It is no secret that from within the general camp of what might be called Reformed Evangelicalism there are a number of people who view God as a stern master whose primary interest is to impose rules, expose sin, and generally fume about how bad the world is.
Make no mistake: humanity is deeply and profoundly impacted by our rejection of God and our fall from grace. Call it what you will, but no one has to work too hard to prove total depravity. Have a look at what’s happening in the UK right now and you’ll see what I mean. Thinking about all that, we recognise that God is serious about dealing with crime, wrong, injustice, and sin. His commitment to answering the ills of our world, however, is borne out of his greater commitment to good, right, justice, compassion and love.
The Cross of Jesus is an historical reality not simply because God had to punish human sin, but more so because he wanted to bring people a life and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. It makes sense, then, that the cross is followed by the resurrection. The death of Jesus is the unexpected door to eternal life.
But here’s the point: what happened on calvary had its beginning, not only in the fall, but in creation itself. God’s core desire that his world should thrive. He causes life to abound. He wants you to flourish. I love the way Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Message’ interprets John 10:10: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”.
‘I have came so they may have life and have it to the full’ – Jesus
Once you see this core desire of God in Scripture, it’s everywhere:
• God’s act in creation is the first great statement of what He wants to do: he is all about expending himself to cause his creation to thrive
• He draws Abram into his covenant, blessing him that all nations of the earth might be blessed through him
• He chose Israel so they would show the world around them his design for life, as expressed in the ten commandments
• Jesus came to reconcile people back to God, to remove the sin and rebellion that separates people from God, and to bring them into life that can never end. Is there a more poignant illustration of God who gives (of) himself to bring flourishing life to others than the cross and the rising again of Jesus?
• He pours his spirit into his church and into the lives of his people so they grow well into the life he has for them, bearing fruit that honours him and brings his plans to exression
• He sends his church into his world to carry his good news of life and hope to people in darkness, and that their death and fallenness can be overcome by his grace
• His people are called to live as salt and light, bringing to expression the sort of world that God delights in. At our very core, we will find ourselves longing for this world. And God wants that world to flourish.
• When Jesus returns, he will reunite heaven and earth, and bring to full and perfect expression the world God delights in. It will be wonderful, beautiful, full of life, and safe – more wonderful than anything we could ever hope for or imagine
Simply put: God wants you to flourish in him. This is not a narrow and selfish preoccupation with getting what you want. It is being consumed by striving for what God says our world needs.
Ultimately, this is not a human centred endeavour: our single minded focus is on the glory of Jesus and the honour of God who is bringing all this about.
God wants you to thrive in this kind of life, and being one who is redeemed and owned by Jesus, I cannot think of a more stimulating day to thank him.
Q: what is your primary mental picture of God? Does it bear any resemblance to the above?