Monday, April 2, 2012

“A Place of Grace”

   Why does God not immediately take us to Heaven when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?  The Apostle Paul answers the question for us in his second epistle to the Corinthians:

    “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.  Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (II Corinthians 1:23-24).

     The benefit of others precludes our instantaneous translation into the Heavenlies.  We remain in the world as the temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and thus, as the earthly vessel through whom Christ again lives and administers the redeeming love of God.  “I will dwell in them and walk in them” (II Corinthians 6:16).  It would be “far better” for us to go straight to Heaven when we believe.  However, it is far better for our particular sphere of influence that we remain so that the Lord Jesus can be honored and revealed by us in every venue of life.

     Do we view ourselves in light of this vital significance?  God does.   “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20).  We must also accept our commission, whatever our station in life may involve.  The family in which we were born and live requires the revelation of Christ by us.  Our friends must behold Him in our attitudes, words, and deeds.  The neighborhood in which we live calls us to exemplify and represent our Savior.  Our calling and workplace must first be seen not as a job or means of financial provision, but as a holy venue wherein our demeanor and work habits reveal by us another and greater Worker.  Every aspect of our lives involves our ambassadorship and honored privilege to remain in the world for the most vital purpose.  “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (II Corinthians 10:31).

     Allow me to share a quick example from my personal experience.  Several years ago, visits to my local superstore seemed more and more like an unwanted burden.  The aisles were often crowded with hurried, irritated and unpleasant people.  Long checkout lines awaited the end of shopping, and the clerks often seemed to slow down their performance as more people joined the queue.  Too often I found myself no less “hurried, irritated and unpleasant” than the people I wanted to avoid.  Honestly, my main sensibility of discontent often led me to feel and even express, “I’m sick of going to that store!”

    Thankfully, the Lord didn’t leave me to stew in my carnality.  Consideration of the Biblical theme of this essay challenged me to realize that for me, the store I frequent is not primarily a place to buy and sell.  It is rather a place of grace, as is every square inch of the planet on which Christians live.  I came to understand that God left me in the world to view the store as a venue in which to represent Him in my demeanor, attitudes, words and deeds.  He sends me there in the determination to personally know His presence, and to be the living expression of Christ walking the aisles and encountering the precious souls of shoppers and employees.  Again, “I will dwell in them and walk in them.”

      This perspective changes everything about the experience.  Of course, I don’t talk to every person in the store, nor do I directly witness to every person with whom I do make contact.  I do, however, seek to exemplify the Lord Jesus in my demeanor and in every contact, and the Lord has given many opportunities to speak of Him as the Holy Spirit opens doors into the hearts of people.  Most importantly, God reminds me that my visits to the store are far more than they seem to be.  They are times with Him, and times for Him.  As is every place, and every venue in which we find ourselves as ambassadors for Christ, or as Paul also proclaimed…

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
(Philippians 2:14-15)

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