Saturday, August 25, 2007

"God is For Us in Christ Jesus" (Part 2)

"God is for us". This is too dangerous a statement to just throw out there with no nuancing. It could too easily set ourselves over God, as if, by successful campaigning, we have won God over to our side and now He supports our party platform. We know that this is not what the statement means by reading the context. For instance, verse 28 says

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Notice, it's His purpose—God's. God being for us does not mean that He changed. It means that He changed us.

There is one thing God has always been for: Himself, which is to say His glory. There was one thing we were always against: God and His glory (Romans 3:23, 5:6-10). So if we were against God's glory, and God was for His glory, something had to change in order for God to be for us. God cannot be for His glory and at the same time be for those who challenge that glory. So what changed so that God can be for us?

Did God change? Did He become enamoured with our beauty (glory) and switched His support to our glory in place of His inferior glory? Certainly not! God did not take sides with us against Himself. He did not join us in our cause of hating and suppressing Him. God's being for us is not and will never be at the expense of being for Himself. Rather, God is for us by bringing us over to His side. He is for us by saving us for Himself. He is for us insofar as we are for Him. God works everything for good to those who love God (not hate Him). God is "for those who are called according to His purpose" (not our purpose). God did not change whose glory He was for. He changed us!

This is further made clear in verse 29:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God is the one who is doing the predestinating. He's calling the shots. We are the ones being conformed, being changed. Thus, when we comfort our souls by saying "God is for us" we do not picture a God who saw our cause and heard our persuasive arguments and was won by our beauty and thus decided to come to our side. Instead, we see God being God unflinchingly and unchangingly as He spreads, supports, and sticks to his glory, carrying out His purposes. We are the ones who changed. We were the ones won by the Other's purposes, glory, and beauty. God has been for his glory longer than anyone can remember, and the only reason a group of sinners can say "God is for us" is because that group is also for His glory. They are conformed to that glory, for they are now conformed to the image of His Son. God has changed us from being rebels against His glory to being partakers of His glory. His glory has become our destiny. "God is for us" is merely shorthand for "God is for those who join Him in His passion for His glory." "God is for us" means that God is for Himself. It means He has changed us to be supporters of the same thing He has been supporting eternally.

In the context of counselling, is it worth taking the pains to nuance this hope-offering phrase, "God is for us", as we have done? Surely the troubled soul could use the self-esteem boost from someone as important as God being "for her." This post is already too long, so I'll give the short answer. In my (little) experience of emotional pain, in the hour of darkest darkness, I don't want to hear anything about myself. And I don't want anything to depend on me. After all, I'm usually the cause of all my own pain. For the troubled Christian soul, the truth that "God is for us" is made sweeter by all this nuancing. If God's being for us means that He was won by our beauty to pursue us, then there's always the nagging question, "What if my attractiveness runs out?" If God's being for us is dependant on His changing us to be for His beauty then God has never changed. And if God has never changed—and yet is still for us—then we can be sure, that God will always be for us. For now, were He to turn against us, He would be turning against Himself.

Brothers and sisters, no matter how ugly we sometimes get, no matter how insignificant, inferior, or insecure we feel, we will always be able to say "God is for us." After all, it is not the beauty of our holiness that this things resting on. It's God's.

More to follow.

No comments: