19 July 2007

What I Have Learned Attending Church

Perhaps that title should read What I have Learned Attending Some Churches as not all churches inculcate the following but far too many do. Here’s the list of things I’ve learned:

To contemplate my sin more than the mercy of God
To be a legalist even in a Reformed church
To be overly introspective
To fear God’s wrath more than enjoy His mercy and forgiveness
To live in the past rather than in the present

Obvioulsy, those things are wrong & I have come to see that I must learn from the past, live in the present (under God's forgiveness) and look to a bright future (with God's mercy). God is not sitting in heaven just waiting for me to sin to send me the holy zap. Conversely, we read in Hebrews 4 that we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Yes, we need to spend some time examining ourselves however, in our darkest hour we should remember the mercy of God and that He is working all things together for our good. In John Piper’s Pleasures of God he writes concerning this:

He [God] will keep on doing good. He doesn't do good to his children sometimes and bad to them other times. He keeps on doing good and he never will stop doing good for ten thousand ages of ages. When things are going "bad" that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means he is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving him. He works all things together for good "for those who love him" (Romans 8:28). "No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes" (Psalm 119:71)....
But the promise is greater yet. Not only does God promise not to turn away from doing good to us, he says, "I will rejoice in doing them good" (Jeremiah 32:41). "The Lord will again take delight in prospering you" (Deuteronomy 30:9). He does not bless us begrudgingly. There is a kind of eagerness about the beneficence of God. God is not waiting for us, he is pursuing us. That, in fact, is the literal translation of Psalm 23:6, "Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life." God loves to show mercy. He is not hesitant or indecisive or tentative in his desires to do good to his people. His anger must be released by a stiff safety lock, but his mercy has a hair trigger. . . .
But still the promise is greater. Finally, God promises that this rejoicing over the good of his people will be with all his heart and with all his soul. . . . When God does good to his people it is not so much like a reluctant judge showing kindness to a criminal whom he finds despicable; it is like a bridegroom showing affection to his bride. And add to this, that with God the honeymoon never ends. He is infinite in power and wisdom and creativity and love. And so he has no trouble sustaining a honeymoon level of intensity; he can foresee all the future quirks of our personality and has decided he will keep what's good for us and change what isn't; he will always be as handsome as he ever was, and will see to it that we get more and more beautiful forever; and he is infinitely creative to think of new things to do together so that there will be no boredom for the next trillion ages of millenniums. . . .
There is a condition we must meet in order to know him as our God and be a part of the wonderful covenant in which he never turns away from doing us good but rejoices over us with all his heart and all his soul. That condition is to put our hope in him as the all-satisfying Refuge and Treasure. God takes pleasure in this response with all his heart, because it magnifies the glory of his grace and satisfies the longing of our soul.

It’s time for change. Living a holy life does not mean living an unhappy life. It’s time to revisit Q&A #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. It’s time to start enjoying Him now, enjoying His mercy, His forgiveness, His promises and His constant care and oversight.

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