All the sermons taught and preached regarding the gospel of God, the grace of God, are stirring incredible conversations in my church. This thrills my husband, and it thrills me. The majority are receiving revelation and, in their words, are "breaking free, bit by bit...chains are falling off of me." Some are reveling in truths they've seen before, but can't get too much of. Some are wrestling, straining at parts, not really the whole. It's all good. Wrestling, even, is fine - it is part of the process! Certainly, we've seen it before, and we've seen amazing growth come from it. In fact, wrestling can be healthy, when a man wrestles for blessing, refusing to let God go until it comes.
Almost all are joining the conversation, and this is such a precious thing! Tim and I intend to guard the safety of the believers to open their hearts to one another, without fear of being sidetracked into conflict. Few things are more important. Honest dialogue (versus contentious argument) is the heart of every true believer - it is the very essence of the teaching style of Jesus, and the very spirit of the Epistles. Mature believers can winsomely discuss truths that are primary.
Human hearts, what they think and what they believe, matter so much to the Father. He is always out to adjust what we are thinking and believing, because not one of us has arrived at full revelation.
Harvest has always been a safe place to receive or wrestle, celebrate or strain, join in or sit it out, hide or seek. We have nothing to impart to each other, other than that which Christ has wrought in us anyway! The messages we have been hearing are revealing to us just how much has truly been done IN us, as opposed to merely just how much has been heard BY us, over all the years we've been in church.
This is where the grace of God gets rugged. Grace and "personal peace and affluence" are not the same things. Grace does not seek our happiness as a "first thing", it seeks our restoration. Joy and happiness are secondary things...always by-products of a fully favored soul, restored and redeemed by the costly blood of Christ. Amazingly, we are discovering that the message of the gospel does not always initially bring "happiness" even to the saved. The gospel can stir us and poke us at our foundation, revealing weakening beliefs we've had, that we'd rather gloss over. We so much prefer to be thought of as having it all together, sometimes. I know I sure do.
This is why I am going to be the first and the last to always declare, "I am undone!" It keeps my heart in check, and keeps me on the receiving end of what my prophet friend Joe Ewen said would be "great grace displayed in my life."
Our opinions about 'happiness' need re-thinking from the ground, up. My hope to feel happy is normal, but if I am to follow the footsteps of Christ, in order to know happiness, I am going to encounter the fellowship of His suffering at times.
Here is what I am getting at: Grace does not mean that we absolutely must feel whole and happy, secure and complete, before we get around to loving God and loving others. Why is this?
Because, in grace, I am complete in Him already. By grace, through faith, I am complete in every conceivable way. Jesus Christ is my sufficiency..."my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
Therefore, I can get about the happy and difficult business of the kingdom. I can start letting people in, rather than always, ever-gradually shutting them out. I will be able to point to life-long friends, and know we are trophies of unifying grace. I can have honest fellowship, rather than the false sort, that rallies around only those who comfortably share my opinion.
After all, other than what Christ has wrought in me, all I have to show you is my brokenness and ineptitude - and that is all you have to show me. I don't care who you are, or what you have accomplished, you are undone and inept without Christ. Would you like me to show you just where? I am certain you could show me just where.
So we're safe with each other, whether you act like it or not.
The more I own up to my inherent human ineptitude, with my brothers and sisters in community, the more Christ is magnified in us all. There is such a safety to the verity of "Christ in you" and "Christ in me". This means there is...oh, there is....there is Someone valuable and good - of inestimable value - in me and in you. Christ in the believer is not a metaphor, it is every bit as real as the clay feet that walked the earth, and were nailed to a cross. He....lives....in....us. I can celebrate THAT. I can look for what - or rather, Who - is right about you, and not what is wrong. I can relate to you from the foundation of grace.
Rugged realities, these. Some cannot yet see the value of brokenness and radical grace, because their own abilities are keeping things together quite well for them....for now. But those who encounter Rugged Grace are free to let go of personal peace, cheap happiness, and false affluence, to embrace a sweetness and depth of Christian community, based on the reality of our inability, and His sufficiency...a Christian community that has real power.
True transformation - spiritual, moral, relational and otherwise, is inevitable in a setting like that.
Come....all who are thirsty. Just come.
(see http://www.harvestchurch1.com/, audio resources page, Joe Ewen's message entitled "Come" from January 21st of this year...)