The Great Initiator

My musings are usually triggered by books I’ve been reading (or walks I’ve been taking while flowers are in beautiful bloom). In the last few days, I put my favorite historical novels aside to read Michael Horton’s book Christless Christianity. As a former math teacher, I am intrigued by directionality as an underlying theme in the universe (except when it comes to my driving acumen). I still see the number line posted above the chalk board in all my classes. I’m always interested in the sequence of things…

Somewhat crimped by Zoom meetings, my church community is still alive and mostly well. Staying at home as the pandemic marches on, I’ve had time to think about what I’ve been missing, especially in church. But, maybe some other things too. Horton’s insights have helped me decipher the negative and positive directionality of my faith.

Although the answers should seem obvious, Horton’s questions challenged my thinking: Do I measure everything by God’s holiness or by my happiness? Did Jesus come to improve my life on earth or did He come to usher me into a new creation? Do I default to WWJD instead of meditating on “what Jesus has done?” My direction is usually in the negative direction, unfortunately.

Just now finishing up the study of Acts and Letters of the Apostles in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), I have hovered over Acts 2:42-47 as the true picture of the church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Sorting through some dichotomies that are in conflict in my heart.

Given: God is the Great Initiator. Then, He is the One who establishes the conduit to us, not vice versa. Positive direction. Horton says our devotion to Christ “is not a private inner garden where we walk and talk with Jesus,…but in a public garden with visible means of grace – there He forms a people, not just a person, by consecrating ordinary human speech as His Word, ordinary water as His baptism, ordinary bread and wine as His communion.” The public garden comes first. The private inner garden is secondary. Positive direction.

Grappling with the means of grace that God has initiated, I have come to understand that the Lord’s Supper is really a declaration of God’s action, not my willingness to remember something important. Direction. I see that baptism is an expression of God’s commitment, not mine. Direction. Preaching of the Word is God’s gift to us, but not the way I often receive it as a challenge to do more. And singing. No matter what my musical ability might be, singing is the vehicle for reviewing God’s countless mercies in His great Redemption story. It is the embodiment of Colossians 3:16 as we serve one another, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

God is the Great Initiator. He serves us through ordinary means of grace rather than what we often imagine – that we serve him through means of works. His intent is that we mature in Christ, become the new creation, through the ordinary life of the covenant community. He is forming a people. Ordinary speech, water, bread, wine. The preaching of His Word, baptism, communion, singing. The public garden. The positive direction – His initiation.

Measure all things by God’s holiness. Meditate on what Jesus has already done. God is the Great Initiator.