Expect Times of a Certain Clarity

There are times when things get exceptionally clear.  Those moments burst into our muddled thinking and bring a crystal clarity to us.  It doesn’t happen very often, but through it we start to see something our present situation.  It’s icy water splashed into our sleepy face.  It completely adjusts us and we are launched into a startling awareness of our hearts, minds and relationships.

To the mentally ill, it verges on not quite enough (but sometimes it is) when we are brought into this place.  Alert and awake, we are ushered into a certain sense of what is real, and what isn’t.  Change often hinges on this special discernment; it truly is an amazing work of the Holy Spirit.  We discover we can’t change ourselves, but the Spirit can.  The Bible and its promises are soaked with His power to make this happen.

There is a certain hope and security that comes from His restoration of our mixed-up lives. His work is quite exceptional, for He is an Artisan. However,  we will never be happy or at peace if we refuse.  And if we decide poorly we will get stuck inside a deep loneliness, and failure– the realization of being cast aside.

It’s scary, but so much is based on what we decide in these chosen times.  Depression and darkness will continue to pelt us.  But there is no other authentic shelter to be found!  By our stubbornness and pride we will be soaked through and through.  But even in this dejected state, we can still decide to harden our hearts. If we do not choose Him, we will stumble in our own darkness and sin. This is a miserable place, I have been there.

The darkness really shouldn’t confuse us.  (We most certainly should not let this happen.)  On just a volitional basis (thinking) we must not let the darkness reassert itself into our lives.  We are delivered by what the Lord Jesus has done for us.  He shepherds us through a darkness that is quite convoluted and complex. (Think, being lost in a minefield at night.)

The desperate nature of our mental illness should bring us to see our steady confusion as darkness.  It advances on us and so many can’t resist its strength.  But being mentally ill is not something that someone can just decide on, it is real and carries a venom that few can resist.  (Any romanticism of “being a tragically wounded poet” person, is so foolish, and dangerous.)

But the truth is, we have Someone who has volunteered to be our Savior and advocate.  He will speak on our behalf.  He alone can escort us through this terrible darkness.  Without His voice we can’t defend ourselves, and we will just fizzle out into a blind future and an ugly eternity.  We are desperately sick; and He is the only cure.

If you are presently struggling, I would tell you that you have a home.  It is a place of an acceptance and assurance.  The cost of depression and delusion can’t even come close to matching even the simplicity and basic place of just being a “minor” disciple of Jesus Christ. (It’s like choosing to drinking a tall glass of used motor oil rather than a cup of clean cold water.)

He has been pursuing you, in a deep hope you will respond to Him.  I exhort you to embrace this love and trust Him, even when it gets very hard.  But no matter what happens, don’t ever give up.

“The Cost of Grace”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

Let the Christian rest content with his worldliness and with this renunciation of any higher standard than the world. He is living for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace – for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace!

That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sins departs.

Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must the asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945, Pastor-Theologian of the Confessing Church, executed by the direction of Hitler

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.

Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

 

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship

Nothing!

“Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers,  nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39, NCV

Paul oozes out an incredible confidence in the words of these two verses.  He has an exceptionally deep certitude in a profoundly deeper God.  In the history of the Crusades, men would fanatically charge into battle. Not only did they carry their sword and shield, many carried holy relics.  They believed that a special magic covered them, keeping away all harm and every evil.

But this is not how we are to understand and embrace these promises. They aren’t magical.  When soldiers put a copy of the New Testament in his breast pocket he will be quite disappointed when the bullet just whizzes right through.  He will end up dead.

But the promises in Romans 8 are not bulletproof.  But they are certainly trustworthy to all who believe them.  Paul declares, with no hesitation, exactly what has happened through our faith.  In the strongest sense possible he works through a catalog of things which, (in the past especially) which are all very strong and intensely powerful.

“…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world…” 8:39 

This pretty much covers everything, (including IRS audits, and jury duty.)  Nothing can divide me from His love.  It seems to me that this very love very aggressively penetrates everything.  Love seems to be the tangent He works on.  (Actually, it is much more than we could ever dream.)

As believers who struggle deeply, we would do well to think about these two verses (vv 38-39.)  Perhaps even commit them to memory.  They have carried the faith of generations (it’s a very a very old and faithful donkey.)  As we trust in these we will find “no magic.”  But they are spirit and they are life.  Your confidence in these two verses alone will make you invincible.