Last week I sat down to work on my Systematic Theology III paper on Jonathan Edwards. I found myself distracted as I wrote by World AIDS Day events.
As small as my problems are compared to the greater ones faced by so many, our God is bigger.
“Since that day it has never been quite enough to say that’ God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world;’ since the rumour that God had left his heavens to set it right.”
G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
God is working every moment of our lives in our past, present and future, and is using every atom throughout all of creation, to demonstrate the glory of His being so that we become more like His Son. It is God who created us so that our significance, our purpose, our security and identity would all be met by Him.
Ephesians 1:7-8 states, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all His wisdom and insight.” This perfectly summarizes what God has done for us. When God revealed His perfect qualities and sovereign attributes to the world at the Cross it broke the bond that held the world in its grasp and satisfied our every need.
Because of God’s limitless goodness, He knew through His perfect wisdom exactly what to do to amend our situation. That is He used His perfect freedom to exercise His absolute authority over sin and death. God being the ultimate in power, overcame sin’s power over us by paying our debt through His blood spilled on the Cross in the form of Christ. He did all this out of His love for us. God would have been perfectly right to leave us in our sinful condition because He is a God of perfect justice and holiness. And it’s not that God’s love and grace overruled His holiness and justice by redeeming us and adopting us. ON the contrary all of God’s perfect qualities, his unconditional love, His righteous justice, His all sufficient grace and His unapproachable holiness all intersected each other at the Cross with God’s sovereign attributes of power, wisdom, freedom and goodness to meet all our needs break our bondages to bring us from our depraved condition into His divine presence.
Chesterton described how the old world’s pagan beliefs could not contain the Cross. The symbol of paganism is a perfect circle formed by a serpent eating it’s own tail. When the cross was placed at the center of the pagan circle, it extended out in each direction, breaking paganism’s constricting grip of superstitions, falsehood, idolatry and ignorance. Imagine now instead of a pagan circle, a four-link chain that surrounds the world. God broke through the chains that enslave us by exercising His sovereign attributes and revealing His perfect qualities at the Cross. Just like the archaic pagan belief systems were overwhelmed by the cross, the bondages of the world are completely shattered by God’s sovereignty and perfection.
We have been given all that we need to be free and that is Christ Himself. When we realize that we are free to be loved and have the freedom to love. By forgiving us, He freed us from sin’s penalty and through His grace we need not be enslaved to sin any longer.
God allows us to exchange the shackles of this world that is the bondage of conformity, the curse of superficiality, the crushing pressure of self-indulgence and identity crisis for His goodness, His freedom, His power and His liberty. This will give us purpose for our life will not be our own but will be given to God for His glory and our benefit. When we do He will provide our security by meeting our every need and allow us to realize our significance because we are made in His image and are loved and treasured by Him. And God will transform our fallen identity to the perfect likeness of His Son.
The Missouri White Oak Tree shows very little noticeable growth for the first twenty to thirty years of its life. What it in fact is doing is developing it's root system, sending them down deep into the Earth where the nutrients are found and where there is water. It also interlocks its roots with other trees. When it matures it becomes one of the strongest, tallest and most beautiful trees in the forest and provides a home for many kinds of life. It is also one of the most profitable trees and is used around the world for furniture, buildings, homes, even barrels to age French wines champagnes or Scotch whiskey as well several other uses. By spending so many years developing the root systems, these oak trees can survive times of drought and withstand the fiercest storms and harshest winters. There are oak trees that have lived for several hundred years because they have such deep roots.
In much the same way, I've spent the past few years developing my roots. While on the outside, (especially to people like my parents and others) I have not seemed to show much growth financially, career-wise, or whatever, this time has been very valuable for me as I've spent a great deal of this time learning about who God is, what sort of relationship He wants from me, experiencing His character and presence in my life.
This period has also given me time to work on my creative talents of music and writing and photography. I have also been able to cultivate great relationships with so many people and opportunities to serve, more than I can begin to name. I've seen too many people achieve success after success who never develop their roots so when hardship comes, they come toppling down. When the droughts will inevitably come, when the storms will most certainly strike, I will be able to stand because, not because of what I have done God has used time for my roots to grow deeper in Him.
When we are rooted we can escape the cycle of demoralization as we are being attended to by the great Gardener. And at some point we decide, by God’s grace with His leading to no longer believe the lies of the world of who we are and embrace the truth that we are His children.
When the adoption of Christ comes upon us, He gives us everything we need to live as He wants us to, and that is Himself. And as He shares more and more of who He is with us, His thoughts, actions, attitudes, and words will be His rather than the deadness and sin that is our flesh. Thinking about the oak trees, a tree can only grow as tall as it’s root systems are deep. Christ is to be the soil and bedrock giving us our foundation and sustenance that our roots are to dig into. The Spirit provides us with air and water that we need and as we grow toward the light of the Father.
And as oak trees also need the other trees in glade to share nutrients and lock roots together so the storms do not topple us, so too we need the other believers in the church. For Christ has called us all to be rooted in Him, the Spirit surrounds us all and together we are to grow together toward the Father. And our only response is humble gratitude for what He does through us. For we have been planted here not because of our own virtue and merit, for we have none, but for God that we may glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.