March 8, 2002


Category: Theology - Soteriology :: Permalink

I’ve been reading through N. T. Wright’s Reflecting the Glory, a collection of “Meditations for Living Christ’s Life in the World,” as the subtitle says. The meditation I read today contained this beautiful passage, as part of Wright’s discussion of 2 Cor. 5:6-10 (“… we make it our aim to please Him”):

Many young people in the modern Western world find it, or at least believe it to be, very difficult to please their parents. Whatever we do just doesn’t quite reach the high standard expected. Many continue through their whole adult life, even after their parents have died, still trying somehow to please them or at least appease them. Such people find the idea of pleasing God almost laughable. It seems quite impossible that God, being all-knowing and all-wise, could actually be pleased with them. You’d have to be an absolutely superb person on all fronts (they think) to please God. The chances are that God would look down on their best efforts and say, “Well, it’s only nine out of ten, I’m afraid; that’s not good enough.”Clearly Paul does not look at the matter like that at all. For Paul, God is pleased when he sees his image being reproduced in his human creatures by the Spirit. The slightest steps they take toward him, the slightest movements of faith and hope, and particularly of love, give God enormous delight. However difficult we may find this to believe, not least because of our own upbringing, it is a truth that Paul repeats quite often. Who we are in Christ, what we do in the Spirit, is pleasing to God; God delights in us, and, like a parent, he is thrilled when we, his children, take even the first small baby-steps towards the full Christian adulthood he has in store for us….

For Paul, if we are genuinely living in and by the Spirit of Jesus, then day by day, often without our even realizing it, we will have done many things that will give God pleasure — the smallest act of forgiveness, a great act of justice of mercy, a wonderful act of creativity enriching God’s world. As a result of all these many things God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” When he says that, of course, we will rightly say, “Our competence, our sufficiency, comes from God.” We never escape the wonderful circle of grace, gratitude and glory. None the less, it really will be us whom God thanks, us whom he praises.

Although in these days of feeble relativism it is important to stress that God is indeed the judge who cares passionately about good and evil, and that he is a just God who will not allow sin for ever to flourish unchecked, we must remember that the warning of final judgment should not make Christians gloomy or anxious. We are not supposed to drag ourselves through our lives thinking, “Have I made it? Will I be all right?” We have assurance in the gospel that because Jesus died for us and rose again, we are completely forgiven and accepted in him. This assurance is matched by the delight we can and should take in the work of the Spirit. Through the Spirit we are enabled to do many things by God’s grace so that, when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, we will find we have pleased him in countless ways that for now we can only guess at (pp. 45-46).

Posted by John Barach @ 10:56 am | Discuss (0)

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