My husband and I talk of doctrine and proper Biblical interpretation. We dialogue issues of healing, Holy Spirit, predestination, grace, and the crying need in the church for teachers (and all saints) to read the Word of God in expository fashion. I learn a great deal from these discussions (he does too, I think...) and some of what Tim says, sends me headlong into Scripture, to "search out whether these things be true." I've been far too conditioned to believe that "if it sounds too good to be true, it IS too good to be true."
Not so, our God.
This week alone, I've determined not to even begin a book in the Bible, if I could not finish it at one sitting. I began in Romans last Sunday. Each day after that, I made my way through I and II Cor., Gal., Eph., Phil.,Col., I and II Timothy, I and II Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John and Jude.
My desire is to grasp the whole panoramic scope of the God-inspired epistles, written to ordinary Christians. I closed my Bible on Jude today, and after hours of reading these Epistles as whole bodies of work, I have come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit spent a great deal of time - most of the Epistles - grounding people in grace, in one form or another. (Peter talks of the "manifold" grace of God....many, many various expressions. You'll never exhaust your study of it.) Much effort was poured out to see to it that God's people would find a place of rest, with enlightened eyes and boundless hope.
Two things I know after looking at the New Testament epistles as a whole: you cannot separate the finished work of Christ from the body of Christ. You don't walk this stuff out alone - too much of the New Testament is dedicated to describing the effect of such Amazing Grace. Much of the New Testament speaks to the sort of living that "becometh" saints; rooted NOT in doing right for the sake of doing right, but all of it rooted in relationship and unfeigned love.
The other thing I know is that these things are not instantly understood. Putting a right foundation under people doesn't just happen, and it won't happen unless someone, on purpose, lays a foundation, or rebuilds it, or shores it up, depending on the need.
Peter even made the point in his epistle, and I paraphrase, that "Paul says things in his letters that are weighty and hard to be understood. But it isn't Paul's fault. The untaught and the unstable wrestle over ALL the Scripture, not just Paul's material"....and then Peter boldly says that all the wrestling some folks do, isn't healthy for them.
In the words of AW Tozer, and in my own experience (both of years past, and today), "We do not understand in order to believe. We believe in order to understand." God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Peter is all the proof text you need to assert that grace doctrines are not kiddie Christianity. These truths are basic to our faith, yes, but not at all are they some sort of "easy believe-ism". Our mind needs constant renewing with this Word of the all sufficiency of Christ, and we need to be taught how to walk in such a way that is becoming to "growth in grace". Little children in the faith, experience the removal of sin-consciousness. Little children.
Our spiritually "young men" have grown in grace to the point that they experience, in a very personal way, victory after victory over the evil one.
Our spiritual fathers have walked many years in these truths, they have experienced the very heart of God, and reproduced it. Fathers are able to see and to teach the grace of God in Scripture, from Genesis onward. They know Him who is who He says He is, and has always been this way from the beginning. Fathers have experienced the God of Eden ("He who was from the beginning") and the God of Mt. Zion and of Calvary's hill. They don't camp on Mt. Sinai.
Your human understanding can see glimmers of the truth, here and there, but without revelation, nothing of any substance is retained. You don't get this stuff with your human understanding. Without revelation, you will still be describing grace in very generic terms, with no radical shift in your experience, no affect on your relationships. You need a pastor, who teaches and preaches the finished work of Christ - a pastor who prays for you that : The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints...
Here is a final thought...I want to ask this question: Who are the overcomers?
I've entertained many lofty ideas about what an overcomer would look like. If the truth be told (leave it to me to tell the truth on myself - that is "no nevermind" to me), my concept was mostly based on religious, charismatic traditions of men.
Oh, I could put a nice "spin" on it. I could even convince myself that my foundation has always been perfect. But that would not be dealing in reality - and God only deals in reality. I want God, therefore I must deal in reality.
Hear the words of the Jesus-lover, John. This was the man who made this Christian life all about relationship to God and the brethren. He said, "Who is he that overcometh, but he who believes Jesus Christ is the son of God?"
"This is the victory that overcomes the world...even our faith."
Whoever believes that Jesus Christ is the express image of God - that Jesus came to reveal the heart of God for His children - and successfully offered Himself, His own body, on the cross, so that we could be dead to sin, and then He rose again so that we could live lives clearly stamped by the righteousness of God....whoever believes all this, THAT PERSON is "he who overcometh."
Not he that attaineth or performeth, not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord. The race is not for he who wills or he who runs...it's all God. I could go on and on.
I am seeing the big picture in a fresh perspective....honestly, the panoramic view. It is breathtaking.