Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Firm Foundation

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Tim. 2:19)

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock 
and gave me a firm place to stand. 
(Ps. 40:2)

When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. (Pr. 10:25)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1)

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Peter 5:12) 

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. 
(Is. 7:9)

"The peace produced by grace is a spiritual stability too deep for violence -- it is unshakable, unless we ourselves admit the power of passion into our own sanctuary. Emotion can trouble the surface of our being, but it will not stir the depths if these are held and possessed by grace." 
-Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

I had to read the above paragraph a few times before I was able to visualize in my mind's eye a deep pool of water, or perhaps a well, that lasts through many ages without ever running dry or becoming overgrown with algae and grime.  It's source is unsearchable because of its depth, and because of that depth, the body as a whole stands firm and still. Though passing winds, the chance pebble, or an earthquake may agitate the surface, they cannot move the whole because its depths are too deep to affect. Such is the life and peace of someone who grasps grace. Such is the life of the one who lives by faith in God's grace instead of by a rollercoaster of emotion. In Luke 6:46, it is the man who has dug deep to lay his foundation on rock who is able to stand firm in obedience to Jesus' words.

I love Merton's choice of verbs that describe the force grace enacts upon us- holding and possessing us.  They remind me of Jesus' promise that no one will be able to snatch his followers from his hand (John 10:28-29) and the assurance Paul gives the Romans that nothing, "neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39). This grace is our new bondage and slavery, the light and easy yoke our Lord has given us to replace the heavy one of sin and death we used to bear (Matt. 28:11). Why have I so often chosen to ignore it and "ground" my spirituality upon the shaky foundation of how spiritual I feel? As Sam Laing says in The Guilty Soul's Guide to Grace, and as others have said elsewhere, how much easier it is to doubt our conversions than to trust in God's grace to us!

However, the hold of God's grace is not a stiff one, but is gentle, and, Merton suggests- delicate. He suggests that two main forms of what he calls "violence" can damage this hold, and both of these get their destructive power from our "passion." "Passion" in this context is negative, reflecting the state of mind and heart in which emotion overwhelms our Spirit-led self control: "The delicate action of grace in the soul is profoundly disturbed by all human violence. Passion, when it is inordinate, does violence to the spirit, and its most dangerous violence is that in which we seem to find peace. Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us." So here Merton provides Biblical principles that disprove the "once saved, always saved" doctrine.

Type 1: Deliberate and Unresisted Sin-
"Acts in the depths of the will;" "carrying the whole being into captivity with no apparent struggle." When we choose to blatantly ignore grace (or abuse it), we are in essence disconnecting our well from its unsearchable source. In its new state it will dry up.
Type 2: Consented Inordinate Desire-
Involves us too deeply in the decisions of passion, perhaps under the pretext of serving God. "The most dangerous spiritual violence is that which carries our will away with a false enthusiasm which seems to come from God but which is in reality inspired by passion." This makes me think of Pr. 19:2: It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.

So we alone choose whether or not we allow ourselves to be held and possessed by grace, and praise God for the gift of repentance, revival, renewal, and re-commitment, that our wells need not be permanently damaged by our sinful nature and lack of faith.

Merton closes this chapter with a positive note on the power of God's peace to calm our "passion," and scriptures which it brings to my mind tie that peace to our pursuit of righteousness.

"There is only one kind of violence which captures the Kingdom of heaven -- the violence which imposes peace on the depths of the soul in the midst of passion.  This violence is order itself and is produced in us by the authority and the voice of the God of peace, speaking from His holy place."

...Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your minds and your hearts in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Col. 3:15).

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever (Is. 32:17).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 5:21).

A sure foundation brings peace, security, trust, and a true discovery of self-identity. What a gift that I do not have to run wild with the rest of the world to find myself! On the contrary, I know myself because God knows me, and who I am is NOT how I FEEL. If only I can cling to this truth, then worry, doubt, and unholy fear will NEVER gain power over the peace, assurance, and confidence that are mine in my Lord. Is this truth too magnificent to believe? O, Lord, increase my faith!

No comments:

Post a Comment