Thursday, February 14, 2013

Credentialed in Mercy

What are your credentials in the world?  What is it that commends you or gives you confidence in the eyes of others?  What accomplishments... awards... recognition of excellence?  For the vast majority of humankind the answer is silence and a shrug of the shoulder.  Nothing really of note. Sometimes just the opposite.  For most of us it's just, more or less, getting up in the morning and facing whatever life presents.  Trying to earn enough to provide food and shelter... taking care of the basics, and often not as well as we would like.  Working the fields, as it were, to bring forth a yield.  Struggling under that ever-present curse of our father Adam:  cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you... (Gen.3:17b-18a).

How about your Christian pedigree?  What can you point to in your Christian life that's left a lasting mark?  I know, not really a question Christians should be asking of ourselves, let alone listing our so-called good works for God!  But, being the fallen creatures we are, too often we do list those things somewhere in the inner inventory of our self-image. Alternatively establishing self-validation or not.  Are you a pastor of a growing church?   A Christian scholar who is not only published but read?  A missionary who has left the comforts of home and brought souls to Christ?  A faithful elder who has helped guide the sheep of Christ through many dangers over the years?  Again, the larger percentage of the people of God have no church ministry or Phd. in theology.  And even those that do still, to a large degree, find more thorns and thistles in their labors than not.

OK then...  Where am I heading?  Simply that accomplishments in this life are ephemeral.  To glory in them, if you have them, is pouring water into broken cisterns.  And to lament the lack of them is just the flip side of that coin.  "If only this... then my Christian life would be worthwhile."  It's these thoughts that came to my mind this morning as I read the familiar verses in Philippians 3.  And what so struck me was the apostle Paul's words at the close of the letter.  He first lists his credentials according to the flesh, he states that he counts them but rubbish for Christ's sake.  Nothing to see here... just move along.  He then states why - that he may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of [his] own (accomplishments to glory in)... but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith... to apprehend that for which Christ apprehended Paul.  Glorious and inspiring words.

But it was Paul's closing admonition that so caught my attention.  After all the high and purposeful words of pressing on to the upward call, etc (and who among us lives up to those words?)... he writes - But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Of great or small accomplishment... of many works or few... a Christian of Christians or just one of the bruised reeds struggling and plodding along.  The only credential under heaven recognized by God is the one that levels mankind, declaring all need saving.  In this life we don't graduate from that status.  Sinners we are, every day, and that alone qualifies us for the Savior.  The very best credential anyone can have is that of God's unmerited grace and mercy toward sinners.  And thus, through faith, we wait with a sure hope for the fullness of our salvation... for our Savior to appear, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

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