I had made theology my pursuit. My goal. My aim. My identity. And I was pretty good at it too. I could go toe to toe with the best and I was proud of that. Don’t get me wrong. Good theology is necessary. But theology apart from a heart captured by the gospel is reduced to dangerous information. It’s ammunition to win an argument. It’s fodder for a blog. It’s food for one’s pride. Theology not rooted in grace and removed from the gospel can make us hard, indifferent, proud, cold, and right all the time. Been there; done that.
Something else that became my identity was my ministry. In almost 40 years in the faith, I had been on the pastoral team of several different churches and my identity was wrapped up in being a pastor. I became proud of the fact that I was a pastor. Proud to be a servant. Go figure! Then one day, the structure I had built my identity on began to collapse. The building fell with me still in it and everything crumbled in the ashes. Destroyed. Brought to nothing. And all I could do was watch it tumble. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what was going on, but I could feel my heart changing.
That collapse was almost 5 years ago. I see more clearly now what I couldn’t see then. The Holy Spirit was being merciful to me as He began to show me what had slowly happened to me over the years; who I had become. It was an intervention. A badly needed rescue. I had become hard, indifferent, proud, cold, and… right all the time. My identity was wrapped up in me and my theology and ministry, not Jesus. Grace and the gospel had become theological categories to be mastered, taught, and filed away. My spiritual growth and progress in the faith (whatever that means!) was independent of Jesus and the center of my world. I only gave Him lip service. My assurance was up and down like a roller coaster ride because my eyes were fixed on my performance and my own spiritual navel.
But God has a gracious way of intervening and once He does, He begins His gentle and patient work of rebuilding and restoration. He rebuilds and renews our hearts with His unending grace. He takes damaged goods and makes all things new. He takes us in directions we never saw coming and would never have imagined. But most of all, He keeps loving us! Even in our foolishness He is full of rich mercy and grace.
Oh…. Happy Thanksgiving!