Do you perceive yourself as being less important than others around you? Or do you see your talents, intelligences and specific abilities with a less-than important purpose? Do you see yourself as second-class because you struggle or because of a marred past? Perhaps others have treated you that way, and their actions have left an imprint on your person, or their words have become a part of your own narrative about who you believe you are. If you have begun to think this about yourself, or have long believed these things, there is a better way. You don’t have to walk in that condemnation any longer. Leave it behind, to embrace the TRUTH that you are God’s “treasured possession,” (Deuteronomy 7:6) his very own child, loved, HONORED, and chosen to do GOOD THINGS for His glory.
You may be engaged in a war, waged for your identity. Your past perceptions vie to overcome your present convictions about who you are. The challenge is to embrace God’s word which calls you “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you realize what these two things mean in tandem? God made you wonderful! At your very inception you were a beautiful creation, knit together, by the God of the universe. Then, life. And life can be good, but life can also scar a beautiful creation.
We daily chip away at that beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully made person, when we encounter sinfulness – either by our own choice, or that which is imposed upon us. And yet, there is so much grace in salvation. That old self is shed at the moment of salvation and you become that beautiful, wonderful creation once again. You become new! Can you sit with that idea for a little while; let that settle in to your bones? You’ll walk through life differently, more freely, really able to recognize your own REAL VALUE, and by extension the real value of all the others around you when you really get this: That you are greater in the eyes of the Lord that you are in your own! He created you. He created you wonderfully. He made you new. He knows you more intimately than any other being, mortal or immortal. Walk in the confidence of being that wonderfully made, new creation!
And then, knowing how truly valuable you are, think about how you are treating others. How do you communicate to them about their value? Consider this: The mystery of the Gospel is that it calls the carpenter, the pan-handler, the teacher, the poet, the soldier, the salesman, the politician, the prisoner, the single parent, and the preacher alike saying, “take off your uniform, your badge; come out from behind your desk and your pulpit; for in the presence of Jesus you are but one thing – a daughter, a son, an heir”. The glory of Christ is that no matter what we bring to Him, claiming that it makes us valuable, worthy or important – it pales in light of one relaity, we are His and He is ours.
When we honor those “less worthy of honor” we proclaim the eternal truth that all of our failures and achievements pale in comparison to the Glory of Jesus Christ and we will walk in the way it will be, not the way it is.
“I once believed in some notion of a pure ambition, which I defined as an ambition for the work rather than for oneself, but I’m not sure I believe in that anymore. If a poet’s ambition were truly for the work and nothing else, he would write under a pseudonym, which would not only preserve that pure space of making but free him from the distractions of trying to forge a name for himself in the world. No, all ambition has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self–except for that terrible, blissful feeling at the heart of creation itself, when all thought of your name is obliterated and all you want is the poem, to be the means wherein something of reality, perhaps even something of eternity, realizes itself. That is noble ambition. But all that comes after–the need for approval, publication, self-promotion–isn’t this what usually goes under the name of “ambition”? The effort is to make ourselves more real to ourselves, to feel that we have selves, though the deepest moments of creation tell us that, in some fundamental way, we don’t. (Souls are what those moments reveal, which are both inside and outside, both us and other.) So long as your ambition is to stamp your existence upon existence, your nature on nature, then your ambition is corrupt and you are pursuing a ghost.” -Christian Wiman, “God’s Truth in Life”
“Honor gives preference to others because it values and esteems them… To esteem others better than yourself is to honor them. We should ponder, meditate, and prayerfully consider these words in all our life activities and affairs. If we would learn this, getting it deeply rooted in our beings, we would walk in great blessing, as it is true honor.” - John Bevere, Honor’s Reward
“We don’t want to merely obey God; we need to catch His heart. It is then we will glimpse the wisdom behind His directives and not just see them as laws.” John Bevere, Honor’s Reward
This may be easier said than done. There’s some humility in that. It takes some setting aside of self to be able to see past the lists and rules and righteous regulations and see in to the heart. We rail against the directives of God because they impinge on our personal rights. Or perhaps we obey outwardly but, inwardly, sit stolid in thoughtful rebellion.
And let’s remember that when we misunderstand our own worth in the eyes of The Lord, it permeates so many areas of life. It affects our ability to love, to honor, to value so many of the people and things that we encounter day to day. When we truly understand our personal value to Father God, when we come to him, “continually entrusting” ourselves to Him who sees us with infinitely more value than we see ourselves, we will honor others out of an OVERFLOW of that understanding, not solely an emptying and self-abdicating deficit. You see, honor does require the laying aside of self, but it requires us to do so in order to be filled again and again with all the value and worth that our exceedingly great God has to give. He is immeasurably good. He gives us grace for our uncertainty, mercy for our sinfulness, love for our fellow man – even the ones hard to love. It’s out of that kind of understanding of the loving God we serve, and his gracious, kind intent that we begin to rightly honor the principles, laid out for us in scripture.
What are some areas you may be holding on to in your own “thoughtful rebellion?” What do you need to let go of in order to be filled with the grace, mercy and kindness of our Father God? How can you look at scripture differently so that you can begin to better honor the principles there?
“Give honor where honor is due.” We hear this often, have heard this often – probably since childhood. We know what it entails; giving credit to someone who deserves it, deference to someone who is your elder, celebrating someone who has accomplished something great. But what about when it isn’t due? What do you do then? How do you honor someone who hasn’t acted honorably?
Here’s an example of what I mean: A longstanding marriage built on a solid foundation of love, faith and commitment to one another, abruptly, and achingly comes to an end when the husband decides he no longer wants to honor the vows he made to his bride. But there are children. The man who walked out and left a wide open door for woundedness with his wife, also leaves little ones who still love (and look up to) their daddy. How does that wife, with all the hurt and harm and justifiable anger, choose to honor that man?
An understanding of grace; a real, experiential grasp on the truth that not one of us is worthy of the blessings and the mercy we receive can be foundational to our understanding of how to practice honor. If we truly believe that “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), God, in his great love for us, reached out to us to save us, to love and VALUE us – even in our contemptible rebellion – then we have to know that God values, loves, and longs for every one of us the same. Even the husband who walked out and left a shambles behind him – even in that kind of hurtful, hateful rebellion, God loves. And as we long to be like Christ, this is exactly the kind of thing we try to emulate.
Here’s the sticky part, though: Honoring a person does not mean we need to accept, nor affirm the harmful behavior. It does, however, mean that we value the person at the core of who they are, treat them with as much honor and love as can be mustered – and even more, because The Giver of love, the Rescuer of souls, can enable us, supernaturally to honor another beyond our own capability. So, while we don’t accept and affirm, does it mean we police, criticize, or condemn the one who acted dishonorably? Consider this scripture, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) If Jesus could entrust himself, without retaliation or threats, with regard to those who dishonored his very life, we can certainly strive to do the same. Entrust yourself to him, and let the dishonoring party do likewise. Let the Holy Spirit reveal truth and justice, and allow him to set the time table for doing so. God is a the author of love and honor, and also of justice. Entrust it all to him and, in the best way you know how, honor even the dishonorable, if for no other reason than because of their inherent value as one of God’s creation.
“In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight–a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
What a blessing it was to have Pastor Russ Schlecht ministering to us this weekend. He gave us so many things to think about regarding the way our world works, taking us through what OUGHT to be, what IS, what CAN be all the way through what God assures us in His Word, WILL BE.
If you will remember, we talked quite a bit about the concept of “Shalom” and the idea that we are vessels, able to be agents of restoration for that Shalom-wholeness in the world around us. Pastor Russ mentioned a book by Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, in his sermon. If that piqued your interest, as it did mine, I hope you’ll check it out. I was encouraged and inspired by the words he spoke to us this weekend. I hope you were too. If you missed weekend services at Living Water, you can, as always view a sermon summary and a video of the service at LivingWater.com, or on The City.
So many of us want to advocate for change in our world. Over the weekend, we spoke about prayer as your most precious resource in this area. Never forget that every situation you encounter here on earth has a spiritual component. When you encounter a circumstance that you perceive to need a change, or when you feel embroiled in a battle for what you believe is right, remember God’s word to you (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” and that your “weapons” when facing contentious situations are “not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Did you catch that? You have some DIVINE power available to you through the power of your prayers. That the God of our universe would equip and empower you with all that you need for the battles you face; that is no small thing. Look to the verses in Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 10-19, to know the “arsenal” of Heavenly resources with which to equip yourself to do the good you want to see in the world. Being, fully armed with all those things available to you, consider the people, policies and practices around you, and go be a wise and loving advocate for the things and people you value.
“The idea that if economic life is detached from all moral considerations and left to operate by its own laws all will be well is simply an abdication of human responsibility. It is the handing over of human life to the pagan goddess of fortune. If Christ’s sovereignty is not recognized in the world of economics, then demonic powers take control.” Lesslie Newbigin, To Tell the Truth: The Gospel as Public Truth
I referred to this quote during our weekend services and wanted to share it here, to give further thought to the idea that we all bear some responsibility in economic and political life. Economics and Politics encompass a big, and perhaps overwhelming, world, and if that makes you feel powerless to extend much of yourself in to that arena, remember to “Think big and think small.” Consider where you CAN extend some influence, and choose to be an agent of change, walking in the light of Christ, wherever your influence reaches – even in that influence only reaches to your next door neighbor, or the person who sits across the aisle from you during Sunday services, extend it. If extending your influence in economics means, ticking the box on the ballot when it arrives in your mailbox, praise God for that privilege and take advantage of the opportunity to use your voice in the political world. If that means, greater political or public involvement, then be diligent about seeking God’s will and wise counsel, and use your influence there too. Just don’t be resigned to let the world run its course. Your involvement and influence matter more than you may fully realize.
You do not so much look at the Bible from without as look at the world from within the Bible, through the lenses that the Bible gives you. - Lesslie Newbigin, To Tell the Truth: The Gospel as Public Truth