Monday, June 8, 2020

Failed, Forgiven, Fit

I was listening to a message from one of my favorite pastors this morning.  It was Dr. Tony Evans from Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.  Dr. Evans has always been a person I could go to for a good word in times of crisis.  Some of you have even seen him on video at our first service when he has appeared to give us some wisdom or perspective.  His voice has always been an eloquent but powerful path to the heart of issues we face.  We need that voice today.

As I listened to Dr. Evans' message I thought about next Sunday.  We will have our first official "all swim" (everyone can come) service since services have been suspended due to the pandemic (some of you don't like that word, but bear with me here).  This Sunday we will not only meet, worship, pray and fellowship in a physically-distanced atmosphere ... we will embrace a time of communion together.  I am praying it will be a blessing, and I am sure that blessing will come if we all remember 3 things.

First, we need to, in humility and reflection, remember that we are broken.  Paul said (Romans 3:23) "we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  I think Paul is reminding us what we will say in our communion liturgy ... "we have failed to be an obedient church and we have not heard the cry of the needy."  Dr. Evans is consistent that he believes the Church must be the front line in inviting the kingdom of God into our society.  We do this by becoming known for how we love others, how we invite people of all walks of life into the life of the Church, how Sunday morning becomes less culturally/racially/politically/doctrinally divided and more focused on life together in the Kingdom of God.  We say and see this phrase of brokenness in our communion liturgy because Paul was right ... we fall short of God's glory that He has planned for us.  His plan is for the Church to be a place and agent of unity.  And when we fall short of God's plan, we must strive to correct, instruct, pray, interact and change.

Second, in order to grasp and grow into God's Kingdom people we must agree with God that we are forgiven.  "For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 14:24)."  We will hear these words Sunday, but until we allow them to happen, we miss the confidence and boldness of living in God's Kingdom.  When the early church gathered those first days, they were excited because they heard Jesus' words from the upper room and from the cross.  "Father, forgive them!"  If we desire God to come into our lives, our churches and our communities, we must grasp that our newness of life is based on the foundation of forgiveness.  We receive Jesus' forgiveness.  We allow forgiveness of ourselves, though it is humanly difficult to do this.  We pass on this forgiveness to others as we become the Church ... new creations ... different than we were ... and better than we were.  Because we are living in a new Kingdom!

Finally, we must accept that we are fit for God's work.  This is hard, and this takes giving up some things that are precious to us.  When we receive God's forgiveness, when we allow us to forgive ourselves and when we become Christlike and pass that forgiveness on to other folks, we become fit to be the Church that can (and I believe will) change the world.  Dr. Evans rightly believes that our nation, our communities and our world will not change because we elect "better" or different leaders.  If we have not grasped that then we are blind to the recurrence of the same social issues for (at least) my lifetime.  Political, governmental, social and economic systems have come and gone.  Dr. Evans believes that until the Church begins to live in God's Kingdom, all of those systems will not change.  And we live in that Kingdom by knowing God, loving God and loving people in a way that sees them as created in the image of God.  ALL of them.  ALL of us.

I hope to see you Sunday.  We will be instructed by God's Word.  How we will arrive is fallen.  What we will learn is we are forgiven.  How we will leave, I pray, is fit for the work God has planned.  May we go as those willing to live in God's Kingdom.  Randy

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