Christian Advantage? (6)
Once we humans brought Sin into our existence we began a downward moral spiral that affected and infected every facet of our life as a race and each of us as individuals. God who had sustained us morally and every other way up to the moment of our Rebellion now related to a sinful family that abused its God-given and God-sustained freedom to live in holy love with him at a personal and corporate level.
God had eternally committed himself to creation and to the human family at its head so he had no wish to obliterate the creation; but he did curse the humans and he cursed the non-human creation because of the human rebellion. The “innocent” suffered along with the guilty under a redemptive curse (see Genesis 3 in its entirety). It was a redemptive curse in that it was/is an instrument God would and purposed to use to keep the human family alive and bring it, in and through Jesus, to even greater glory that it had known initially.
God did not cease to love the human race and he did not withdraw his truth and support from it. At times he performed radical surgery on the human family but even those acts and the revelation of his righteousness in those acts were redemptive. “When God’s judgments are in the earth the nations learn righteousness,” a psalmist said. Through holy men and women, through prophets and priests, through godly parents God continued to bless humans with his truth and his provisions. He did not withdraw from humans and leave them entirely unaided in their own corrupt and corrupting ways, though he did allow them to walk away from him. Acts 14:15-17 and 17:24-29 make it clear that he continued to have dealings with the entire human family so that they could seek after and find him because he isn’t far from any of us. See those texts!
One of the divine moves to redeem and bring the human family to glory in Jesus was God’s choosing certain individuals and people through whom he would work. Having entered a humanity-wide covenant in Genesis 9 God entered a special relationship with Abraham and his descendants through Jacob. God blessed Abraham and his physical children with special manifestations of himself and his activity not only because he loved them but because he had chosen them as his instrument of blessing for the entire human family. It’s this chosen family within the human family that the OT deals with in particular but we’re not to think that God left the rest of humanity in utter and total ignorance concerning himself (Romans 1:18-32 shows how much truth he blessed it with and note the High Priest through whom God blessed Abraham in Genesis 14:18-20).
It doesn’t matter that the nations suppressed and rejected the truth and blessings that God gave them to enable them to seek and find him. That was their choosing and not God’s. It doesn’t matter that Israel as a nation consistently and perversely suppressed and rejected God’s truth and blessings—that was their doing. God’s kindness in the form of truth and provision was extended to all nations though to Israel he gave something special that under God they might bless the world!
The “extra” that Israel got was not some kind of “divine injection” into their souls or some divine “white magic” that made Israelite hearts different from all others on earth. What they got was a level of intimacy; what they got was the possibility of a clearer vision, a rich and inspiring understanding that life in God was fullness of life and what they got was a relationship with the one true God. What they got was something analogous to being raised by godly and loving parents as over against children who are raised in a vile society by perverse parents. (That analogy mustn't be overdrawn.)
Just because Israel is the center-piece of the OT we’re not to think he cared nothing for the entire human family and so he left it stumbling in the abysmal depths of sinful gloom without offering light and blessing. That isn’t Bible—that’s untrue! And just because he has entered into a special relationship with the New Testament elect in Jesus, whom he has gathered to himself through the gospel, we’re not to conclude he cares nothing for the entire world. We're not to think that because he helps NT elect, God refuses light and help and provision for the non-elect. That too is false!
Out from among the sinful human family that God continues to love and work for he chose sinful individuals and groups and peoples. Those he chose sinned like everyone else; they were not special human specimens, they were not paragons of moral virtue and they remain sinful human beings. His choosing them brought them into a peculiar relationship with him and that brought with it something that the rest of the human family didn’t have—the chosen ones had an advantage over the rest in the war against Sin.
But the advantage is not a divine injection of super-human moral strength!
Stop looking for that! Stop expecting it! If it suits God to call you by his gospel with all your flaws then let God be God and come “just as you are”. When you come you will come to Jesus, the sin-hater, the sin-destroyer, the sin-forgiver and the righteousness-loving Lord of Life and the human race. Stand up as a man or woman, boy or girl of God who has been given a privileged place of service and note that you aren’t the only one brawling with Sin. Your fellow-humans, in and out of Christ, are defying the wickedness which attacks their hearts and families and nations. They do it by the grace of God that’s extended to them in countless ways. Sin is as real in your life as it is in theirs but if you are in Jesus Christ by faith you have an advantage! Your sins are forgiven, you’ve been honored with a special place in God’s saving work and he has brought you to loving faith in the only human who has actually and in fact defeated Lord Sin.
Some of us were more deeply enmeshed in sins when we were called by grace into faith in Jesus and God purifies and strengthens us in keeping with our nature as humans and without “magic”. For some of us it’ll take longer to rise to moral glory that’s seen in its perfection in Christ. There are too many variables in each individual life for anyone to even pretend to know all that’s going on inside that life. Bless me, we don’t even know ourselves. Sometimes we’re astonished at the depth of our capacity for wickedness and perhaps on rare occasions we’re amazed at the selfless actions that flow from us.
This we know: those who’ve been called by the gospel and have come to Christ seek his likeness no matter how ulcerated and “sick” they are at present and that’s the foundation on which all else is built. If God has brought you into Christ he hasn’t been duped—he knows you altogether and if he’s happy you’ve joined him in the war then it doesn’t matter what others think of you. What’s more it doesn’t matter what you think of you, for you are no more your own Lord than others are!
If we want growth we’ll get it only in relationship with God and not by pep-talks, 10 rules for successful growth or divine “magic”. Our eyes need to be fixed on the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Hebrews 3:1) as we exercise such moral strength as we have in working with him for the saving of a world. By songs of praise, confession of wrongs, prayers of petition and intercession, by listening to and studying The Story, by conscientious and wise leaders, by paying attention to our ordinances and the shape of our liturgy, in communion with the saints, by honest dealings and a caring eye for a suffocating humanity and compassionate service—by these and in many more ways the Lord God heals us while he forgives us.
“Sick” as we are we didn’t call ourselves! The Church didn’t call us! The world didn’t call us! God called us, so ulcerated or not thank God we’re here and live in assured hope of our final and complete personal victory over Sin and sins!