A Garden of Grace

In Psalm 119:71, David talks of learning (exercising) God’s laws through affliction (being bowed down). The word laws comes from a Hebrew Word meaning “to cut, inscribe, decree” (source: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3925.htm). It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:3 ESV: “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Beautifully, trials and affliction cause us to drop down to our knees and cry out for God’s perfect understanding and His perfect living and breathing law – Jesus. It is then that any stones of pride, idolatry, doubt, unbelief, bitterness and unforgiveness that have been allowed to hide away in our hearts are exposed, dug out and removed. 

Sometimes we can allow the enemy to accuse us in these moments of exposure and removal. But when we still and listen, we will be able to hear Christ’s heart calling us to come to Him, just as we are. To come boldly before His throne of grace in our time of need. 

To help us distinguish His Voice from the enemy’s, God may also choose to repeatedly lead us in and out of places that trigger trauma in us. In doing so, He teaches us to recognize and release the lies we once embraced (as children). For, He longs for us to know who He truly is: a loving High Priest, who knows our every weakness and kneels down to extend kindness and mercy to us in our time of need.

Only He truly knows what we have been through. His heart breaks for us, and He longs to free us from the trauma and idolatry of our past. He longs to lift away the stones that are stopping the Word from rooting in our hearts, so that we might lean, no longer on our own or others’ understanding, but upon Him: our Rock and Redeemer. 

When those stones are removed and piled up, one upon the other, they become – no longer a hindrance to the Word taking root in our hearts – but proof of Christ’s abiding work in us. They become a living monument to His saving grace, a testimony to His perfecting power in our weakness.

The cold stone tablets of the law prove us guilty of breaking the laws of God and make us deserving of death. But Christ has fulfilled the law for us. He became our sin and died on the Cross to annul the charges that once stood against us. And He rose again that He might take up residence in us to unveil His soft heart in us.

He has overcome the grave, rolling away the stone to rise in victory over sin and death. Now, we can walk in daily repentance, turning to our accuser and the accuser of our brethren to declare:

Romans 8:33-39 (ESV)

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And with each stone lifted away, Christ roots His Word ever deeper in us. Our hearts hearken more readily to His living Word speaking in us, to us and through us. For, rather than interpreting the Word from our own or other’s fleshly understanding, we learn to recognize and obey Christ speaking His living Word to us, from moment to moment.

Yes, through every trial sent our way, Christ shows that we are a letter sent from Him, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Thank You, Father, that like Paul, we can “count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled].” 

Father, bring us to the point, that we, like Paul, may also be able to declare in response to Your patient pruning: “For [Christ’s] sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from [You] on the basis of faith.”

Thank You that through the trials we face, You are helping us to “know [Jesus] [experientially, to become “more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way [to] experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that [we] may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; [a]so that [we] may attain to the resurrection [that will raise [us] ] from the dead.”

Father, we know “that [we] have [not] already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] [n]or have [we] already been made perfect, but [we] actively press on [b]so that [we] may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us] and made [us] His own.(A)” 

Thank You that You have promised to complete the good work You have begun in us. Help us not to become discouraged through the repeated trials and losses, but to recognize and bless You for the stones You are removing from our hearts through Your patient gardening. Thank You for making room in our hearts for more of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

(Quotes from: Philippians 3: 8 – 12 (AMP) )

Footnotes

[a] Philippians 3:11 Lit if somehow.

[b] Philippians 3:12 Lit even if I may. Paul knew that he could not really reach perfection in this life, but his goal was to “press on” as if it were attainable.

Cross references

(A) Philippians 3:12 : 1 Cor 9:24; 1 Tim 6:12

Thanks to CDC @cdc for making the profile photo for this post available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/_Vq-x0tE38o

Hope is Alive

Romans 15:1 3 (NIV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This verse captures one of my greatest desires for both myself and others. Paul records this as a prayer (note the use of “May”) and as we read it we too can pray it both into our own and others’ lives. It is a powerful verse that reminds us of both the origin and source of Peace, as well as our remedy for disquiet, anxiety, fear and worry in this broken world.

The word “peace” in this context has been translated from the Greek “eirene”, which stems, according to a sermon on Biblical peace, “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Peace (1515) eirene”:


“from the verb EIRO which means to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated! Eirene is the root of our English word “serene” (free of storms or disturbance, marked by utter calm). EIRENE literally pictures the binding or joining together again of that which has been separated, the result being that the separated parts are set at one again.”


This beautifully captures what Christ has achieved for us through His death on the Cross, namely: “the binding or joining together again” of our brokenness, the severance of our union with Him, birthed in the Garden of Eden, at the Fall of humankind.

And yet because we still live in a fallen world, the remaining brokenness keeps trying to pull us back into a lack of peace. And therefore Paul’s prayer speaks of our need to “trust” in the “God of hope”, so that He might “fill” us. The word “trust” in this Scripture was translated from the Greek word “pisteuo”, which according to the sermon, “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Believe (4100) pisteuo”:


“means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust. To accept as true, genuine, or real. To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something or someone. To consider to be true. To accept the word or evidence of.”

And that’s why we can pray and read God’s Word with anxiety, fear and worry only growing, where we fail to “accept” what He tells and promises us. The peace that passes all understanding can only flourish in a trusting, accepting heart.

This is something I’ve been reflecting a lot on because I’ve noticed that I have periods where peace and joy flow freely and times where they don’t. And if I look at the times where darkness clouds me, I see a lack of trust at the core. I’ll read His Word and pray, but my mind is not stayed on His promises and truths, but on my current struggles and discontents. I’m choosing to live as if the here and now is the be and end-all, rather than the birthing ground of freedom in Christ, a freedom that is founded on the hope of eternity with God and His Beautiful Bride, The Church.

Lately, my discontent, my lack of peace, has been festered by what is no more: the love and presence of my Mum in my life. And yet, if I really truly accepted God’s Word this discontent can be exchanged with an overflowing abundance of joy, peace and hope, through the power of the One in me. His Word tells me that all that has been taken has already been restored. All that I need is His Eyes to see it – the unseen (Hebrews 11: 1, NIV):


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Which is why Jesus calls us to “live wide-eyed in wonder and belief,” so that our “body fills up with light” (Luke 11: 34, The Message). If we let His Eyes direct us, then we will see eternity before us, we will see a world already “overcome” by His Glory, Majesty, Power and Wonder (John 16: 33). And where broken peace attempts to stifle us, His Perfect Peace will secure and hold us.

Seeing with His Eyes, means leaning into His Truth. The following story, to be found in the sermon “Text Sermons : Greek Word Studies : Believe (4100) pisteuo” illustrates this powerfully:


“When missionary John Paton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea islanders, he was unable to find a word in their vocabulary for the concept of believing, trusting, or having faith. He had no idea how he would convey that to them. One day while he was in his hut translating, a native came running up the stairs into Paton’s study and flopped in a chair, exhausted. He said to Paton,

It’s so good to rest my whole weight in this chair.

John Paton had his word: Faith is resting your whole weight on God. That word went into the translation of their New Testament and helped bring that civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God. If God said it, then it’s true, and we’re to believe it.

To me this encapsulates the Hebrew meaning of trust, as used in the Old Testament, whose root bittachon means to “lean on, feel safe or secure, to be confident of” (John J. Parsons, “Bittachon…Putting your trust in the Lord”. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Meditations/Bittachon/bittachon1.html. Accessed 11 April 2016.)

And so, in those moments I feel His Peace being stolen from me, He has the power to restore it to me. All He asks is that I lean into Him, that I believe Him at His Word. And even then, He tells me that where I struggle to trust, He will not abandon me, yet patiently teach me because “saving” me is all His idea and He will bring it to completion (John 6: 35-40). And in teaching me He is, ever so patiently, yet also firmly, reminding me of the hope I have in Him that can never be shaken. A hope overflowing into an abundant peace.

“It will not save me to know that Christ is a Savior; but it will save me to trust him to be my Savior. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this—a casting oneself on the promise.” 

Charles Spurgeon (Rev. C.H. Spurgeon, “Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 3: 1857 — Charles Haddon Spurgeon”.http://biblehub.com/library/spurgeon/spurgeons_sermons_volume_3_1857/faith.htm.  Accessed 11 April 2016.)

This is an excerpt from my in May 2016 self-published book, Love Embraced: A Journey in and through Suffering. Seven years ago today (it is the 8th of April in New Zealand already) my Mum entered heaven’s gates to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To celebrate the life and love of Jesus that continues to flow through my Mum’s very much living testimony to Jesus and her Spirit-led prayers, I would love to send you a free copy of my book that is no longer available on Amazon (message me at: AnnaSmit@shalomaleh.com).