I wrote this post for a friend’s blog. Hes a great guy with great writing talent, posts thoughtful things at: alijohnson.org.uk
One of the most remarkable features of the Christian story, in which I participate, is the inner renewal it brings. This is witnessed in scripture – ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and experienced by many believers over the centuries. The Apostle Paul knew first hand the transforming power of Jesus Christ, but there are others too: Nicky Cruz, William Wilberforce, John Wesley are the ones which spring quickly to mind.
But God doesn’t do that, anymore, does he?
God doesn’t take ordinary, broken and confused men and women and create in them wonderful things.
Because that seems to be how we often live.
I have heard many a preacher and writer accuse believers of living as ‘practical atheists’. By this, they mean we live as if God didn’t exist. We stress over balancing the check-book, anxious over what school our kids get out in, angry when the local gang get away with vandalising an old ladies house. But don’t we believe that ‘the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants’ (Deuteronomy 32:36) or that if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33) we will not have to worry about food or clothing?
I know I am often a practical atheist. I will not leave vengeance to the Lord, I want justice and I want it now! Though justice is often distorted so it becomes what is best for me. And I need this money to pay for my petrol, why should I give it away? Surly God would want me to invest in myself?
What would it look like, in this present age, for me to live as if everything God reveals about himself is true?
How would that transform me?
Sometimes, we in the believing community take in the Gospel and with it we become Rather Nice People, with political views slightly to the left and a concern that everyone should know just how Rather Nice we are and how Rather Nice the world could be if more joined the community of Rather Nice People.
I’m not sure the ‘new creation’ Paul wrote of is a ‘Rather Nice Person’. Paul often wasn’t Rather Nice, in fact his letters are difficult to read.
Difficult because they confront me with a reality different to the one I can see, with its credit cards and party political broadcasts and marching to foreign wars and ‘did you see X-Factor last night’.
No, Paul was concerned about far bigger matters.
God and Man. Reconciled
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
No, this new year is not a year to try my hardest to be a Rather Nice Person. This is a year to tell all people that they can be reconciled to God, join in the adventure and know in their souls what it means to be a new creation.
Happy New Year,
May it be the greatest adventure of your life.