Friday, September 28, 2012

You pushing me?

We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.  The possibilities of doing what it is we are called upon to do seem daunting and we just cannot possibly see how God could have plans for us in the moment.  I imagine Paul faced a little of this - knowing full well he was "schooled" in the Law of Moses, but not at all "schooled" in the message of grace.  What he learned about grace he experienced the same as we all do - because the teacher embraced him!  Back when Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesian church, he admits to his surprise at receiving grace.  In fact, if you read verses 7-9 you will find Paul saying, "Hey!  I now have a new life's work - helping others know what it is like to receive this surprise gift of grace!"  Paul goes on to explain his absolute lack of "qualifications" to do what it is God has him doing - but God was handling all the details.  Humbly, he admits he was the least "qualified" of any of the available Christians.  Yet, in each new step he took in obedience to God, God saw to it that he was equipped and not relying on his natural abilities.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

We often discount the possibilities when we weigh the task at hand.  We see the mountain as too large!  Paul says it well, "God can do anything!"  I want to add, "With anything and anyone available to his use!"  We might find it hard to "explain" grace, but we can demonstrate it through our life actions.  We know full well an example speaks volumes more than words alone.  In fact, when Paul pens the words of verse 12, I think he had this in mind:  "When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go."

Free to say whatever needs to be said!  Ever find yourself in a place where you know the exact thing which needs to be said, but you talk yourself out of it because you don't think the "hearer" will be open to receive it?  Paul tells us when we trust in Christ, putting our every step in his care, we become free to speak what needs to be spoken.  He is responsible for the "receiving" of the message, not us.  Now, this doesn't mean that we just blurt out anything we "think" someone needs to hear, but when we feel the prompting of the Spirit of God within, we can stand assured God will "back up" our words!

Bold to go where we need to go!  I imagine Paul had a lot of moments when he wondered if he'd ever be able to bring the gospel message to the next group of people.  Some were upper class, other middle, and still others, the outcast!  In each circumstance, he was given the boldness to declare the message he was given.  

Freedom and boldness are two tell-tale signs of the Spirit of God indwelling a believer.  Paul's words present the means by which this freedom is experienced and this boldness becomes the foundation upon which we stand - it is in the Holy Spirit working WITHIN us.  In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit CAME UPON a man - not WITHIN.  Christ's sacrifice made it possible for God to "indwell" mankind with his Spirit - grace providing the means to experiencing God's presence again as we were designed to experience it.

Paul also gives us insight into how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives.  Some of us may think he comes with a heavy hand, strong-arming us into a position of submission.  Indeed, this is exactly the opposite.  He come in the gentleness of grace.  Ever try to be the Holy Spirit in someone's life?  You find yourself "demanding" or "insisting" they act a certain way because you know their life needs to change.  How'd that work out for you?  If you were like me, probably not too well.  People resist being "strong-armed" into a position of obedience.  Grace is the exact opposite of "strong-arming" - it is gentleness, meekness, long-suffering, peaceable, and loving.  It embraces us when we our finally ready to be embraced.

Paul reminds us the Holy Spirit doesn't push us around - he is not a bully!  He doesn't demand his own way, but yields to us until we are willing to yield to him.  Don't get me wrong, he keeps "working within", but he doesn't clobber us with grace!  He extends it to us - leaving it up to us to take it, or leave it. I have many moments in time when I have said, "I don't want it!"  Those times when my willful disobedience seemed more enjoyable and promising than any offered grace.  Oh, what a sad state of events unfolded with those determined moments of resistance!

The hope I can leave you with this morning is simply this:  God's grace is there.  His Holy Spirit is working WITHIN us - gently, peaceably, with all love and compassion.  Grace resisted leaves us wanting.  Grace embraced fills us to overflowing.  We might push God away, but he never moves so far that we cannot turn into his embrace!  Just sayin!

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