Saturday, October 28, 2006

The good news in a nutshell

In this morning's New Testament reading, Paul gives a quick summary of an encounter with God:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, spending our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we had done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit...
Titus 3.3-5 NASB (approximately)
When I was involved with the Navigators, I memorized verse 5 (it was on one of those little cards). The point being emphasized is that salvation (you can call it "recovery" or something else if you like) is not a matter of "I finally got my act together" or "I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps" or any other self-help myth.

On the contrary, the story of humanity is one of futility -- headed to hell in a handbasket, in the words of the cliché -- until God barged in somehow with his goodness and mercy. (I wondered if this was the same as the part in Psalm 23 where it says, "surely goodness and mercy will follow me", but it isn't; the word translated "lovingkindness" above turns out to be the word that's behind our word "philanthropy.")

In other words, it's all about God's generosity and grace and mercy, rescuing us from depravity.

And though I'd like to think I've "learned my lesson," so to speak, I find myself again and again wandering off the path. As I often pray, "You are strong and good, and we are weak and easily distracted."

Thank God for his faithfulness, his mercy, his philanthropic heart!

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