Posts Tagged good

I’m Not Thankful

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. the big question that will be asked around most dinner tables is “what are you thankful for?” We might go around in a circle and each person list one thing for which they are thankful.  We might elaborate on special blessings, joyous occasions, or unexpected miracles that have happened during the last year.

But I’m willing to bet there won’t be one table in America that asks the question, “What are you NOT thankful for?”

You see, we tend to view life and it’s happenings in one of two categories, good and bad.  There are good things that happen, like getting a job or recovering from an illness.  And there are bad things that happen like losing a job or getting sick.  We tend to be thankful for the things we consider to be in the “good” category.  But those in the “bad” column?  Not so much.

Truth be told, despite the lip service we give it on days like Thanksgiving, we’re not really thankful for everything.  Just the good stuff.

My son Colin told me about an illustration he saw on the internet the other day, and I think it’s useful in making a point.  Take a look at the glass on the left.  Is it half-empty or is it half-full?  Stay with me, this isn’t some lame optimist/pessimist exercise.  Is it half-empty or half-full?

Actually, it’s a trick question because the glass is full.  It’s always full.  In this case, it’s half-full of water and half-full of air.  Even a glass that we consider to be empty is still full of air.  (Science geeks can take their discussion of vacuums elsewhere.)

Here’s the point:  Ephesians 1 tells us that all things in heaven and earth are made one in Jesus Christ, and that He fills all in all.  Hear that?  All things, good and bad, up or down, are brought together in Christ and He fills them all.

The glass is always full in Christ.

So even the things on my “bad” list are good because they are in Christ.  Even the things that bring us pain, the suffering, the lost job, the sickness, are filled by Christ.  And we are never closer to Him, we are never more filled with Him than when we suffer.  It’s the path of the true pilgrim, the lot of the sincere seeker.

Like the paradox that is the essence of the Christ experience, our “bad” list actually is our “good” list.  He has brought them both together and made them one in Him.  That’s why He so confidently tells us to “give thanks in everything.”

So this year, around the Thanksgiving table in our house, I’m going to be thanking God for the health problems I’ve been experiencing, because they’ve made me more dependent on Christ which is something I wrote about last week.  I’ll be encouraging our family to think about things they wouldn’t necessarily associate with Thanksgiving.  I’m going to make us think about the things we’d normally ignore, the things we wish would change, the things on our “bad” list.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of offering up the same tired answer to the same tired question, God will get glory as we begin to open up about the things that make us question God, the things that make us suffer, the things that make us say “Why?”  And maybe He’ll get glory when we admit the things we haven’t really been so thankful for, and we let Him change us more into His image as we lay down our selfish notion that everything should always go well and we get thankful for the things that draw us closer and make us more dependent on Him.

This Thanksgiving I dare you, ask the question, “What are you NOT thankful for?”

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Two Trees

Ask most non-Christians whether they will go to heaven when they die, and they usually will reply with something like, “I think so, I’m a pretty good guy.”  Those of us who follow Jesus know that the only way to heaven is by trusting Him for our salvation, and that being a “good guy” won’t cut it.

Or do we?

If we really understand that truth, then why do so many in the church seem so caught up in works?  We feel guilty because we don’t do what we should.  We feel guilty because we keep doing what we shouldn’t.  Sound familiar?  It sounds to me like the conflict Paul found himself fighting in Romans 7.  While we accept the grace of God in theory, it seems in practice it’s another story.  We judge ourselves and others by such strict standards.

It all started in the garden.

If you recall, there were two trees in the Garden of Eden.  There was the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Mankind was meant to eat only of the tree of life, living in perfect communion with God forever.  But we made a choice to instead eat of the other tree, and when we did, our eyes were opened.  And notice it was not just evil, but GOOD and EVIL.  They are two sides of the same coin.  It was a knowledge we were never supposed to have.  A knowledge of good, a knowledge of evil, and a knowledge of our own nakedness before God.

Mankind has lived in the bondage of that decision ever since.  For most, life is a constant battle between their own capacity for both good and evil.  And when the good outweighs the evil, we feel pretty good about ourselves, like somehow our nakedness before God is covered up.  But that is a battle we are not capable of winning.

The truth is, if we are still living lives of pursuing good and avoiding bad actions, we are still living a life of bondage to that decision so long ago to eat of the wrong tree.  Paul calls it “the law of sin and death” in Romans 8.  And as long as we are obsessed with what we are doing and not doing, we are living under the law of sin and death, and sin still rules over us.

Jesus came to give us life, not just forgiveness.  He came to restore us to the garden, where we may freely eat of the tree of life and live in communion once again with our Father.  He came to restore us back to the place we lived before the knowledge of good and evil corrupted our hearts.  No longer must we live as slaves to our actions.  No longer must we constantly worry about what we have done or what we have left undone.  No longer must we hide our nakedness from God, afraid of what He’ll do to us if He sees us as we really are.

It’s a free gift.

No action required on our part other than to repent and accept the gift.  But when we repent before God, we are not really repenting of our sins.  We are repenting of our thought that we could ever do anything but sin.  We are repenting of thinking we could cover our nakedness by our own goodness.  We are repenting of choosing to live under the law of sin and death, trying desperately to win a battle He has already won.

So we have a choice:  We can continue to live in bondage to the law of sin and death, constantly afraid of what we have done, hiding in our shame before God. We can continue thinking life is about doing good and avoiding evil, burdened by guilt over our failures.

Or we can accept the sacrifice of Jesus, living in the “law of liberty in Christ”, freely eating of the tree of life.  That’s it, it’s over.  Sin can no longer rule over us because we are free from it’s power.  The power of sin is wrapped up in it’s consequences.  Take away the punishment and you take away it’s power.  And that’s what Jesus did.  We no longer have to fear, strive, work, or hide.

Breathe deep and feel the release.  Your salvation no longer depends on you living up to a standard.  Let it go and live in the freedom you were meant to have all along.

Maybe that’s why it’s called the “good news.”

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