The Truth Principal

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

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That’s Not Fair!

That’s not fair! Have you ever said that? If you are around children much, you hear it pretty regularly! My students tell me that it’s not fair when someone else is winning, or when someone cuts in front of you, or when someone gets something you don’t, or when someone gets a bigger piece of chocolate cake than you, or when you are not allowed to do something that you want to do, or when you get blamed for something someone else has done.

Following up from last month, when we learned about being an image-bearer and learning to conform to the image of Christ, who is “full of grace and truth”, we began looking at some of Jesus’ parables to get an idea of what grace looks like.

We can all relate to feeling something is not fair. Jesus knew we would when he told this story in Matthew 20:1-15 (NLT):

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing.  So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first.  When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.  When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

I don’t know about you, but I quickly identify with the workers who were there all day. While it is true that they were paid a fair wage and received what they agreed to, it’s the inequity of the situation that makes it feel unfair. So we tried to look at it from another perspective. I asked my students to imagine that their dad didn’t have a job. (Some of the students gasped!) Not only was dad unemployed, but he went to a location where people would go hoping to find work. He was worried because he has a wife and children at home and there is no food in the refrigerator! (More gasps!) He needs to find work so he can feed his family. He has been looking all day, but finds nothing. Finally, near the end of the day, the vineyard owner finds him and puts him to work. At least he will have about an hour of pay. Maybe it will be enough to buy a little something to eat. Imagine his surprise when he is paid for the full day! Wouldn’t he have been leaping for joy? Maybe he rushed home to tell the family the wonderful generosity of the vineyard owner! “Look! Look what I got! he paid me a full day’s wage!” What a relief to be able to put food on the table! How do you feel about the fairness of the generous vineyard owner now? God is like that. He is that generous with us.

We also looked at the parable of the Unforgiving Servant from Matthew 18:23-35

We tried to imagine together what it would be like to owe someone millions of dollars. The debt was overwhelming and impossible to repay! The king was going to sell him and his family and all of their possessions to repay the debt. But when the servant pleaded with the king for mercy, the king had compassion. He didn’t follow through with the legal remedy for such a debt, nor did he set up a payment plan! Instead, he completely forgave the debt! Just like that! The debt was wiped out! Gone! Don’t you find it particularly disappointing to learn that immediately after being forgiven such a tremendous debt, the same servant sought out a fellow servant who owed him thousands and demanded immediate payment? When the servant asked for mercy, just as he had done, instead of being merciful, he threw him into prison.

We are like the unforgiving servant. We have been forgiven so much! We have been forgiven for everything we have ever done that offended God. God generously forgives us when we ask, even though we don’t deserve it. Yet quite often, we are stingy with forgiveness. When someone has offended us, we want them to jump through a few hoops and feel our pain before we relent and forgive them – if we do forgive them. Jesus makes it very clear how much this displeases God.  God requires us to forgive like He has forgiven us. In fact, when we pray the Lord’s prayer, we are committed to it, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…”

So today we learned that grace is not fair. Grace is better than fair! It is generous! As we grow in our likeness of Jesus, people around us should find us quick to forgive and generous in grace.

“God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply.”

p. 62 What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey

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Our Family Resemblance

Who do you look like in your family? I look remarkably like my mom. Maybe you can tell from this picture, taken a few years ago. Sometimes looking in the mirror startles me! There are times when my facial expression and the words I use look and sound just like her! This month in chapel we talked about what it means to be an image bearer. I clearly bear the image of my mother. God tells us in His Word that when He created us, He created us in His image! No one can say that “you have God’s nose,” or “you laugh just like your Heavenly Father,” so I discussed with my students ways that God’s image is clearly seen in us.

Some of the ways we bear God’s image include:

  • We have a capacity to love which, by the way, is infinite! When I had my second child, I didn’t have to take some of the love from my first child to have love for my second. I can love as many people as I am willing to love, as much as I am willing to love them! God says we should love everyone, even our enemies, so He has provided us with the capacity to do that!
  • We are relational beings. We thrive in relationship with each other and with God. God walked in the Garden with Adam and enjoyed fellowship with him. When our relationships are broken, it hurts, because we are made for relationship.
  • Related to that, we are communicative beings. We can express our needs, wants, ideas, and feelings. We can have rational discussion and even argue our points in a reasonable way. We are able to make ourselves understood, and to understand each other. If we don’t understand, we can ask questions to clarify until we do understand!
  • We are creative beings. God created this beautiful world out of nothing! We can’t do that, but we can create some amazing things! When I was a little girl, if I wanted to talk on the phone, I had to sit by the phone which was connected to the wall with a cord. In fact, we had a rotary dial only. I was an adult by the time “cordless” phones became the norm, and a mother of two before I had my first clunky cell phone. Now I have a phone that does everything my computer can do and more! I am continually amazed at the creativity of each generation!

These are just a few ways that we are “image-bearers”.  Unfortunately, our image-bearing is flawed, isn’t it?  Although we have capacity to love, we often choose to withhold love, or we love ourselves much more than we love others and are selfish. Although we are relational, we often hurt and sabotage our relationships rather than nurture and grow them. While we are capable of communicating and understanding, we often choose not to understand and often communicate in unkind ways. While we are creative, we often use our creativity to find ways to do harm or justify sin. God’s image in us is marred by the effects of the fall.

That’s what makes the rest of the story so amazing! God didn’t leave us in this pitiful state. He did the most incredible thing, and sent His Son, who perfectly bore His image, to take on ours!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus became like us! He knows what it feels like to be us. He even knows what it is like to be a child. He probably suffered a skinned knee a time or two. He knows what it is like to be scolded by his parents. Remember the time he was in the temple and his parents couldn’t find him? They were scared and worried. They didn’t know where he was! In Hebrews 4:15 it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” He can sympathize with us. He “gets” us. Philip Yancey, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace? put it this way, “On earth, living among us, he learned what it was like. He put himself on our side.”

We know that the remedy for the fall is the redemption we receive through faith in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when someone becomes a Christian, they become “a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Did you catch that? We have come full circle – first being made in His image, then flawed by the fall, Jesus came, taking on our image, saving us from the effects of the fall, now we are being made into the image of the Son.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decide in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians 1:4-7

God had this plan all along! You know, we have a lot of students that are adopted. When I first talked about looking like my mother, I suspect a few of them were feeling left out. Maybe they don’t think they look like their parents. Well, I have thought about that. I know of many older married couples that look like each other. All of those years living together, they take on each other’s mannerisms and begin to look similar. I have also noticed that a lot of adopted children look like their adoptive families. I am not talking about skin color or hair color, although that can be true as well. There is just something about being in close relationship with each other that we begin to resemble one another. God adopted us into His family and He is making us into the image of His Son! We started out so unlike Him, but we are becoming more like Him every day. But what does He look like?

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. …Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  John 1:14, 16-18

Jesus is “full of grace and truth”. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will become like Him, taking on His characteristics. We will begin to “look like” his brother or sister. If that is happening, then people ought to see in us the “family resemblance”. They should see grace and truth in us! Wouldn’t it be great if someone who had just met you said, “You look just like Jesus! Any chance you are related to Him?”

How can you be the image of Christ to those who don’t know Him? With my students, we will be exploring this further next month. We are going to learn about what “grace and truth” looked like in the life of Jesus.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

2 Corinthians 3:18