating anything of worth within us that would "warrant" God's grace.  This is the most amazing thing - GRACE is ALWAYS undeserved!  It is our part to TRUST God with his GRACE.  

NOW is the time to recognize God's purpose in moving us from our "polluted" old life into the "purity" of this new life.  It is to be on mission with him!  It is to allow him to do IN us what we could never do with any amount of effort on our own behalf.  It is to transform us until GRACE becomes not only what is showered UPON us, but that which oozes out of us in every interaction with others in this life.  NOW is the moment of allowing God's GRACE to to create within us what no amount of self-help can accomplish.  This little word has purpose - it is to focus us on the possibilities of this very moment, of this very next breath, of our very next interaction.  Couple NOW with GRACE and you will never be far from experiencing God's heart!

I cannot tell you how many times EACH and every day I need to experience God's GRACE.  The grace I allow to come within my life, creating in me the freshness and purity of his character within, will be that which is there to "give out" when the NOW produces challenges.  Paul tells us God has all the time in THIS world and the NEXT to continue to shower us with his GRACE.  Hmmmm....I find this a little interesting to consider we might continue to need his grace in the next!  Did you see this when you read the passage?  Or did you skip over it, too?  God knows we will continue to need his grace throughout all of eternity - because we cannot possibly stand in his presence without it!  What this tells me is that we are NEVER outside of the "NOW".  

Grace is not a thing of the past, or a mere hope of the future.  It is a reality of the present.  NOW is the moment of his grace.  The next moment of his grace may come in your next breath - who knows?  If we learn to live in the NOW, we will never be outside of his GRACE.  Just sayin....

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