Monday is for Discussion
Believers should out love, out give, out patient, out forgive, out die, everyone else in the culture.
We should live better, think better, love better and die better than all who don’t know the joy of the gospel. Whether we have much or little, whether we have health or cancer, whether we are alone or surrounded by friends, this is how it should be. We ought to be the most grace-giving people in the world.
The reality is, we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
And it also doesn’t mean that the marvelous, merciful grace of God doesn’t cover our weaknesses and gross failures.
Years ago a young woman asked me for a definition of the Christian life. I thought for a moment as I looked at the twinkling lights of San Bernardino from a cliff-hanging restaurant high in the mountains and then said.
“The Christian life is a joyful confession that I am not today what I will be tomorrow by the grace of God.”
“Why ‘a joyful confession,'” she asked.
“Joyful because I know that God’s grace is covering what I confess in the moment that I confess it and that God’s grace will be with me tomorrow to help me grow beyond the idiocies and sins of today. He is cleansing His child and He will not stop until what He has begun is made perfect in the day of Christ Jesus. It is a joyful confession because without the conviction of sin I would continue in the slavery of sin. But with an awareness of sin, I can confess it and be cleansed.”
The definition has stood me well for more than 30 years but it is missing a vital ingredient.
Part of the grace that moves us forward in our quest for Christlikeness is lament, real sorrow and grief, over our sin. Our laments never eclipse our joy, because we are after all, resurrection-people. We live and move and have our being in the afterglow of the resurrection of Christ and the promise of the resurrection to come. Nevertheless, sorrow and grief over sin is part of what the Spirit of God produces in our hearts so that we will joyfully choose righteousness when the next temptation comes.
One the hardest things for us to learn seems to be the art of giving. That is not a sentence about money. At least not only about money. The affluent culture of America has pickled us. We are slow learners that the life we are called to is a giving-life. A life that is shaped by and modeled after the cross of the One we follow. He gave his life a ransom for many and that ought to shape the way we give our lives and our stuff to others.
We haven’t learned to give until our giving (of time, stuff, dollars) becomes a sacrifice. Ann Voskamp has said it nearly perfectly:
“We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back.
Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give;
Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.”
Our giving reflects our heart. It reflects our progress in faith. It reflects a heart that trusts God with tomorrow and uses today to bless the lives of others who need us to reflect the face of Christ to them. Ann Voskamp has it exactly right.
“We’re not giving what we’re called to give,
unless that giving affects how we live.”
Yes. That’s it. Ann is right.
Our Savior gave His life on a cross so that we might present love to the world in the cross-shape of our lives.
- I lament that I have so far to go, after 40 years of traveling with Christ.
- I praise him for the grace that covers me still
- And I rejoice that tomorrow you and I will have traveled further as we abide in his word by the power of his Spirit.