Impossibly Perfect – Part 1
The human body, without all its parts, is still human and can still function. When in peril, the body, aided by machines, can be kept alive. The body can lose the appendix, tonsils, and the gall bladder without affecting functionality. When other essential organs malfunction, with intervention, the body can continue to function. Without hands and feet, the human body becomes immobile. The human body, blind, deaf and mute, or walking with a limp – continues to function. But without hands and feet, it must have a human intervention for survival and to have some kind of quality of life. The human body is an amazing creation that can continue on despite imperfections, but when the heart stops beating, it will die. The wonderful news is that, if the heart should stop beating, quick action can restart the beat.
In marriage, the man is supposed to the head of a woman, Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body. 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” So, single parents may be at a disadvantage.
And as most have heard, the body of Christ is likewise compared to the human body. And it works together to accomplish the mission of God. Without all parts working together, or as intended, the body of Christ continues to function. And unlike the human body that must rely on interventions to thrive, the body of Christ has Jesus that gives it life. And so, the body of Christ thrives because of Him. Even when some of the parts are missing, or things aren’t as they should be, the body of Christ continues to thrive and to bring a lost and hurting world back to its Creator.
Our society is enamored with this body, this flesh, with the building up of the self. We have this belief that having the perfect body will somehow make us more acceptable, more appreciated, more adored. And that it will make us feel beautiful and sensual, better, healthier, more positive, more attractive to others. It will build our self-esteem and self-worth, and everything else the self needs to thrive. If we persevere, or be more assertive, more confident we can fulfill all our dreams. I see this image of a man, flexing his muscles, standing tall, showing of his pride and joy, his body. We kill ourselves to shape our bodies into an image that can never please everyone. We may stink underneath it all, but at least we’ll look good. “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” ― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
It’s all together humorous, futile and terribly sad because this flesh of ours will never see heaven. Once it’s dead and buried, it will rot and waste away. As Christians, we fill our walk with works that we think will please God, that will show the world how godly we are and how blessed we are meanwhile bypassing God’s will.
The pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, this is what guides the heart of man.
When I think about it, and here lately I’ve thought about it a lot, there is a little Jonah in all of us – in that we run the opposite direction in which God wants us to go. When we accepted salvation through Christ Jesus, we became new creations. We were purchased with the blood of Jesus. Our final destination was then redirected. We then began the long journey of transformation into the image of Christ. Our purpose: to love God and bring Him glory. And to share the saving knowledge of the gospel of salvation and grace in Christ Jesus. And to love others.
So we go out as missionaries, we teach, we pastor, and we sing. Some of us do other things for the kingdom of God, But guess what? Before we were ever saved, others had already gone out and among them were people with the wrong message. Why?
There lived this man named Brennan Manning, who taught about the gospel of grace. Now, this man took a different approach to sharing the gospel. I have not read all His stuff. I did not see a need for it, but He did author a book appropriately titled, The Ragamuffin Gospel.
Like every other writer preaching against the traditional discourse of Christianity and salvation, he has his critics. Likewise, my favorite songwriter, Rich Mullins also had his critics because of his bohemian style concert presentations. So, these two men were very anti-establishment, even for me. And I do believe that Manning’s biggest critique was the failure in representing the importance of repentance.
Well, I might have mentioned in a prior post that I was saved over 38 years ago. I spent most of my Christian walk playing the role, going to church, bible studies, trying to be a submissive wife, occasional prayer and bible reader – yes – I spent many years playing church. In that time, I lived through domestic violence, multiple infidelities, rejection, self-criticism, and I could see myself turning into an abuser just like my ex. but with my children. In my unstable marriage, I cried out to the Lord almost daily. The last thing I wanted to do was take my frustrations out on my three beautiful children. They were my saving grace.
When it comes to Brennan Manning there are some things he said that rang through for me.
- Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the God of grace.
- The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.
- I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.
- Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.
- “My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.”
― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
In my many years of being a Christian, I was familiar with the idea of God’s grace. During those years, I do not recall a message that truly spoke to the idea of grace. I always here the term used rather loosely. “Thank God for His grace.” “It’s all God’s grace.” So, discovering the true meaning of God’s grace was a gift of God’s grace.
Here’s the lesson I learned about grace. God’s grace is unmerited favor. I do not deserve God’s grace, much less His mercy. Why? I know the wretched person I was before God. During my early Christian walk, during my marriage, after my divorce leading right to before, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. Like the apostle Paul, I had my Damascus experience. And it was not until 2014 that the Lord finally said enough. Without it, I don’t believe I would be the person I am now, the person that God transformed into the image of Him. Why? As Jonah, running from God, recognized that he was the cause of the trouble on that ship, so I, too, knew I was running from God. That had all to do with my many troubles. That’s another story.
We can learn all sorts of good things from pastors, teachers and such, from conferences and other such gatherings. But, it takes having a right heart before God for God to instruct us. When we have a right heart before God, then we can be in that place where we can actually ingest and digest God’s word, and He gives understanding. No man can fathom what is in the mind God. At best, we guess, we speculate. So, we turn to God in prayer in all things. We not only recognize our need for the things of God, for His word, but we have this insatiable craving, a hunger for more of Him. And when He gives us all He wants us to know, for that moment, He says OK, go. He gives us what we can handle. Do not fear. I will be with you, always. And He fills our heart with His explainable joy and His confidence that as it says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It’s a scary place to be, in the hands of the living God, but for me – that’s the only place I want to be.
The gospel of grace simply means that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. And with this boldness, I can say that because of His grace, He called me. He knows me by name. Because of His grace, I could not deny my wretchedness, my lingering rejection, and anger over my circumstances – and my need for His mercy. I could see all the lies that I believed, some that I even told myself about myself. And my response every single time that God showed me a little piece of my heart was sheer remorse and repentance. And God was there in my brokenness, offering forgiveness, mercy, grace, and comfort.
We may not be able to undo all the wrongs we’ve done in our lifetime. But in Christ, there will be moments where He will ask us to do His will. We may not like it. We may run in the opposite direction. And if we should run, if we belong to God, we will find our-self back to square one. And if we do belong to God, we will recognize our role in His kingdom and will see it as an honor to be called by the God that knows our name.
Stay tune for Part 2.