Recently, the messages at Flood Church here in San Diego have been motivational and have shaken up my shaken up some of my beliefs once again, in a good way. Although spring 2011 was a big time of disturbed beliefs, this helped solidify my beliefs even more. Matt Hammett’s messages have been challenging and have returned my life to me, the individual. The current series is called Safe and Sound: The Trite and True in Christian Clichés, and in the series, we are looking at Christian clichés and seeing what is biblical and what is hyped up tradition. Today, we completed the second week of the series.
The first week was the one message I wanted to hear, “Does God Have A Perfect Plan For Your Life?” The message fueled me and my personal responsibility to make decisions. After looking at Jeremiah 29:11, I realized it is usually taken out of context and used to formulate the idea that God has our whole lives laid out and has all these plans for us to fulfill. In contrast, Jeremiah 29:11 was designed for specific people in a specific place in a specific time. To abstract from that and create a universal truth for all people is wrong. God leaves it open for us to make decisions, but if there is something that he wants us to get done, like a Jonah moment, He will get it done. That is what’s not always happening though. Our pastor used the analogy of a painting to make is point more tangible. God provides us with this canvas of our life, gives us some paint of various events and gifts, and lets us go after it. Sometimes He’ll have to get us to paint something in particular or have us “paint by number,” but ultimately it’s us painting this masterpiece of God. This took me aback because for once I heard in church that I was responsible for things. Much of the time, people use God as the excuse for so many things when they don’t want to accept responsibility, as though God is making them do something. This was my dilemma back in the spring, a loss of purpose and an acknowledgement that I could ruin God’s plans. All of a sudden I felt a rush of responsibility, but this message reminded me of the freedom within grace and most importantly reminded me that God is still working. God is acting in what I do today, taking me to the message from today, “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.”
Today at Flood brought me back to my Tetelestai: It Is Finished blog from July. Regardless of where we are, God has grace for us, and we either resist this grace or accept it. The success we face is not from our own doing, but God’s doing. If we think it’s our own, like when we are told to “follow our hearts,” we have this self-reliant faith that we can do whatever we want, but Jeremiah tells us that the heart is deceitfully wicked. Instead we need to remember grace and realize that 1) we can’t make ourselves a son or daughter of God and 2) we can’t live the life God calls us to live on our own.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Cor 15:9-10
From Philippians 2:12, we are told to work out our salvation, not to work for our salvation. When we look at the statement “God helps those who help themselves” in light of grace, we start realizing that it’s truly that “God helps those who can’t help themselves.” It struck me when we read 1 Cor 15:9-10, where Paul is saying that he is the least of the apostles, the guy who wrote about half of the New Testament is the least of the apostles. Although he used to persecute the church, God extends grace even to him. “You are loved and accepted. Work out of that.”
From all this, I have been realizing that one cliché that I continually cling to is that I am supposed to surrender and let God do all the work, but after hearing these messages, God leaves is open for me to do things, but that doesn’t mean that He isn’t constantly active in my actions, working in me to will and to act His purpose. I am called to God-dependent work, work that relies on effort and work of the Holy Spirit. Grace is against earning but not against effort. Although I haven’t figured out what next, I’m still left with remembering to work out another cliché, who I am in Christ.