Thursday, September 1, 2016


As I reflect on things like redemption (and healing, but that's another story for perhaps another day), I'm struck by how backward our theology seems to be on the greatest gifts of God.

Somewhere along this journey toward Home, we have come to the conclusion that God lives inside of us and His greatest gifts surround us. There is some truth to this, of course, as we look to Scriptures that tell us that the Holy Spirit indwells us in a way we cannot quite fathom, that Jesus lives in our hearts. He abides in us as we abide in Him. And there are ample verses to remind us that it was the Promised Land that was flowing with milk and honey, one of those gracious gifts of a loving God. 

But that's not quite how most of us think of it when we think about these things today. Not in our society that tends to be so self-centered and entitled. If God indwells us, we think, then in a sense, we must be God. Most of us are living like we are gods. Or if we don't go that far, we still believe that the God indwelling in us makes us somehow more special than the very same God indwelling in others. So we've twisted what it means to be temples of the living God to the point that most of us are convinced that others ought to come to our temples to worship. And they ought to end up worshiping us.

By the same token, when we think about the gifts of God, it's no longer enough that the land would be flowing with milk and honey; it ought to be served up to us on platters so that we don't even have to gather it. The harvest ought to be piled around us. We ought to be swimming in God's blessings the way Scrooge McDuck swims in his piles of money. That's the goodness of our God poured out, isn't it? That's what He promised, right?

Not quite.

Without forsaking the verses described above, I have to say that I think this theology is exactly backward. Although the Holy Spirit dwells in us and Christ abides in us as we abide in Him, we weren't meant to see God in ourselves; we were meant to see God in our world. It's why He spent so much time indwelling all of Creation - so that everywhere we look, we see God.

And the blessings of God? His incredible gifts? We don't swim in them like piles of money; they run through our veins like blood. Look in the Scriptures at what God's greatest gifts are. They aren't milk and honey. They aren't riches and power. They aren't wealth and fame. They aren't good harvests and solid houses and reserves in the bank. The greatest gifts of God, the things He really wants to give us, are things like joy. Love. Peace. Patience. Grace. Mercy. These are the kinds of things that are supposed to get inside of us. Outside of us, they do us little good.

And I think that's one of the struggles of our time. I think that's why so many tend to be dissatisfied so easily with God, even what they might agree is a "good" God. Because we have convinced ourselves that God's gifts are all around us, not inside of us, and we look around and see others filled with joy. We see others filled with love. We see peace and patience all around us. We swim in pools of grace, but when we climb out and towel off, we're no less empty than we were before. All of a sudden, it's easy to rail against a God who puts all these good things out into the world but doesn't seem to have a measure of them for us. 

It's a land flowing with milk and honey, but that's probably just because we're surrounded by goats and bees.

This is where our backward theology has gotten us. This is where we've come. We're living the holy life inside-out, convinced that we find God in ourselves (and thus that we ourselves are gods) and that His gifts are all around us when, in fact, it's just the opposite - the world is full of His glory, the very presence and the very essence of Him, and we are to be full of His gifts. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Mercy. Grace. Even glory. And do you notice where that gets us, when we get this right? 

To the fullness of God and of all things. All Creation is full of His glory, and His people are full of His gifts. So herein lies the answer to our ache. Herein lies the answer to our emptiness. Not that we would swim in pools of grace, but that we would become them.

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