July 21, 2017

What do you have that you did not receive from God in His grace?

What do you have that you did not receive from God in His grace?

Posted in In line with Scripture

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.Romans 3.9

In the first two chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul very clearly demonstrates how the whole of mankind is under the influence of sin. The Gentile world, he says, has been reduced to worshipping the creature rather than the Creator by idol worship. Not only this, but that residual knowledge of the true God, built into every human being by God, has actually been suppressed by man in his native state. This knowledge is never enough to save a man or woman, because salvation is found in no one else, and there is no other name in the world given among men than the name of Jesus by which we must be saved (Acts 4.12).

But what about the people of God? Are they still sinful by nature? Paul argues that they are, in Romans 2. It is not enough just to have the law of God he argues, you have to keep it as well, and in that the people of God also fall short. This is our own experience too – the good we want to do, we are not able to do.

It is not difficult to believe the Scriptures when they tell us of the inherent sinfulness of man, because it is something we can see all around us. Yet challenges to this teaching have been made and still continue. One says that human nature is basically good, and that it is just a matter of a decent upbringing, proper education and a good start in life to make people into honest and upright citizens. This idea is very popular, and has been in some shape or form a dominant idea in Western culture for about 200 years. Two world wars, decades of genocide and dispersion of whole peoples has done little to shake the faith in the goodness of human nature.

Another is the false doctrine of perfectionism. This tells people that Christians can become perfect in this life, or if that is too hard to swallow, then at least very good. Good enough, in fact, to be unaware of having sinned for long lengths of time. Now it is undoubtedly true that Christians can and should grow in holiness, but even the regenerate, converted people of God retain enough of the old nature in this life to give the lie to the doctrine of perfection. Only the grace of God is strong enough to overcome human sinfulness.

When we are asked for the umpteenth time about how our children are socialised, do we snap or return with a really sarcastic reply? Do we not remember that we too are ignorant of other facets of life and that our ignorance is a source of frustration to others? When relations critisize your home education efforts for being (what they perceive to be) disorganised and disjointed, do we get angry and defensive, or go smug on them and look down our noses? This is sin.

Some of us will remember quite well how daft we used to think home education was. But we recognise now our faulty attitude was due to ignorance and misconceptions and not having had anyone explain and demonstrate both the practical and Scriptural commendations. Let each of us be the one to gently and lovingly lift the veil from the minds of those around us who still view home education as some fringe movement.

Do we let our children’s childishness get us angry and frustrated? What do we expect from them? Is it more than they are physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually able to cope with? They are little sinners with a whole bundle of foolishness bound up in their hearts which must be removed (Proverbs 22:15). Modelling sinful behaviour (impatience, yelling, name-calling) back at them is not going to help.

Sure we have to tend to the toddler and the washing and the lunch preparation, so why can’t those kids just do their assignments like we told them? Well, maybe our homes can get as distracting and as noisy as a classroom making it next to impossible for them to concentrate. Maybe we, at times, lose sight of the most valuable opportunity that home education affords: to spend vast amounts of time interacting with our children, rather than expecting them to spend vast amounts of time interacting with work books and bits of paper.

While they are doing assignments, what are we doing? Housework? Changing the baby’s nappies? Gardening? Maybe it would be more profitable for our students (and our total educational programme) for them to be helping us do those things. Do they really NEED to be doing that bookwork? Then maybe we could do it WITH them, enriching the task and enhancing the learning with our own life’s store of wisdom and experience. Maybe the washing and gardening can wait until later as part of P.E. or Home Economics or Horticulture? Maybe we can have a late lunch.

We no longer have a show home. It is part of the price we pay for our home education curriculum materials. One of the more expensive resources is not only costly, but is hard to find, and we use lots of it for our programme every day. It is called time. Time spent with our children means time NOT spent with the other (perishable) things that clutter up our lives. We are sinners when we value our things more than we value our children.

This is not to say we are not to value things…..the seventh Commandment assumes the propriety and necessity of personal private property. The Lord’s parables commend good stewardship of physical property. But there is such a thing as getting our priorities out of order and then getting impatient and frustrated with the children (a top priority) when their requirements interfere with our attention to our property (a low priority).

Yes, we know we are frail, imperfect creatures. In fact, we do at times feel deserving of pity. We do receive, and desperately need, the Lord’s pity (Psalm 103:13), for if He were to deal with us as our sins deserve, we would be lost (Psalm 130:3). Do we then extend such pity, or even as much as empathy and understanding, to the unbelievers with whom we have to deal? Are they not even MORE worthy of pity? If we are frail and imperfect, we who are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, who have a knowledge of the Scriptures, who are upheld in prayer by other saints, how about those whose very lives are suspended above the fiery furnace by the thinnest of threads and every moment in danger of plunging forever into its abyss should the Lord remove for an instant His mercifully sustaining hand?

Well did our Lord bid us to pray for our enemies, for they need it more than we! When we feel put down by callous neighbours, slighted by disapproving relations or intimidated by Review Officers….it should remind us of our most privileged position in Christ, and stir us to send up fervent prayers for their salvation.

May He Who has called us from the dominion of darkness into His marvellous light guide us into conduct so becoming to the Gospel, that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.

From Keystone Magazine
November 1998 , Vol. IV No.III
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig
@hef.org.nz

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