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Achieving God’s Purposes

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“Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change.” (Heb. 11:6). God is radical and extravagant. He is unexplainable. I do not think I have ever been described as reckless and certainly not extravagant! So it may be hard for me to think of God in those terms.

A. W. Tozer wrote that God is so infinite that the best He could do for our limited minds is to compare Himself to earthly things: “God is like . . .” Because we are limited in our ability to understand God, we may be guilty of thinking of Him in even more limited ways than is necessary. In A Glimpse of Jesus Brennan Manning quotes philosopher Blaise Pascal: “God made man in His own image, and man returned the compliment.” If we are conservative, we tend to think of God as being conservative. If we are mad at the world, we may feel that God is mad at the world, too.

But God is radical and extravagant. He is not merely generous; He is downright reckless in His giving. Let’s look at the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1–16) in a contemporary context. Imagine Dr. Gary Benedict hiring two people at the U.S. C&MA National Office. One starts January 1. The second begins work on the afternoon of December 31. He pays the first one $25,000 for a full year’s work. And then he pays the second one $25,000 for a half day’s work. How many of us would describe Dr. Benedict as “a generous person”? Not many. Most of us would call him reckless and a poor manager. Some of us would call for his resignation or ask the Board of Directors to fire him. I could hear myself saying it is pretty extravagant to pay someone so much for so little.

But that’s what God did! The one who gives his life to Jesus at a young age and the thief on the cross who begged for mercy moments before his death are both given the extravagant gift of eternal life. My father-in-law prayed to accept this gift literally minutes before he died. Does he receive a discounted, prorated salvation? No.

I wonder sometimes if evangelicals have blinders on in some areas. We have criticized the Roman Catholic church for its earlier practice of discouraging people from reading the Bible and take great pride that this is not our tradition. And yet, while we encourage biblical literacy and understanding, we fall short of helping our people understand that they are missing a vibrant relationship with God.

Are we satisfied with a church full of people with a high level of biblical knowledge? Some might say our chief task is to defend the Word. Yet we cannot reach the world by sharing biblical knowledge. Obviously, knowing the Word is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. But people are not converted by knowledge. Our culture abounds in knowledge.

People are reached by an encounter with the living God that pierces their hearts. I say we should be seeking to spend time with God. He has chosen to use us as His vessels, yet we often lack a Spirit-filled approach to every aspect of our lives. We will reach the world by having a deep, loving relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and giving an account of the hope that is in us (see 1 Peter 3:15). Jesus tells us, “‘If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’” (Luke 11:13). How often do we ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit? Does that seem extravagant or perhaps radically risky?

In his book Soul Tsunami, Leonard Sweet uses the analogy of a new grandmother. Must she be “taught” to brag about her new grandbaby? Absolutely not! Just try to keep her from sharing stories of the first bath or the first tooth. This doesn’t come from being educated about grandchildren; it comes from a deep, deep love.

If we truly desire to see the world changed, I believe the world will have to see us changed first. A conservative, safe church is of little value in reaching a lost, broken world. But a church that encounters the world, not out of obligation but out of a deep love for the Savior and the people He loves, can change the world!

“Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change.” As we work to see the world changed for His glory, let us be open to how He must change us and what we must do so we can truly reach people with God’s love.

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