Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Victim’s Boast

When God tells his children that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,”[1] it includes the denial of every kind of boasting.

We might be most familiar with the confident and arrogant boasting of those who truly believe they are better than others because of their ability to perform at a higher standard of accomplishment.

However, there is another kind of boasting that is very common in the church, and all the more insipid in its poisonous influence for not looking like boasting at all.

I speak of the victim’s boast, or the boasting in victimization.

The victim’s boast is the cry that, “I can’t do it because of…” and out comes a story of trauma that is not the appeal of a wounded soul that wants healing in Jesus Christ, but that of a victim who wants their neglect of God’s will to have a stamp of justification. It is all the better if the world gives it some kind of label that encompasses whatever symptoms are evident, and lends a sense of justification for why people continue to remain as they are, unchanged, untransformed, untouched by the realities of the Spirit-filled life in Jesus Christ.

When the apostle Paul reminds the church that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith,” and then clarifies that there is no grounds for boasting in our salvation because it is a gift of grace, uninfluenced by works of any kind, it is to turn us to rest in this wonderful truth.

On one side, it is a declaration of the absolute purity of our salvation, that it is not contaminated by any works of our own, therefore it is so purely the work of God that it cannot fail to do what God has graciously set out to do. You know, the way “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[2]

However, on the other hand, because the fullness of our salvation is completely in the hands of God’s grace, and there are no works required from us to complete what God has begun in his children, there is no room for anyone in the church to deny the complete transformation of our souls “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”[3]

For us to experience the fullness of God’s gracious gift of salvation, we do not need to work at it ourselves, but experience it through faith. When we tell God we cannot experience something his word promises to his born again children, we are not speaking the truth about what his grace is able to accomplish in our lives, but simply exposing the same “O you of little faith” that Jesus kept confronting in his disciples.[4]

It is time for the church to address (in just as loving ways as Jesus) that we have many among us who have such little faith that they experience little of what God is doing among us. Our problem is not with the ability of God’s grace to operate, but the freedom of our faith to believe him.

To clarify, every time God reveals something in his word that is a promise of God for our salvation, something that, if we received it by faith it would give glory to our Father who is in heaven, and we deny God’s ability to do that in our life because we have some (fill-in-the-blanks) kind of problem that gives us an excuse for why we cannot be expected to experience such a work of grace, we are sneaking in a works-based counterfeit through the back door, and boasting that it is ours.

After all, we easily recognize when someone speaks of salvation as a work they did, or speaks of faith as a good work they are doing to add to God’s work of grace. We recognize why Paul had to confront the Galatians with the grievous way they had turned to a different gospel that included adherence to the law (good works). We feel Paul’s heartache as the Corinthians turned from their “sincere and pure devotion to Christ”[5] because the super-apostles were convincing them to add the law to the gospel.

However, while exposing the dangers of a works-based false gospel is as necessary today as it was in Paul’s day, we must also recognize the equally dangerous false teaching that God’s children can be so traumatized by painful experiences that they cannot experience the purity of God’s grace accomplishing the whole will of God in their lives simply through faith, not of any works required of ourselves.

Now, the grace of God clearly includes God’s children coming to him with the prayer of, “I believe; help my unbelief!”[6] However, it does not give room for us to come to God in explicit denial of his gifts of salvation because we are too wounded, or traumatized, or (fill in the blank), to experience something God promises to do in us by grace, through faith.

As I share this, I am mindful that there will be some people so genuinely wounded by life experiences that they truly believe they are worthless bits of garbage with no hope of that ever changing. I am in no way denying that children of God can believe and feel such things.

Rather, I am speaking to the whole body of Christ and calling us to accept that the gift of our salvation, purely by the grace of God, experienced always and only through faith, is for the whole body of Christ. There may be people in our churches that are so paralyzed with worthlessness, and fear, and unbelief, and trauma, about the deepest issues of their souls, that they need their four friends to have faith for them, and to tear open the rooftops to get them down in front of Jesus.[7] But, what we are looking for in the church is, “when Jesus saw their faith”.

I am so convinced that Jesus is building his church, and that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it,[8] that I know that every child of God who reads this far and still struggles with unbelief about the deepest wounds of the soul can ask God to give them two or three people who will pray for them in Jesus’ name, in faith, that God will make them well.

When we combine this prayer with hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the words of Jesus Christ,[9] we will find faith growing as a result of what we hear, and we will band together to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[10]

Whatever God is working in us to will and to work for his good pleasure is the expression of his grace that saves us, and us working out our salvation with fear and trembling is the way God’s grace works through faith.

Which brings me back to a theme verse as of late, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”[11]

© 2016 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] Ephesians 2:8-9
[2] Philippians 1:6
[3] II Corinthians 3:18
[4] Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20; Luke 12:28
[5] II Corinthians 11:3
[6] Mark 9:24
[7] Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12
[8] Matthew 16:18
[9] Romans 10:17 (this includes our daily time in the word and prayer, listening/watching sermons in church, on the internet, reading books that call us into the promises of God for our healing, sharing in Bible study groups and prayer meetings, any means by which we interact with one another in God’s word and prayer so that our faith can come to life through hearing the words of our Savior).
[10] Philippians 2:12-13
[11] I John 5:4

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