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Friday, January 05, 2007

A silly illustration

Maybe somewhat cheesy, but hey, you know me (if you don't, then be informed that ever so occasionally I like cheesy links/illustrations).

So on Christmas day it's become a tradition in the Oakes household to go to Ebenezer Baptist Chapel. It's not the church we attend now, but we did, and my parents did before they were married (in fact, that's where they were married, as were I think most of my dad's family). My Nana still attends this church, has done all her life, along with my uncle and his family. My earliest memories of Sunday school are in that church. I remember thinking actually this past Christmas day that they'd changed the gates at the front of the church because they were a lot smaller...obviously I'm a lot taller (steady on the jokes).

Anyway, enough of the history lesson!

The point is, this particular Christmas day the church was celebrating its 100th Christmas and so after the service everyone gathered for a photo. Now, I felt somewhat cheeky at first and thought that maybe we shouldn't be in it as we're not part of the congregation anymore. But after all, we do have (and my parents certainly do have) close associations with that church that go back years - and my Nana can claim the title of 'person who's celebrated most Christmasses in Ebenezer' - so I decided that we were entitled to be in the photo as part of the Ebenezer family 2006 because of our family ties.

And this is where the cheese comes in.

As I stood in that photo I thought "This is SO the opposite to grace!" A funny thought, let me explain...

Isn't it great that we are members of God's family not because of our own family history, or ties to so-and-so, or anything other than grace?!

Because if we were to take a photo of all of God's kingdom we would see people included who have NO family ties to a church ever.

Isn't it in fact wonderful that there is nothing I can claim in and of myself or my relations that entitles me to be part of God's kingdom?

On the face of it it doesn't seem wonderful. On the face of it, by our nature, we look for evidence to present to God that He can count us in. Especially when we feel we've stuffed up. Grace seems too easy, too good to be true, and so we desperately search for something in and of ourselves that we can show to God, in a slightly warped way, something that will make Him proud of us and count us in. This is something I've been struggling with lately...maybe more thoughts to follow...we shall see what God says on that one.

And (more cheese) as I said to some students at Bournemouth...grace, and everything the Bible says about God and how to have a relationship with Him IS too good....but it IS true.

Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of saying isn't grace amazing? Praise God that we are counted righteous in Christ, we are welcomed into God's family not on our own merits or the merits of our family. Nothing else comes into it except our acceptance that Christ is our substitute, that He took the punishment we deserve for going our own way and not God's.

Nothing, absolutely nothing and absolutely nobody can be used as a token to get ourselves into God's kingdom apart from faith in Christ. That is a very good thing.

Nothing, absolutely nothing and absolutely nobody, is worthy of more praise than our wonderful God for what He has done.

(And the word 'wonderful' just doesn't cut it.)


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