April 25, 2008

A Sweet Goal

Attending seminary at my age was an oddity for the other students. Most of them were young enough to be my children, maybe even grandchildren, but they accepted me. One day one of them expressed his curiosity why I was in school. He asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My response is that I want to be a sweet little old lady. I’ve written about this before, and how my brother, when I told him, teased me with, “You better get working on it.”

My mental picture of a sweet little old lady is a composite of several women. One is Irene, my first mentor. She was a blessing and encouragement to everyone, no matter what was happening in her own life. Even when her husband died, she comforted everyone else.

Another is Agnes. She had Lou Gehrig’s disease and showed me how to die with grace and a loving attitude toward all who helplessly watched her decline. A third is a missionary woman who scads of children and a long career, but also a perpetual cheery attitude. She told me that her secret for a sweet spirit was to be thankful all the time.

As I think about my goal today, the beginning two verses in 1 Peter add another facet to the jewel of becoming that person I envision. It says, “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

I wrote in the margin of my Bible, “Chosen by the Father, set apart by the Spirit—to obey the Son.” Grace and peace are for those who are called, sanctified, and obedient.

Obedience. This is God’s goal or purpose for making me His child. He wants a sweet Spirit, a gracious attitude, joy and all that I think of as belonging to a pleasing person, but these things do not happen in the life of a stubborn, unthankful, resisting rebel. The good fruit of the Holy Spirit is for those who say yes to God.

My devotional reading for today suggests that many who come to Christ are greatly excited about being selected by God and given a place in His family. We love the fact of our redemption, forgiveness, and freedom from condemnation. We sing for joy that the blood of Christ has covered all our sin. We rejoice in that He has lifted our burden of guilt and set us on a new path.

But then we realize that this new path is also filled with commands that tell us to drop our old way of life and live for Him. No longer should we do whatever we wish, but our allegiance is to Jesus Christ who died for us, and we must do whatever He asks, whatever the cost.

The author of my devotional says that until that total obedience happens, “half of the sweetness and blessedness of real religion and of salvation by grace is not felt or known, nor the liberty of the gospel thoroughly realized or enjoyed, for the gospel must be obeyed and lived, as well as received and believed, that its full, liberating, sanctifying influences may be experienced, as sweetening the narrow and rugged path of doing and suffering the whole will of God.”

There is that “sweet” word. By this statement I’m aware that the sweetness I desire for my own personality and way of life comes from facing all the hard stuff of obedience and doing it. Also, as I follow Jesus Christ, my obedience must include trust in the Father who called me to this path and total reliance on the Holy Spirit who set me apart to walk it.

Sweetness does not come from a life of ease, as illustrated by the lives of my mentors and examples. Their sweetness came from walking with God, from drawing their resources from Him, from trusting Him, but mostly from doing what He says.

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