Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Comparison Trap - a talk for MOPS, Part 3

Dear MOPS moms and other fellow Beautiful Messes,Part 3-Enduring GRACE

I have shared this poem with you before.  It's taken from our educational philosophy (Charlotte Mason) but applies anywhere and actually to any age.  Alongside my children through the years, I have learned how very true this is for my life. And I want to start with this and weave it into our discussion on 'Comparing Ourselves to Others'.

I am a child of God, 
I ought to do His will.
I can do what He tells me,
And by His GRACE, I will.  

We are all so different!  Yet, we make comparisons all the time… Is the grass really greener on the other side?

To answer rightly I should clarify our context for today  - Comparisons vs. assessments. I want to move us from a ‘comparison point’ to a ‘grace point'. Part 1: PERSPECTIVE, Part 2: FOCUS, Part 3: Enduring GRACE.

Enduring Grace:

Q:  What is the chief end of man? 
A: To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

John Piper gives us definition clarifications: 'glorify' = 'to reflect' and 'end' = 'purpose'. The purpose is to reflect God...

Reflecting Christ in our life is not a hypothetical comparison. This is a legitimate assessment and the better question.

1 Peter 1:15-16
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Jerry Bridges in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, concludes that “cultural holiness” is unacceptable.
But God has not called us to be like those around us.  He has called us to be like Himself.  Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.
If it is THE purpose, not just a purpose or an occasional event, to show God’s beauty in our daily life.  How do we do that practically?

I OUGHT to do His will.

I mentioned one way, standing stones, start a rock collection – REMEMBER the faithfulness of the Lord, "Thus far the Lord has brought me".  I will give you some other suggestions in the resources list.  Right now lets talk about holiness.

C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory,
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.  But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love.  You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.  The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.  I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. 

We don't talk much about virtue in modern culture, but what about this?  These verses are probably familiar:

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

Jerry Bridges in The Pursuit of Holiness explains:
"Pursue holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14 , author's paraphrase).  
The word pursue suggests two thoughts: first, that diligence and effort are required; and second, that it is a lifelong task.
The grace of God TEACHES us (Titus 2).  We claim what we know to be true, but we must LEARN it as we go – kind of like the difference between information and knowledge.  Information = Bits of facts, maybe even unrelated; but knowledge = what is absorbed and integrated into our lives.

How do we know what we don’t think about, isn’t part of our lives. We won’t know really know God unless we read his word.  It tells us all about him, but also we learn his character and who he is.  We spend time in his word, we spend time with God – a relationship, like knowledge, is integrated into our lives.  Knowing God is proportional to our obedience to Him.

I CAN do what He tells me.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Remember this was Paul from jail when he was talking about having learned to be content in all things.

Lewis goes on to show that the 'Weight of Glory' is to please God–It pleases him when we reflect who he is.  This heavy burden presses upon us if we forget…

John 1:15-17
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:6
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

John Piper tells us, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We are, however, what Francis Schaeffer calls the 'glorious ruin', fallen image bearers in a fallen world and we live by grace.

Colossians 3:12-14
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

As a believer in Jesus Christ: I am under grace; because of this grace-I will extend grace to others. 

So if our focus changes from self to God, our perspective changes as well.  We go from the comparison trap to productive assessment. The question of “Is it greener?” is no longer relevant except insofar as considering how the grace in our garden overflows to our neighbors. No comparison points, only grace perspectives.

Grace for the Day,