Friday, May 12, 2006

Give that guy a Sharpie!

Ephesians 4
17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ok, so I was watching that crazy guy with the gray hair last night. You know, the one who writes all those random scribbles on a white board while he’s giving his “message,” none of which you can actually read? Well, I found myself drawn to him (no pun intended) for some reason, like watching a train wreck, but the train actually pulled into the station in the end and I was pleasantly surprised. He was talking about grieving the spirit, and not only had I never heard this topic preached before, but certainly not like this. I gotta be honest; I have absolutely no idea what it means to grieve the spirit, but his take on the issue sounded pretty good to me. And so, I’ll share.

Now if I had to take my best guess as to what it means to grieve the spirit, I’d guess something along the lines of doing bad stuff that makes God sad. Hehe! Silly me! With a little help from my gray-haired friend, I’m leaning toward an entirely different perspective now. His sermon was actually about tithing, but his comment about grieving the Holy Spirit stuck out more to me. It was something along the lines of, “If you are defensive about your giving, you are defensive about God’s grace.” Huh? I missed the first half hour or so of his little program, but I drew my own inferences and I think I may have actually caught his drift, despite the mess of Sharpie markings and meaningless doodles in the background. You see, when you actually understand the measure of God’s grace and how much you’ve been forgiven, giving almost seems like a natural way to say “thanks.” It’s possibly the only way some of us can express our gratitude. And yes, I know it won’t ever be enough, nor does God expect anything in return (short of our faith and trust in Him), but it’s a physical reaction to an overwhelming emotional feeling we get when we are hit with God’s boundless love for us.

So I think the point the crazy scribbler was trying to make when he made that comment about giving was that if we are defensive and feeling guilty about our giving, it may be because we have not fully experienced God’s grace in our lives. In other words, when we hesitate in our giving, we are likely not doing so out of a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude. If we’re feeling negative emotions about giving to God, it’s probably because we don’t feel particularly appreciative about His sacrifice and love for us. How can you grasp the magnitude of being loved despite the ugliest and most unpleasant parts of you and NOT feel some sort of desire to say “thanks?” If you don’t feel thankful, you don’t feel loved and accepted and that’s a pretty big problem. So when you’re “grieving the spirit,” you aren’t making HIM sad, you’re making YOU sad because you’re missing out on something, namely, God’s grace and intimate friendship.

Ok, enough with the crazy gray-haired scribbler; cut to the Apostle Paul. In the Ephesians passage, Paul says the Gentiles are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the futility of their thinking. Hmmm…they don’t understand because their thinking is limited. Perhaps their thoughts are on things that don’t matter? Maybe they’re thinking about what’s for dinner or how they need to break in their new sandals or about those cute little shepherd girls on the next block? Maybe they should be thinking about things above, like God’s faithfulness to them or His providence in their lives. Perhaps if they shift their focus, they might gain a little understanding. Then Paul goes on to say that when we come to know Christ, our minds are to have a new attitude. Our minds…those things we use from time to time. Those things are supposed to have a new attitude. And what exactly could that be? Um, how about…gratitude? How about contentment? Maybe even a little bit of joy? I think the point Paul is trying to make is that the state of our souls matters a little more than the state of the nation. What God is doing within us counts a little more than what God is doing around us, don’t you think? And if we’re too busy worrying about life, we probably aren’t spending enough time living in love. What would it look like if we actually did live in a constant awareness that we are loved and forgiven (for our past mistakes, our future mistakes, and even that thought we’re thinking right now)? Our minds truly would have a new attitude, our understanding would reach its full measure, and our souls may actually feel at rest for a moment or two. How could anyone feel anything but joy when they are walking hand in hand with a king, a counselor, and a friend of sinners?

In verse 30, Paul advises us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom we were sealed for the day of redemption. I think the key here is the part about redemption. If we could come to a deeper understanding of the idea that we were sealed for redemption, grieving the Holy Spirit wouldn’t even be an option. Honestly, once we believe that God is who He says He is and Jesus did what He said He did, we are sealed for all eternity and that seal can never be broken. We have been and will be eternally redeemed! You can’t be sad about that, can you? Besides, the Holy Spirit doesn’t need to do any grieving over our actions; we do enough of that ourselves.

Once more for the masses...I don’t believe God is grieving what we do. I believe we’re grieving what we do, and simply stated, that means not letting grace in.

God, please help me to let grace in. Love me as only you can and remind me that I have no reason to grieve your absence, for you are ever-present! Help me to care more about what you are doing in me and less about what is going on around me. Let my thinking be limited and my giving be unlimited. And please do the same for my friends and family.

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