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Faithful

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One day, for reasons unknown to yourself, you decide to visit a fortune teller.  She reveals that you will live the rest of your life here in Knoxville with the same neighbors, the same family, the same coworkers, and the same awkward church living rooms. You will eat the same food and vacation in the same spots. You will work a dead-end job, and you will not advance. Your neighbor, Bob, today will be your neighbor, Bob, tomorrow. You will experience his oddities and peculiarities for 50 years to come.

OK, yes, this fortune teller sucks at her job, but suppose she’s right. My question to you is this: What do you think of this kind of life?

Our culture is repulsed by the idea of bearing with a group of people for life: to labor hard in the gospel amid menial, gritty, life-on-life moments and to die. Our eyes are constantly cast outward to bigger and better things. We dream huge fantasies, and the only thing they all share in common is that they look nothing like life as it currently is. You and I are addicts to “new and fresh,” and the first casualty of this addiction is faithfulness.

Think of leading Redemption Groups like living beside your neighbor, Bob, for 50 years. I realize you might move on eventually. We’re a sending church! But your heart must be set on the “long haul” somewhere! You’re engaging messy people with a cosmic gospel that lives in everyday grit, and these groups are going to take “long haul” faithfulness and endurance to succeed! Just like you, people will not get it at first. People will fumble and struggle. Repetition will be a way of life. But you aren’t “swooping in” to their lives to fix something. No, you’re “moving in” to their neighborhood to live with them. Our job is to bear with others in far-from-glamorous messes and to take incredible joy in doing it.

Only one power is strong enough to break our addiction to “new” and our repulsion to “stale.” We need to behold and drool over a God who bore with a grumbling, broken-record Israel through ages and ages with His own far-from-glamorous, enduring labor with them. We need to behold and drool over a God who still bears even with grumbling, broken-record you and me. We need to really see Him as a joyful and faithful God, not a God who is repulsed by repetitive grit. We need to be moved by this vision of Him. Only then will we put a high price tag on faithfulness with the people we’re called to. Only then can we trulyenjoy faithfulness.

Beholding God’s nature will change us from addicts to “new and fresh” into people who would hear this fortune teller’s story and smile at how much it reminds us of a glamorous God who stooped down to bear with far-from-glamorous mankind for eternity.

Posted by Matt Norman with

Control

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Can I admit from the start my own difficulties with this topic? I expect most of us will struggle with this, but I know God’s grace can bring us growth.

You meet someone raw, just out of the world and newly saved. F-bombs drop like a shock-and-awe campaign, and they got saved while living with someone they’re dating. God found them misbehaving the same way He found us. We know this in our heads, yet all we can seem to think about is the gap between where they are and where they should be. “Where they should be” could probably be a post in and of itself. For now, though, what do we do about that inescapable drive to “make them” change, whatever our motivations and goals may be? Something inside of us screams to take control, almost is if we want tomake their decisions for them.

When we see ourselves as capable of making other people change their beliefs or behavior, we become manipulative. Perhaps we withhold fellowship until they attain to some sufficient picture of “normal” that we can actually work with. Perhaps we resort to some version of scolding them, requiring some measure of visible penance before we’ll stop. Perhaps we simply don’t want them coming to a gathering until their lifestyle cleans up a little bit, maybe tiptoeing around them with uneasiness and avoidance.

We have no power to make anyone do anything, and I really do mean that. We have two main tools at our disposal. First, we can clearly show them who God is through what we say about God and how we treat them. This includes urgently and vividly showing them the real damage of their sin, the glory of the God from whom sin separates them, and the power of Jesus to rescue them. Second, we can pray for God to give them eyes to see Him as we strive to display Him clearly and contextually. Only God can do the rest. If they don’tsee the God we show, they won’t really change no matter what we do. In fact, the danger of manipulation is that they might change for all the wrong reasons, seeing behavior as the way to gain favor with us and with God.

God proclaims His gospel through His church, through us. We are indeed “in the way,” and we must be. Intervention is right, but the how and the why matter. As we approach our friends we deem as “raw,” will we release our grip on control and manipulation? Will we rely on (1) the gospel message and (2) an eye-opening God to do the heavy lifting? Will we say with our actions, “Yes, the gospel is enough!”?

Posted by Matt Norman with

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