Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Beauty from the eye of the beholder (Finding Peace of Heart, Part 1)

I have been wrestling with some deep questions and confronting legalistic ideas that have haunted me for several years.  These questions have lingered, but I've been able to fight them for the most part.

Warning! Rabbit trail ahead...

Last night, I followed the instructions I'd given my teenage photography students in the fall.  Put together you pictures in a portfolio so that you can look at your pictures easily.  You can look back and forth over time and remember what God has shown you.  I've been trying to figure out how to store enlargements that I order of my pictures and I think my husband and I've come upon a solution.  I've made the portfolio for my 8 x 10s and 5 x 7s.  I'm going to get two larger artist portfolios and a rack to store them in for my larger enlargements.

As I sorted through my pictures, I had to choose how to categorize them.  It was interesting to try and group my pictures.  One of the groups I formed was portraits, but I decided to make a separate tab for my family.  When I looked at them last night, I was singularly struck by something.  Beauty did not equal perfection.  Hair perfectly in place, clothes matching, perfect background that not's distracting...

In actuality, I beauty in my family's pictures are in their eyes and faces--in the imperfections--in the joy I see on their faces and the ways their eyes sparkle with life.

My family and what I see all around me is the greatest defense I have against the lingering questions in the back of my head.  One of the questions I'd been able to easily answer but the second question I've been facing is so intertwined that I couldn't put either question to rest until the Lord opened my eyes to as I was looking at my portfolio helped me articulate the answer to my second looming question.

And now I find myself compelled to articulate my questions and answers because the Lord has given me peace about these questions and I am so thankful to Him for helping me to see!

These are seemingly simple questions that one might think all Christians shouldn't question or wrestle to articulate answers to once they've been a Christian for twenty years.  But, I've found that when my foundation gets assailed, cracks can show and I need to fill them in so that the slab foundation will be strong again.  So, here are my questions and even more importantly, the filler...

The biggest questions I face are these:

Who is a Christian?  and... How must we live?

I cling to the verse that says this:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The Lord saved me by his grace--not by anything I did.  This is my greatest defense against the false teaching that can creep in that I am saved in any way by something I might do.  I see groups and churches teach that we must do good works or that we must do "this" and "that" to be saved.

Romans 3:20

20 For by works of the law no human being[c] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But, does this excuse us and allow us to sin and yet be saved?  No.  That's not the answer.  
Autumn has been asking me why we try to be good if we're saved by grace.  If our works are not what save us, why should we try to do good to others and seek to be like Christ?  She said out loud a question I needed to answer for her and for me. 

Romans 6:14-18 ESV

14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.  15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We are not condemned.  (The Romans passage is one I will talk about more fully in the next post.)

Phillippians 1:6 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God is continually working in us.  We seek to good to others out of a thankful heart to the Lord.  Because we love Him.

I realized yesterday that this next verse has been a cornerstone for me.  I do not cling to the law of the Old Testament, but rather to the Gospel of grace.  In the Gospel of Matthew 22, we find how the law is summed up:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:34-40 ESV

I love these verses that tell me all about how to love and succinctly tell me why it matters most.

I John 4:7-12 ESV

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

I Corinthians 13 ESV

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[ it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I have clung to the passage from I John for years about what it means to be a Christian.  It gives me the most important answer of how I am to live: I am to love God and to love others.  Why?  Because I love God and when I love others, God is working in me and His love is complete in me (NIV translation uses that phrasing).  

Continue on to part 2...

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