Glaring Blind Spots

Did you know Jonathan Edwards owned slaves?

“It should be noted that Edwards was able to accomplish as much as he did in part because he bought into the viability of slavery. This is a massive stain on the reputation of a great Christian man. Though Edwards did treat his slaves well, and though he believed in and talked about the spiritual equality of all people before the Lord, he failed to adequately apply spiritual truths to his everyday life. Even so faithful a Christian and so biblically concerned believer as Edwards has his blind spots–some of them, like slavery, shameful in great measure.”  — Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards, Lover of God

Reading this passage made me wonder what massive blind spots I have in my life that others see now or will be someday be glaringly obvious to others when I’ve died.   How many ways have I failed to apply spiritual truth to my life?

I’m so grateful for both aspects of justification — forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ.  Not only does God see believers as “not guilty” because of Christ’s sacrifice, but he sees us as positively “righteous” because he credits Christ’s lifetime of flawless obedience to us as a gift of his grace. We need both–atonement for sin, and a positive record of righteousness–in order to stand before God.

Even Jonathan Edwards, as zealous as he was for the Lord, could not enter heaven based on his performance. If he presented all his sermons, teaching and books, all the hospitality he and his wife practiced, and all the people he helped as worthy of heaven, God would say what about the massive blind spot of slavery? What about this gaping deficiency?

But Edwards, trusted in Christ, so God viewed him not only as if he’d never sinned, but as if he’d lived Christ’s perfect life of obedience.

“To [Christ’s] righteousness is the eye of the believer ever to be directed; on that righteousness must he rest; on that righteousness must he live; on that righteousness must he die; in that righteousness must he appear before the judgment-seat; in that righteousness must he stand forever in the presence of a righteous God.” — Robert Haldane

Praise God for justification by faith!

photo by elmago_delmar

Meet Jonah the Jerk

God is the God of second chances. And he’s also the God of third chances, and fourth chances, and fifth chances.

Case in point: Jonah.

Have you read the book of Jonah any time recently? It’s a surreal book featuring Jonah the Enormous Jerk and the God of Everflowing, Overflowing Grace.

God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah and prophesy their impending destruction. Jonah isn’t so keen on that idea and makes a break for Tarshish. The moment Jonah ran, God should have killed him. But he gave him a second chance. His mercy won’t let Jonah get away that easily.

God hunts down Jonah with a storm of epic proportions, which results in him be thrown into the sea by the ship’s crew (who, by the way, placed their faith in Yahweh). It would be right for God to let Jonah inhale the water and suffocate, but he doesn’t. Instead he appoints a fish to swallow Jonah and save him from drowning. Jonah is vomited onto dry land.

He goes to Nineveh, preaches, and 120,000 people repent in sackcloth and ashes. It’s probably the greatest revival in history and it certainly is every preacher’s dream come true. But Jonah is in no mood to celebrate. He stalks outside the city and sets up a booth to sit in, hoping that God will still bring the hammer down on Nineveh. God doesn’t and Jonah flips out on God. He’s angry that God would be merciful to such scumbags and now would like God to take his life.

Jonah should have been vaporized on the spot. But God gave him a third chance.

God sends a plant to cover Jonah from the sun. The plant is present for only one day, but it appears to be the best day of Jonah’s life. The next however, it’s gone, eaten by a God-appointed worm. Jonah has had enough. He again asks God to kill him on the spot. But God continues to extend compassion to Jonah, and gives him yet a fourth chance to turn from his wickedness.

The book of Jonah ends without telling us what Jonah did, but I think he finally got it. God just wouldn’t let go of Jonah. He loved him too much and wouldn’t let him wallow in sin.

God does the same with you and me. God always sticks with us. He should have dumped us long ago, but he is utterly faithful to the end, and will keep pursuing us with compassion.

Which makes me really glad.

Clenched Teeth Obedience

It’s not enough to do God’s will.  It doesn’t please God when we obey with clenched teeth.

We need to delight to do God’s will.

“Not only did Jesus do the will of the Father, not only was that His whole goal in life, but Psalm 40:8 tells us that He delighted to do the will of the Father. To become like Jesus, then, is to come to the place where we delight to do the will of God, however sacrificial or unpleasant that will may seem to us at the time, simply because it is His will.” — Jerry Bridges, The Disciplines of Grace

When it comes to obedience, attitude is everything!  If a father tells his son to cut the grass, and the son does it sullenly, grumbling the whole time, even though the son “obeys” his obedience won’t be pleasing to his father.  So when we obey God, we need his grace and the power of the Spirit to obey with glad and cheerful hearts.

Give us your grace, Lord Jesus, not only to do your will today, but to delight to do your will!

photo by amandabhslater