Friday, October 12, 2012

Having The Teaching Of Kindness On Our Tongues

A verse that occurs to me frequently is from Proverbs 31: "The teaching of kindness is on her tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). How I've so wanted and so often failed to be the one of whom that description is true! Yet I keep reaching for it in the Lord.

I say "in the Lord" because as much as we all love and admire such virtues as kindness, patience, humility and love, we will never attain to them in reality apart from both (1) the Lord Jesus enabling us to have and perform such virtues, and (2) our doing them for his sake and honor and glory. A shorter sentence from the Bible (with commentary): "All our [own] righteousness [our own mere attempt at pleasing God] is like filthy rags [to God]" (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 10:3-4 ). Of course that's true. All of rebellious (i.e., outside of Christ) attempts at true virtue are tainted with self-serving, resentment and pride. God, who is Virtue and who created man to reflect it, is unimpressed by man's attempts as he thinks to by-pass the Creator, yet somehow mimic his virtues. At least that's my way of thinking about it.

Paul  talked in Romans 7 about how as  Jew, he had inevitably failed at doing the good he wanted to do. Meanwhile he kept doing the things he didn't want to do. No matter how hard he tried to be patient, for example [I imagine], he would inevitably find himself exploding with anger over something trivial. What was the answer to this terrible dilemma?

The answer was in what God has done: what even the Ten Commandments, since they were to be kept by such weak people as Paul and us, could not do. He sent his own Son (Romans 8:1-8) to live and walk around in the flesh like us, except that he would do the good we're unable to do, and he would not do the evil we find impossible to keep away from. Jesus would perform all the righteous requirements of God's Law, perfectly, without sin. Then he would die in our place, and be raised from the dead; and risen, impute his own record of perfect service and righteousness to all who by faith turn from their own efforts and trust in his perfect accomplishment.

Those who trust in this way find that God has not only forgiven their failures to keep his commands, but has given them a new life and principle within that enables them to actually keep them! Imperfectly, yes (it's why we will always need Christ's perfection reckoned to our account), but pleasing to God because of Christ, and because we do it for his sake.

Becoming women who really can have the teaching of kindness on our lips doesn't happen overnight, and none of us will be perfectly kind (not yet). But progress will be made. The sorrows and trials of life will likely be God's tools of discipline that he, in his kindness, will use to make us more like his Son (his ultimate purpose for all those who are his). His Son, being divine, is (among many other things) kind! The daughters of Eve are especially meant to reflect that kindness, especially to those they care for. I'm so thankful for God's provision for this-- he can and will give mothers and daughters who have trusted him the teaching of kindness for their lips. He has given us new hearts, where a new principle of life enables us to do good things for the sake of Christ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Wanters Are Defective

Our wanters are defective. When we read in Romans 8:26-30 that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him", we so want the "good" promised to be an end to the current pain, sorrow, or affliction. That's just natural for us; pain and sorrow and affliction can be crushing, and feel like death to us. We know, instinctively, that we really weren't meant for it. We want to hold on to hope that life will get better.

A careful reading of Romans 8, though, shows that the "good" promised there is conformity to "the image of his Son". Paul is taking great pains to reassure his readers that this is a good that will surely come about, even by way of the pain and sorrow and affliction. A funny kind of reassurance this is-- not exactly what we were hoping for-- unless we've learned to want God's will to be done above all else.

This is where our wanters are defective, and why prayer is so important. Our prayers are to be all about God's will being done-- not speculative ideas about what his will might be in some certain area of life, but the sure revelation of what his will is, revealed to us in the scriptures. This is all God requires of us-- to know and understand that will. And to want that will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

If (when) we find that our wanters don't match up with God's plans, God has provided help. We must pray very earnestly, as sincerely as we can, that he will change what we want, and trust that it's his kind intention to do so. He can and will change our desires to match up with his desires. This kind of praying is right in line with his revealed will for us in the Bible. This kind of praying gets answered "Yes" by him.

To change our wanters, to conform us to the image of his Son who came to do the will of God (Hebrews 10:7) is the purpose of all the pain, all the sorrow, all the affliction. Without it, I'm afraid it's true that I would simply enjoy his blessings and not care so much about what his real purposes are for me, for his church, and for the world. God is able, willing, and more than that, determined to change our defective wanters. Because he is our Father, and we are adopted, and are being prepared for a great inheritance (Romans 8:12-30) and he loves us.