By God’s grace, I went back and started the Men’s Study that Pastor Jesse Gistand leads (never got far the first time); you can find the series here: http://www.grace-bible-test.com/theology_men.html. I don’t want to post the study that led me to right this; it may have a different affect on you than it did on me (besides, I really would encourage all reading to listen to the whole series as God enables, especially the men, since there is a separate women’s series available).
Though these messages are all good, all edifying, and all a blessing, the one I heard today just blew my mind. It was one of the young men proclaiming the message (not an elder or deacon it seems) and it just stopped me in my tracks metaphorically-speaking. It was humbling; it really, really put me to shame. It was full of knowledge, and wisdom, but also grace! It was full of true, spiritual, gracious life application, whilst never ceasing to be truly Christo-centric in nature.
I love knowledge; I want to know more of God’s word and to know more of God as He is revealed in His living word — especially as it relates to God in Christ. However, it is not knowledge but wisdom, wisdom, that is chiefest thing to get and in that arena I am lacking (wisdom is second only to true, spirit-wrought, agape, love). So it is a blessing, a true blessing to know that besides the Pastor, besides the Elders (and presumably deacons as well), you have these men, young and old, in these recorded meetings that not only appear to truly and fervently love the Lord, but who truly and fervently desire to serve the Lord, in said wisdom, in a gracious manner. I need this; I am proud by nature. I need to see men who have more knowledge, and more wisdom than me (clearly) who are nonetheless, humble, gracious, loving, and caring in their delivery. I am not saying these men are perfect; I’m not trying to make an idol out of a single one of them; all I am saying is that it is a blessing (being so far removed from such a congregation) to see (well, hear) men gather together to put for that which has been so edifying for me. Again, we expect (and receive) this from Pastor Jesse, and from the elders (I have yet to hear anything from the deacons, of they bring messages), for this is the calling of faithful, God-sent pastors/elders/teachers, but in raising and training them up by God’s grace, Pastor Jesse gives them a forum to edify, and be edified by, one another — this is powerful; it is encouraging; and it is exceedingly both edifying and motivating.
You see, there is grace (mentioned) in facts, i.e., there is a preaching that talks about grace, tells you about grace, explains why we need grace, even grace alone (in light of Christ and his finished work alone)… and yet, there is also what I would call gracious preaching, by the Spirit of God, that causes the word to take mighty effect, making that grace powerfully felt (I do not know how to word it properly, sadly). It’s just that there is preaching about Jesus, about His substitutionary work on the cross, and about what His blessed work has done for us, that is factual, that is educational, but that falls short. Why? because it is in the abstract, it is theoretical; it’s fluffy, and nice, and is guaranteed to generate some “amens;” but it is separate from our calling in light of the Gospel of Christ; it is separate from how we tie-in as the recipients of said, blessed grace, and thus it leaves you (or at least me) wondering — “well, that’s great but on a day to day, hour by hour basis, how do these truths go beyond the eternal and condescend to help me in the temporal, in the now, moment by moment? How does what Christ did for me on the cross, and what He promises to do for me from now to eternity, work out in my day to day life? What does it mean to walk as a Christian, to live as a Christian, to go onward as a healthy, fit, strong (in Christ) soldier of our Lord?” I don’t want to hear about the Arminians and how little they know (been there, done that, heard that). I don’t want to hear about “grace, grace, love, love, it’s all of Christ, it’s all of Christ” as if in some vacuum, divorced from what these blessed terms (and the reality they represent) mean day in and day on — now until forever. Christ is lovely, His finished work is lovely, His work for us today is lovely, and the true preaching of it (through the Spirit) is lovely. Moreover, the spiritually-applied word of God is living (quick), and is life-giving, and is invigorating, causing us to want to leave the realm of notion, mere words, mere soundbites and “meme-worthy” clichés, and to move on to (manifest) perfection, which is, maturity. I want to live, not merely write and talk, truth. As much as God ordained possible, my desire is to have this blessed word, and this blessed Gospel, so conform my life, and so transform my heart and mind, that Christ becomes experimentally, thoughtfully, mindfully, paramount in all that I do, all of it, every ounce of it. Not in fine words for men and women to “like,” but in thought, word, prayer, and deed – and that – touching every aspect and avenue of life. I want to grow in love, grace, wisdom, rest, knowledge, and mercy, so that I may serve the One who has done such great things for me — not to earn, or pay back; not as a hireling or mercenary; but out of true, God-wrought, God-given love and thanksgiving.
Finally, let me stress again that to hear a group of men who love God, care about manifest sanctification; care about serving the Lord; desire to keep His commandments (so as to do them); who rightly understand the precept of Christian rewards (not in some hireling, Arminian sense — but in light of what God Himself promises to do for you in light of what He, alone, works out in you); who want to make these truths manifest before men (all men, as many as possible — as God enables), is so humbling, so abasing, so admonishing, so rebuking, and yet so encouraging, edifying, and uplifting, that words are simply not enough to express! We must understand, we are saved for a purpose, set free to serve, set at liberty to be and do what God would have us be and do! I am so sick of the defeatist, “only Christ can keep the commandments – we can’t;” “you think you can have victory over sin… how is that working out for you?;” “Christian’s are to have nothing to do with laws or commandments,” etc. mindset; God’s word is beautiful, He is beautiful; and His (extant) commandments and law are a delight, a wonder, a light and lamp (in the hands of the Spirit of God), and something to be esteemed, respected, and embraced wholeheartedly. Thus, my prayer for myself, my family, and for all of God’s people, is to be free from vain excuses, carnal rationales and traditions, and from all that hinders (as God enables) and to press forward, fighting the good fight of faith, resting in the grace, mercy, and strength of God, but desiring (hopefully with much zeal and fervency) to war with wisdom, and grace, against the darkness in my own flesh and in this wicked world as well. May God give us grace to live as light in the Lord, light in the world, and as the salt of the earth unto His glory.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
A Work In Progress