Timothy Keller on Thanks and Rest

“Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power. Yet we hate that knowledge, Paul says, and we repress it. We hate the idea that we are utterly and completely dependent upon God, because then we would be obligated to him and would not be able to live as we wish. We would have to defer to the one who gives us everything.

“Therefore, because the sin in our hearts makes us desperate to keep control of our lives and to live the way we want, we cannot acknowledge the magnitude and scope of what we owe him. We are never as thankful as we should be. When good things come to us, we do everything possible to tell ourselves we accomplished that or at least deserve it. We take the credit. And when our lives simply are going along pretty smoothly, without a lot of difficulties, we don’t live in quiet, amazed, thankful consciousness of it. In the end, we not only rob God of the glory due him, but the assumption that we are keeping our lives going robs us of the joy and relief that constant gratitude to an all powerful God brings.”

Timothy Keller, Prayer (196-197)

Refreshing Prepositional (Re)Phrase

I found myself singing one of the worship songs from yesterday while I was driving today.

Holiness, Holiness is what I long for,
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what you want from me.*

It’s a simple song, easy to remember and a good reminder. Then my mind made a little leap that I hadn’t made with this song before.

The final line rightly stresses that God desires holiness from us (and in ensuing verses–faithfulness and righteousness). But we get a lot of reminders of what God wants from us. So many, in fact, that they can become overwhelming when we realize just how far short of holiness, faithfulness and righteousness we fall.

The leap my mind made was this: it occurred to me that the line is no less true if we change the preposition “from” to “for.” “Holiness is what you want for me.” This changes the tone so much! God doesn’t just desire holiness, faithfulness and righteousness from us because his justice or Christ’s sacrifice demands it of us. Rather, the Father desires these things for us as his children because he knows that they are what are best for us.

I’m not suggesting that we change the way we sing the song. But expanding the way we think about it might not be bad.


* Scott Underwood, Mercy/Vineyard Publishing

Forgiveness and Restoration

Do forgiveness and reconciliation mean that a relationship must return to its previous level of intimacy?

This question probably betrays more of our contemporary notions about friendship than it exposes specific aspects of forgiveness and reconciliation. Any culture that has generated the term “frenemy” has betrayed its confusion about relationships.
Some argue that the only true reconciliation is ‘full’ reconciliation where a relationship is restored to exactly the same intimacy and character that it had before the offense. Others take the other side and counsel that if the hurt is too deep you can cut off all contact without remorse. As usual, wisdom is somewhere in the middle.
Forgiveness is the release of an offense against someone. Reconciliation means the end of hostilities. Neither concept really speaks to the matter of the ‘depth’ of the relationship we have with someone. Scripture calls us to live at peace with people. While it is certainly desirable and even attainable to regain the former level of intimacy after offense in marriages, families and with close friends, this can often take considerable time. Further, there are clearly situations where the hurts will be deep enough or the offenses grave enough that the delicate web of affinities and intimacy that once made up the friendship will be irrevocably lost even if forgiveness is offered and received. If this is the case, it is certainly a fact to be mourned but not necessarily one to harbor guilt over.
What is important is that we not limit the level of restoration that we believe God can bring. I have seen marriages restored after infidelity and families restored after years of strife. If God can reconcile the world to himself through the cross and resurrection of Christ, then there is no limit to the level of reconciliation he can bring between two people.