Part Two: “True Grace in the Extreme—For Serving on the Extremities”
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion, power, and glory forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 5:10).
This feast for the hungry of heart is perhaps one of the most delectable delicacies one can ever ‘sup upon. Please enjoy each bite to the fullest…
True Grace in the Extreme…
On Christmas night 2002 I was blessed in a radical and miraculous way that most people would say is the worst sort of “blessing” imaginable. My father lay dying in the garden behind his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. As I fell to my knees in the Christmas snow next to my dad, I fell into one the most horrible realms of darkness, desolation, and dire indictments of human frailty, loneliness, and despair. This “freefall”, as described in my book, had such a clear and powerful sense of “the gravity of sin’s effects”, that I thought the darkness, nausea, and crying out would never end!
AND YET… since I had arrived next to my dad’s side that night as a born-again Believer in Jesus Christ of numerous years and service, throughout the time in the garden and many times since then, as I descended into the darkness, I also ascended upwards towards the invisible and visible hope that had been firmly placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit—and seen worked out in the world many, many times prior to this horrible yet holy Christmas night!
Please see, understand, and/or remind yourself of the pattern True Grace: Descending: And after you have suffered a little while, (and) Ascending: the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
True Grace… is the unassailable promise of God buried deep within the heart that there is an eternal inheritance build upon our present and numerous and complicated trials. True Grace… is the promised grace that comes after our trials—in the hope (eternal assurance) of Jesus’ final coming, and in the hope (temporal assurance) of our everyday experience of God’s people of light and salt in a horribly broken world! “Two hopes” combined so that we are conformed.
“The bringing together of two seemingly incompatible truths—our exalted status in Jesus Christ and our present sufferings on earth—has always been difficult for Christians” (Dr. David Helm).
BUT it has never before been SO difficult as it is today in the Western church: “Christians living in a culture of comfort” for an extended period of time will have THE most difficult time accepting and internalizing what I am describing as “True Grace in the Extreme…”:“That we are more sinful than we could ever dare imagine, and yet more loved than we could ever dare hope for” (Jack Miller, Sonship). And living faithfully at the extreme of BOTH of these realities is the True Grace… that yields a harvest of the sweet fruits of Service to the Extreme.
On Christmas night, as I fast-descended into the hell of what sin has caused in this world, I also fast-ascended into the hope in Jesus’ return to make all things new—and is redeeming lives yet today. I was “stretched to the extremes of the Gospel message”: that Total Depravity and Complete Redemption are not only both true, but work together in a disciple’s life to make (to conform) he or she… more and more… into the likeness of Jesus Christ! And this is something we do not want to avoid, do we? Or do we? “Choose today…” each day… (Deuteronomy 30:19).
We can separate them (or make them more comfortable to our sense and sensibilities) at our own peril: E.g., “The world’s woes are due to bad social constructs, etc, and God is just a great guy who provides as much latitude as it takes to give us a great life.” This is but one example of how we can avoid the extremes of God’s LOVE and God’s HOLNESS.
This “True Grace to the Extreme” (more darkness and more light) is what, on the one hand, I would not wish upon anyone. But, on the other hand, I want everyone that my feeble… but fallibly faithful… and passionately bold and urgent life… might reach… to experience more than anything! Which is why I wrote my book; why I serve as a Stephen Minster; why I engage in any conversation that God will initiate to help the suffering and the freefalling; and why I do many, many things in my life.
The redemptive cycle of “The Weeping, the Window, and the Way” (my book) provides one with the process to take full advantage of any trials that this broken yet hope-full life might afford.
“…For Serving on the Extremities”
Living life, fully alive in Christ, is about having been transformed once, twice, and many times (Ezekiel 11:17-21; Hebrews 12), by “the redemptive cycle of descending and ascending”. This is likely one of the most important supernatural processes that God’s mercy has put in place to use the very brokenness man introduced into the universe (Genesis 3; Matthew 5) for the purpose of redeeming the universe. It’s astounding!
BUT…if what we’ve said about “Christians living in a culture of comfort” having a very difficult time of living with anything DIS-comforting, is true, then the fruits of having potentially AVOIDED “true grace to the extreme” will be a lack of motivation, calling, purpose, and passion for serving as Christ would in a broken world!
And this would be what Jesus is referring to when He says in the starkest terms imaginable, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:14-18).
Living a life committed to avoiding the extremes of True Grace and Sacrificial Service is living a lukewarm life. God is not pleased, and we can be horribly disillusioned about the lack of purpose and passion of our faith: Potentially not a “true grace” or “true faith”at all. The distinction is worth some introspection and discussion within a community of Biblical faith.
Please NOTE: Fully embracing “True Grace in the Extreme” IS THE ENGINE FOR Serving on the Extremities. The genius of The Apostle Peter’s letter (and the example of my own Christmas night miracle) to the First Century church—and, by implication YOU and ME—is the interplay between falling and strengthening… heating and tempering… weeping and wisdom… sin and salvation… crying out for answers and being answered by The Answer.
Beloved of God, Serving on the Extremities is not some sort of guilt-ridden, God-bargaining choice for those whom the Gospel has been more and more deeply rooted within their heart by embracing “true grace to the extreme”: It’s a natural outflow and unspeakable joy that, when it’s siphoned off for any undoctrinal, sinful or selfish reason, is akin to being in the desert of life, cut off from “the spring of living water”… that gives life… FOR THEN giving life away to someone else (John 7:38; Revelations 7:17; it’s opposite: Jeremiah 2)!
Christians have been saved to serve. And please allow me to remind you that the Christology of the entire Bible is based upon that premise: True Grace Redeems From the Inside-Out. And Out. And Out. And Out… until all things are made new!
True Grace in the Extreme—For Serving on the Extremities: The Foundation That Never Fails!
Please think upon your Christmas… each and every day… in new ways as you move into the next sacred places along your redemptive journey of life.
As Peter said at the end of his life, and his own very personal and passionate plea—having betrayed Jesus, been in his own very dread-full and dark freefall, and seeing Jesus’ forgiveness and hope HIMSELF): Take this in… To the extreme… And be of extreme service to others as well:
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters,make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1).
Please devote some time each day for a while… and regularly at that… to reading First and Second Peter. Of all the Bible authors, Peter understood well “the cycle of down’s and up’s” that are implicit and necessary for obtaining True Grace—and being passionate about the outpouring of service that will naturally flow then True Grace is embraced, and not overtly or covertly avoided in ways we are not even aware of.
Amen. And AMEN.
And until we meet at The Training Table again when we’ll chow down on a New Year’s menu entitled, “Resolve This Day…!
God richly bless you and yours,