Monday, February 2, 2015

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Bad That Goes to Make Room for Good

          Even before I sat down to read the next Scripture, I already knew that it had something to do with dealing with bad attitude stuff, and that God had his sights on me. I smiled because I knew that I was in for it, but that this would be a good thing. If God wants to clean up something in my life, so be it.
          The thing that immediately spoke to me in the word was, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”[1] It was as if I immediately could see the whole big picture on the front of the puzzle box. Removing grumbling and disputing from the church was part of God’s children working out their salvation with fear and trembling because God is working in us to will and to work for his good pleasure.[2]
          This exhortation is the negative side of teaching us to have the mind of Christ.[3] Paul had called the church to have the same mind as Jesus about everything we face together,[4]and then showed the way Jesus humbled himself for us as both the example, and the means, of us having his mind.[5] Thinking of others, serving one another in love, these kinds of things are the positive ways of describing that we are to have the mind of Christ. We also need to hear these things in the negative as well. There are things that must never be included in the operation and relationships of the church.
          Trying to look at these things honestly makes me feel like I arrived in the doctor’s office for help with a sliver in my finger, and the doctor is still working on his check-up of my whole body to find out what is wrong with me, and why I think that a sliver is my only problem. This demand that I do ALL THINGS without any grumbling or disputing cuts me to the core.
          After all, the things I grumble and dispute about are the things that matter to me the most. Why is it that God is not so interested in fulfilling our dreams and expectations as we want him to be? Except that this past month in God’s word has made it exceptionally clear that many of our dreams and ambitions in the church are selfish.
          What I must accept is that, in order to get into the reality of maturity in Christ, God has to strip away all our role playing, all our falsehood, all our pretense, so that we get down to the real us, the real child of God, the real wounds, the real mess we are in, the real condition of our souls, so that God can touch us and heal us.
          I feel a very hard and good week is on its way. The “do all things without grumbling or disputing” takes me to Jesus. What I shared in church yesterday about the mind of Christ, and how that included him refusing to “grasp” what was rightfully his in heaven, and how he lived in this sinful, ugly world without any grumbling or disputing with his Father, helps me see that I need to confront all my grumbling and disputing as sarky, sinful, attitude problems that get in the way of the attitude of Christ that is in me.
          At the same time, I cannot focus on trying to have the right attitude, or trying not to grumble and dispute. Too much of our “trying” is still our sark/flesh attempting to attain spiritual results through natural means. Instead, I must humbly, and meekly accept that God is not calling me to fix this myself, but to hunger and thirst after a life in which there is sincerely no grumbling or disputing.
          To get to that hunger and thirst for a grumbling-free life, I must accept the poverty of spirit that shows me how much I do grumble and dispute the plans and purposes of God in my life. I need to let God expose my heart until I mourn whatever ways I complain about all my broken and unfulfilled dreams. When I meekly give up my attempts to fix myself I put myself in his hands where he can take those thoughts and replace them with the mind of Christ.
          The very positive side of this was the calling of God that gripped my heart with these words:
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;”[6]
          If ever people like me need an example of what it means to do everything without grumbling or disputing, it is found in the servant of Yahweh prophesied in the Scriptures. There was a servant coming who would be like no other. He was one in whom God’s own soul delighted. To this day, he is the one that we must look to for both the example and help in living a grumbling-free life.
          This goes on to describe God’s servant as:
“He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.”[7]
          This was clearly speaking of the Messiah who would come. Jesus was so gentle in his ministry to sinners that when he came across a reed already bruised, he would not break it. When he came across a life that was like a faintly burning wick, he would not put it out. He would not grumble so as to hurt the hurting. He would not dispute about his rights to a better life, or more attention, or being honored as he deserved. He was here for something much bigger than what he could have if he stayed in heaven enjoying his rights.
          When we look at the way Jesus treated the woman at the well,[8]speaking to her so gently and deliberately, we see Jesus speaking to a bruised reed without breaking her. She reached the end of their conversation with her sins exposed, longing for the day that Messiah would come. When Jesus told her, “I who speak to you am he,”[9]her heart had been changed from the shock of a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman, to telling her whole village, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”[10]
          The call to “behold” God’s servant who would come, matches Paul’s focus on the mind of the church coming from looking to the mind of Christ. As we see how the glorious Son of God humbled himself, became obedient to death, accepting the shame of crucifixion, so that he could redeem us out of our sin, we can see how we ought to have the same mind as him.[11]
          The conclusion for me this morning was that a big part of changing a grumbling, disputing attitude is “behold my servant!” On one side, God is going to expose the poverty of my own spirit, in whatever ways I am filled with grumbling and disputing, because he cannot leave me thinking that anything done in the flesh will satisfy my new heart. On the other side, he is going to cause me to behold Jesus in such glorious example that I will find myself hungering and thirsting for what I see in him, a righteousness of life I can only have by faith.
          While my first look at this passage has me starting with myself, and what God is addressing in me, I know that this is far more corporate than personal. By this I mean that, God will clean up any grumbling and complaining in me because he wants his whole church to do “all things without grumbling or disputing.” He will address things in you because he wants your church gathering to do all things without any grumbling or disputing. With the positive focus on the mind of Christ, we need this simple clarification that this includes getting rid of grumbling.
          One other picture that encouraged me this morning, similar to the call of the prophet to behold the servant of Yahweh, was what God said at the time that Jesus was transfigured. He spoke these beautiful words: ”This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”[12]I suspect that those men who had grown up with the prophecies of the Messiah often read to them, would have connected the words of God first telling his people to behold his servant, and then telling them to listen to his Son. These things give us all the encouragement we need to behold, listen to, and follow, the Lord Jesus Christ.
          Even when he has to tell us to stop all the grumbling and disputing!

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Philippians 2:14
[2] Philippians 2:12-13
[3] I Corinthians 2:16
[4] Philippians 2:5
[5] Philippians 2:6-11
[6] Isaiah 42:1
[7] Isaiah 42:2-3
[8] John 4:1-42
[9] John 4:26
[10] John 4:29
[11] Philippians 2:6-11
[12] Matthew 17:5

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