I’d like to say that a lot has changed in the last two years. And it has. But if I’m honest, not as much as I’d like — at least when it comes to me.
After my readings this morning, I reread my post from two years ago, some thoughts about not being all that I should be yet being so thankful that Jesus is more than I could ever fully fathom. And I’m reminded that I was repenting of stuff two years ago that I find myself needing to repent of again two years later. And I think to myself, “Self, sanctification can be a slow and frustrating process.” At least for me, the flesh is a persistent and unrelenting combatant with the Spirit. Yet, I trust that Lord is doing His perfect work. ‘Cause love never ends. Or, as the NIV and NKJV puts it, love never fails.
Here are those musings from April 2020.
Honestly, when I open my bible in the morning, I’m counting on it being “living and active” (Heb. 4:12a). I’ve often said that reading our bibles is kind of a guaranteed encounter of the divine kind. The God-breathed Word illuminated by the God-sent Spirit continually pointing us to the God-man Jesus.
But equally honestly, not always prepared for, nor is it ever easy when I open my bible in the morning and it cuts deep like a “two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12b). While I look forward to the awe in the morning, sometimes I get surprised by the ouch! Such is the case this morning.
Honestly again . . . feeling kind of splayed and shredded. Wasn’t expecting it and certainly not from 1Corinthians 13. But yup, splayed and shredded.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
(1Corinthians 13:4-8a ESV)
I read that and the living and active, soul-piercing word cuts open up my heart and reveals, “Pete, this doesn’t completely describe you. Some of these attributes have been absent.” And then, as if piling on, what I just read comes flooding back:
. . . have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal . . . have not love, I am nothing . . . have not love, I gain nothing.
(1Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)
I’ve been working hard over these past few weeks, and for the kingdom. And the thought of just being noise, of accomplishing nothing, of gaining nothing, because I haven’t perfectly operated in love . . . well, that’s shredding. And, I think I can say with integrity, it’s not that I want to be heard, or that I should accomplish anything for my glory, or gain anything for my own sake, but that I want my work to count for the sake of my Savior and for the profit of His people. And to think, just noise? Nothing? Zip, zilch, nada? Kind of shredding.
So, I hover over (or perhaps lie under) this two-edged sword as it does its work on me. And then I’m reminded of John Schoberg and that morning many, many years ago when, around the Lord’s table, he opened his bible to 1Corinthians 13 and for the first time I heard it read this way:
Jesus is patient and kind;
Jesus does not envy or boast;
He is not arrogant or rude.
He does not insist on His own way;
He is not irritable or resentful;
He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Jesus never ends.
And the Spirit who shreds my soul reminds me that because Jesus is love, and perfectly love, He could die and pay the price for my failing to perfectly love. And so, with shredded heart, I confess my less than perfect love and know that He is faithful and just to forgive my less than perfect love.
And the Spirit who cuts me wide open also reminds me that because it’s true that Jesus lives, it’s also true that He lives in Me. And that while my love can be distorted by the flesh, His perfect love can work in me and through me by His Spirit. So my confession results in a hopeful repentance believing that in Him, through Him, and by Him a 180 is possible as His perfect love, by His abiding power, can become an increasing reality in this imperfect disciple.
So, because of the cross, peace with God edges out the panic at having failed God. And because of the empty tomb, my weak flesh continues to be redeemed by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
And while I haven’t loved perfectly, I’m still perfectly loved.
The sword having done its work. The Savior more than ever worthy of worship.
Because of grace. For His glory.