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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Artist Retreat 2006 Part 2

or

I need proof.

Today was the second and final day of the retreat. There were three more sessions, with a break after the second for some incredible burritos from Nashville favorite Baja Burrito (not to be confused with the inferior Baja Fresh). Brennan told many stories of people, including himself, who had encountered the compassionate heart of Jesus. He reminded me that to affirm someone is to see the good in them that they can't see in themselves, and to continue despite the difficulties. A word, a look, a glance, a touch. This is so hard for me, and so important.

It was a restful time, a time to sit and listen. And though I rested, I couldn't quite connect with most of what Brennan said. I've thought about it quite a bit, and have realized that talking about how God loves me is just not enough for me to feel it.

I need proof.

***

All my life, I've heard that God loves me, that he's crazy about me, that he forgives me. I've always believed it. But there's always this nagging feeling; if he forgives me, why do I feel so guilty, like I need to be punished? If he loves me unconditionally, why do I feel like I need to work, not only to feel approval from him, but to feel like I'm worth something in my own eyes?

Brennan addressed these questions, but his answers left me cold. Repeating to myself over and over that God loves me just doesn't do it. Does it do it for anyone?

I need proof.

***

When I went to college, I started attending a Bible study called RUF. There, I learned through hymns and sermons that Jesus not only died for me, but that everything wrong I've ever done was done perfectly by him. Jesus freely gives me his record, his perfection is credited to me. God loves me because of what Jesus did. God's law demanded a punishment; justice cried out for both perfection and blood, and Jesus fulfilled that law. All of it. It is finished.

Let us wonder grace and justice join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is, justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

***

God hasn't arbitrarily decided to love me (though there is a deep mystery to his love). He doesn't see my sin as the actions of a victim (though I've been sinned against). He hasn't winked at my sin, pretending not to see it (though he no longer holds my sin against me).

Jesus' work is my proof. When I am anxious, insecure, self-righteous, angry, afraid-- mostly all at the same time-- I look to the work that Jesus did. What I do wrong, he did right. My wrong thinking is covered by his right thinking. My inability to even feel emotions correctly, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, is substituted for his perfect emotional life.

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, to hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child and duty into choice.

I forget this every day, and need to remember it every minute.

***

I can't convince myself of God's love as just a spiritual concept. I need proof. And that proof is appearing before the throne on my behalf; a real, physical Jesus whose body still bears the marks of what he has done.

Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;

The bleeding sacrifice, in my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands, Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

12 Comments:

Blogger Clint Wells said...

Brennan Manning left you cold? And yet donald Miller makes you laugh out loud?

But serisouly, some nice words on learning to accept the love of God through the work of Jesus. I dig.

2:10 PM

 
Blogger The Regular said...

Hey Matthew - Your proof is inside you. Faith is the lock and the key.

9:33 PM

 
Blogger Matthew Smith said...

Midtownonline, I think you missed the point of my post. My proof is outside of me, in the risen Christ.

6:39 AM

 
Blogger The Regular said...

You're point is well made, but it's not the whole story. The rest of the story is that you have been made new inside as well. We testify to that proof every time we say, "I feel called" or "the Holy Spirit convicted me."

7:33 AM

 
Anonymous Kevin Twit said...

while it is true that when we are saved we are changed internally, it would be a mistake to draw our primary sense of assurance from that. I agree it is not the whole story, but it is important to remember a couple things. 1st: the internal change is from being a slave to sin to being one who is no longer a slave (Romans 6) but our new self is still tainted by sin in all we do, it is still being renewed in the image of God (Colossians 3) and thus if we try to draw our comfort from our changed nature we are open to becoming very discouraged. The rpmiary basis for knowing we are righteous is the promises of God and the gospel. The change we see in our hearts is always a mixed story, but the prioimises are absolute. Older writers like John Newton and William Romaine (whose letters I highly recommend) point out the danger of looking to our faith for our comfort rather than looking to Jesus and the danger of making a Jesus of our faith. Romaine says to a friend in one letter that when we look at our faith insrtead of Jesus we inevitably think that Jesus is less than perfect because our faith is less than perfect. As David Dickson, one of the writers of the Westminster Confession of Faith (the doctrinal statement your church holds to as the best explanation of the system of doctrine contained in the scriptures said when asked how it was with his soul, "I've taken my good deeds and my bad deeds and thrown them together into a heap. Then I have fled from bboth of them to CHrist and in Him I have peace." We must learn to thank God for our internal change but look to the alien rightouesness of Jesus for our true peace and primary basis of assurance.

For what it's worth, Kevin Twit

8:25 AM

 
Anonymous Kevin Twit said...

one more thought. I didn't hear Brennan this past week but have heard him before. I use his books with caution in ministering to students because I believe he is really good at helping Christians connect with what the gospel should feel like to God's children, but have never heard him give a clear call to trust in jesus as the way to recieve these benefits. So I think he understands what the gospel feels like but is not always so clear on what it is

8:28 AM

 
Blogger The Regular said...

Looks like we're going to have to get together again, Kevin. We agree completely. You didn't say anything that I disagree with or that disagrees with what I wrote. It would be ridiculous to take our senses of conviction or leading out of context. I am just pointing to the experience of the Gospel that is easy to neglect in the intellectual study of the Gospel.

Matthew was asking for proof, and the information of the Gospel is not the only proof we have.

11:02 AM

 
Blogger Matthew Smith said...

This is driving me a little nuts. I wasn't talking about "the information of the Gospel." I was talking about a real Jesus who did real work on my behalf.

11:20 AM

 
Anonymous Kevin Twit said...

like you say Randall (didn't know it was you by the way), we are in agreement. Both things are important of course. Matthew is talking about faith in the objective reality of what Christ did on our behalf and you are talking about the subjective reality of how Christ has changed us and the internal testimony of the Spirit (ala Romans 8.) If we don't resonate with the words of the gospel that is not good, and I think that is your concern if I read right, and Matthew has the conern that it is actually the gospel words (rather than just a feeling) we are resonating with. Both are important but the promises of the gospel are the primary thing and are experiences of the heart change are secondary and more up and down. That was my point I was trying to make. Does that make sense guys? Kevin

11:39 AM

 
Blogger The Regular said...

Matthew - sorry about the driving you nuts.

Like the other blog stuff, these things may be easier talked about in person, so we aren't misunderstood. I am certainly not talking about an emotion-driven faith. So I am sure Kevin and I are still talking past each other. What fun that we all live in Nashville (well, I live 30 miles out of town, but I'm used to the drive).

I'm a huge IG fan, Matthew. And I'd love to hang and grab coffee sometime... if becoming friends was the result of these online chats I'd be thrilled.

5:14 AM

 
Blogger Matthew Smith said...

Yeah man, I would love to grab some coffee next month after I get back from tour. You can get my number from Kevin.

7:40 AM

 
Blogger In His Grip said...

I know Jesus is with me when I feel happy.

9:28 AM

 

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