Monday, September 26, 2016

The Affliction of God's Refining Care

Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

One of my seminary students wrote, saying: "God is telling me that I have a problem." 

I responded: "You do." 

I do too. We all need more change, more transformation. Here's the good news logic:

1. Either you've arrived or you need more change.
2. You have not arrived.
3. Therefore, you need more change.

Welcome to the kingdom of God, and the community of the King. Real "church" is a community of transformation. Wesley Hill writes: "Anyone who joins such a community should know that it is a place of transformation, of discipline, of learning, and not merely a place to be comforted or indulged.” 
(From Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality,  p. 68)

Good-bye Consumer Market-Driven Church. 

Good night Starbucks in the church lobby. 

Sleep tight Entertainment Church. 

Prepare to be pressed but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed.

Consumers don't want inner heart-change. They want others to change, not themselves. They want to consume, rather than be consumed. This creates a problem since God is, among other things, a consuming fire. Meet God and submit to Jesus as Lord and you will never be the same. Hill writes:

"Engaging with God and entering the transformative life of the church does not mean we get a kind of “free pass,” an unconditional love that leaves us where we are. Instead, we get a fiercely demanding love, a divine love that will never let us escape from its purifying, renovating, and ultimately healing grip."

Are we having "fun" yet? Are we "happy?" Those are the wrong questions. "Fun" and "happy" are not the words to use here. When the self gets laid on the altar of God, stuff gets stripped off. There is a fiery, refining purging of one's being, as God morphs the self into Christlikeness. Let the fire fall and purify our hearts. Lord, bring restoration.

This is where the self gets denied. Who can go this far with our Lord? Hill beautifully writes:

"Though we may miss out in the short run on lives of personal fulfillment and sexual satisfaction, in the long run the cruelest thing that God could do would be to leave us alone with our desires, to spare us the affliction of his refining care. “Not only does God in Christ take people as they are: He takes them in order to transform them into what He wants them to be.”"

That's it. The affliction of his refining care. It is not fun, but it is very good.

My new book is: Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.