Let's Try This Again.
Back in early December, I made a personal commitment to read through the Bible over the next year. I am fortunate to have a powerful Bible study software program on my computer, and one of the features it provides is the ability to create your own Bible reading plan. It will even track your progress electronically so you can always know where you stand in relation to your goal. How’s it going? Let’s just say that after two months of the plan, I am already one month behind schedule. (Hey, at least it’s only one month.) I could give lots of excuses, but that is all they would be – excuses. The simple fact is that despite my best intentions, I can’t even live up to my own standards and expectations. This is to say nothing of how far short I fall of God’s standards.
That frustrating insight into myself highlights a reality that we see played out over and again in the story of Scripture. That reality is called grace. On page after page of the Bible, we see the main characters in the story trip over their own shortcomings. Adam disobeys God and then blames it on his wife. After surviving the flood, Noah gets so drunk he doesn’t know his own daughters are laying with him. Abraham lies and says that his wife is actually his sister, just to save his own neck. Moses kills a man in a rage of anger. Aaron makes a golden calf for the Hebrew people to worship, while Moses is up on Mt. Sinai receiving the very commandments that forbid idolatry. And this all happens before the Israelites ever get to the Promised Land.
Blessedly, the one thing that is more obvious than the failures of the people in the story is the grace of the God who has called them into it. Honestly, after each failure, the story should come to an end. Imagine the scene in Exodus. While Moses is on the mountain receiving the Law from the one and only God, the people are down at the bottom dancing around an idol! That should make it clear that they are not cut out for the life to which they have been called. Yet, what does God do? He calls Moses back up to the top of the mountain and says, in effect, “All right, let’s try this again.” And then he issues the Law a second time and sends Moses back down to the people to start over. Again. The only reason there is another chapter in the story is because God graciously makes it happen. He continues the work of salvation in spite of the fact that the very people He is trying to save are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.
The same fact still holds with us today. God is determined to save us, but thankfully that determination doesn’t have anything to do with us. If it did, we would have already given God plenty of reasons to wipe His hands clean of the mess we keep making of things. Instead, His single-minded determination to save us has to do entirely with Him. It arises from His character and His nature, a nature that will stop at nothing to have us for Himself.
That is the reason I continue to be hopeful about the future of our church, even though I have to look at myself in the mirror every morning. For crying out loud, people call me “pastor,” and yet I can’t even stick to my own plan for reading through the Bible! Fortunately, there is another power at work around here beyond my, and your, faltering efforts. It is the power of God’s grace. Just when our failures should be bringing the story to an end, it is just then that the crucified and risen Jesus looks at us and says, “All right, let’s try this again. Follow me.”
And so it is that the next chapter in the story begins.
Grace & Peace,