We’re studying about knowing God and being known by God. Last week we looked at the meaning of names in the Bible and saw their importance to God. Names themselves don’t have as much significance as the fact that they identify the individual, the person. God apparently wants to know you personally. He wants to be your personal God. In fact, he wants you to be in his family, taking his family name by a new birth, what Scripture calls an adoption by grace:
He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6)
But to God, your name is not just personal. By adopting you, he makes your name permanent. You become permanently part of God’s family. Your name is personal and permanent. The permanence is symbolized by God’s writing your name with his own hand on a white stone—the Book of Life. Your name is added to God’s family personally and permanently. (It’s interesting that there are only two things that God writes in stone: One is the Ten Commandments, and the other is your name.)
You apparently can destroy the permanence of writing in stone by choosing another God, as the Israelites did with the golden calf. God smashed the stone of the Ten Commandments and could presumably smash the white stone with your name as well; but that would require you to refuse adoption, to choose another god, another family, to turn your back on grace, just as the Israelites did with the golden calf.
If the stone of the Ten Commandments symbolizes the law, then the white stone with your name on it, I believe, symbolizes grace. There are many historical symbols for the white stone. Today, white stone is considered a gardening material—something to spread around bushes or landscaping to replace grass. But in ancient times, particularly in the Middle East and the Mediterranean area, white stone represented important details about one’s social status.
In some cultures, the trial judges on a panel would each deposit either a black stone or a white stone into a bowl, or reveal one in the palm of their hands, to cast their verdict on the accused. A black stone indicated that the judge favored a guilty verdict and a white stone meant that the accused was considered innocent of the charge. If the accused received more white stones than black stones from the panel, he was acquitted. So the white stone became a symbol of being judged innocent.
Similarly, in ancient Rome before a gladiator match, the gladiators pulled stones from a bag, and those who drew black stones were to fight, while those who pulled white stones were given a reprieve for that day. In other situations, a person who carried a white stone with the name of a patron enjoyed the privileges of a modern-day credit card, with expenses charged to the patron. Often it was a white tessera, or mosaic stone, used to charge expenses to another’s account.
In Greece, following the Olympic Games, winners arriving back at their native cities were presented with a white stone inscribed with their name. Possessing such a stone entitled its owner to be maintained at the public expense for the rest of his life. Sometimes the tessera had an identifying mark that had meaning only for those to whom it was presented. It could be one half of a pledge, or a contract with half of a symbol which was completed when matched with another piece.
In a covenant, the parties would exchange a white stone inscribed with their respective names. Whenever one party entered the other’s territory, he was treated with special hospitality, as though he were a patron of that territory. This hospitality tablet was much like a passport with privileges. It was also common in ancient times that the identifying mark on the stone was the name of one’s household God.
Thus, white stones were used to establish identity, admit entrance, give permission, or confer religious and civic privileges. But the ancient Israelites had stones as well made with lightweight plastered lime as a sign of covenant between God and them:
So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime…. (Deuteronomy 27:2)
In this instance, the lime-covered white stones acted as a tangible reminder of their relationship with God and the covenant event (in this case, the crossing of the Jordan River to the promised land.)
In the New Testament, the Apostle John promises Christians a white stone with a new name written on it as a reward for preserving faithfulness and overcoming:
The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17)
Also in Revelation, Jesus speaks to the church of Pergamum—and by extension to us as well:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.
‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden bmanna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’” (Revelation 2:12–17)
The people are affirmed in their faithfulness but called to repentance for their faults. To those who overcome these faults, Jesus promises a white stone with a new name written on it “which no one knows but he who receives it.” Some infer this to mean a special relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and that it reveals the individual’s true identity as God sees him or her.
A white stone then, particularly as described in Revelation 2:17, signifies a decisive vote in one’s favor—a judgment of innocence, a reprieve from death, a covenant of safe passage, celebratory welcome, honor with free privileges, a new and lasting identity known only to, and intimately by, God; and finally, an eternal hospitality with God.
The white stone with your name on it is one of the rewards for overcoming (Revelation 2:17). What does it mean, to “overcome”? I’d like you to to help me understand. I’ve lived all my life trying to do good and to shun evil. I’ve tried to live a sinless life. In short, I’ve tried to be an overcomer, and I must tell you it’s been an utter failure. But recently I’ve seen “overcoming” differently.
It begins with looking at the rewards for overcoming found in Revelation 2 and 3. In addition to the white stone, with your handwritten name on it, other overcoming rewards include a crown of light, food from the Tree of Life, being spared the second death, receiving hidden manna and a white robe, and a permanent entry in the Book of Life.
Overcoming the world is a concept central to the Christian faith. It refers to the ability of the individual to resist temptation and the influences of worldly values and desires. The term is often used in the Bible to refer to the process of remaining faithful to the truth and to resist the allurements of materialism, power, and sin. But the mistake is to believe that one must be sinless to be an overcomer.
The process of overcoming the world is not something that can be achieved with one’s own strength and willpower. Instead, it is only possible through the acceptance of God’s grace. Grace is the unmerited favor and love of God extended to all individuals who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Grace provides the strength and support needed to overcome the world and to resistance its temptations.
The Bible states states that:
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)
This is double grace or grace squared depending on your mathematics, For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
This passage highlights the importance of grace in the life of the Christian and shows how it is the key to overcoming the world. Through the acceptance of God’s grace, believers can be designated as overcomers.
Another example of the importance of grace and overcoming the world can be seen here:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
But overcoming the world is only possible through the acceptance of God’s grace. Grace provides the strength and support needed to resist the temptations of the world and to remain faithful to the truth. Therefore, accepting God’s grace is essential to overcoming the world and living a life pleasing to God.
There are other notable references to overcoming in the Bible. Here, Jesus was talking to his disciples about having to leave and replacing himself with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:
These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
The real clincher for me is:
For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.
Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
This is the adoption referred to in Ephesians 1:5. Everyone who was adopted by God has overcome the world, and the victory that has overcome the world is our faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
These references highlight the idea that faith in God and acceptance of God’s grace can lead to overcoming challenges, temptations, and evil; in short, that grace is the key to overcoming the world. What is overcoming then is to accept grace and then, by grace, to overcome the temptation to be a self-fulfilling overcomer. To repeat: Overcoming is to accept grace and by grace overcome the temptation to be a self-fulfilling overcomer.
The rewards for overcoming are not a quid pro quo. Jesus does not say “If you overcome your sins, then I’ll do this for you.” It’s not that. We are overcomers by being born again, by being adopted into the family of God as we just read. We’ are overcomers because Jesus is an overcomer and Jesus is our father. We’re overcome because we’re part of dad’s family.
Watching a football game a few weeks ago, I saw on the sidelines a young boy. Obviously, his father was on the team. He had a special privilege to be on the field, because his father was on the field. We’re all in the game of life. We’re on the overcomers’ team because our dad is its captain.
The listed rewards are all about grace. They have nothing to do with our work or with our effort. The crown of life, the eating from the Tree of Life, the white stone with our personal name, the white robe, and the hidden manna,… all are symbols and metaphors of grace. The rewards of overcoming point to grace as the agent of overcoming by faith in Jesus.
How does it make you feel to be an overcomer? Are you an overcomer simply because you have been adopted and born again? It might read: “For everyone who has been adopted by God has overcome the world.” You’ve overcome the world because your father, your abba, has overcome the world.
So how good do we have to be to be saved? What is the role of overcoming in our salvation? The belief that we get what we deserve is widely held and deeply rooted in all religions. Even Christianity, where the concept of grace comes from, can’t shake the intuitive notion that we are responsible for our own behavior. After all, isn’t there a judgment? And what is there to judge, if it is not what we do? We envision in our rather primitive minds a book in heaven where everything is written down, all of the good and all of the bad. The good, of course, helps us; and the bad hurts us.
It seems we should have more good than bad if we want to get to heaven, if we want to get what we deserve. But then we’re reminded of grace, of unmerited favor, of God’s mercy, and of not getting what we deserve. So what if works are not what saves us? Why the emphasis in Christian life on overcoming? Is it possible that overcoming is the way of grace itself? Are grace and obedience opposites? Are they mutually exclusive? is overcoming a way of cleaning the outside of the cup that Jesus talked to the Pharisees about leaving the inside dirty, or whitewashing the exterior of the tomb while it’s dry and dusty and has dead bones inside?
If you cannot be saved by works, can you be lost by them? I’m not aware of any passage in Scripture which speaks to what behaviors lead to heaven. There’s no passage that says if you’re kind, if you’re gentle, if you’re generous, if you’re forgiving, if you’re honest, etc., that these characteristics will lead you to heaven. But the opposite is not true:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,… (1 Corinthians 6:9)
…as it is written:
“There is no righteous person, not even one;… (Romans 3:10)
That’s a pretty categorical statement. None is righteous. The corollary is that the unrighteous will not go to heaven. It seems that we’re all doomed. We’re told in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
We try hard. I think most of us want to be good. We want to be overcomers. We’re afraid of hell and of being lost. I can remember praying for forgiveness, as a boy, hoping that I wouldn’t step off a curb and be struck by a car and killed before I got home to ask for more forgiveness for the sins I’d committed that day.
What role does overcoming have in our salvation? is overcoming related to obedience? What a delightful thought that in my life, overcoming is God’s work, not my work; that I am already an overcomer by God’s grace because I’m adopted, because I have a new birth and a new name written on a white stone.
Don’t you feel relief from the guilt of knowing what a sinner you really are? What does overcoming actually mean to you? Have you ever considered yourself to be an overcomer? What about the idea that by grace you have overcome the temptation to be an overcomer by your own guilt and your own effort?
How does God know us? How does God know my name and what is the significance of God knowing my name? What is the significance of the white stone and my name being written there? What is the significance of being adopted and by adoption given a new birth, getting a new name, and becoming classified as an overcomer? How are our works and our deeds related to being an overcomer? Is my effort somehow important in being an overcomer?
David: My first thought is that overcoming as you’ve described it is a process, and processes take time. I’m sure that top of all our minds right now are all the the poor people in Turkey and Syria who were killed in an instant, crushed as their buildings collapsed in the earthquake. They had no time to overcome anything, if they needed to. It sounds as though overcoming is something that we have to do, that it takes effort and work to overcome. But that clearly is not what’s intended by grace. I’ve got to believe, and I do believe, that grace was with all those people who died in Turkey and Syria. Overcoming is something that Jesus did for us.
Jay: The concept that our adoption means it’s not our job to work on overcoming is tied to accepting grace. If we don’t accept grace, we’re not adopted. Does this mean that by accepting grace, I cannot be an overcomer, that God has to be the overcomer? How does that then operationalize in my life? What happens to me, what do I do, how do I act if I accept grace? There is no quid pro quo but if I truly accept grace, does it have a predictable outcome in how I am and what I do?
Anonymous: That is my question too. If it all starts with grace, if grace is the reason for my birth or rebirth, then I have to do nothing. I’ll be unaware of this fact. I’ll just be living until God decides he wants to make grace known to me and then I will have a born-again experience. So there’s nothing for us to do. Some people may live to a great old age and still never experience being born again. How does it work, if I have no part in it at all?
I can’t go any further without understanding this point. It’s happened in my life. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t think I sought it. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Was it anything on my part that I did unawares? I don’t know.
David: I think Anon’s point is central. It seems to me that accepting grace is the same as accepting God—accepting the existence of God. I have often stated my belief that God is simply another word for goodness and that to accept the concept of goodness, to recognize that goodness exists, is to recognize and accept God and grace, whether you know it or believe it or not.
It speaks to Anon’s question that everybody accepts goodness—even “bad” people, in varying degrees, have some goodness in them and can recognize it in others. They get the concept, and in getting it, they accept and recognize God. God is all forgiving and all merciful because we all recognize and accept God and grace.
Michael: But to see grace and to believe in it takes a lot of faith, I think. Somehow, the word faith is equated with the word belief and for most Christians to say “I believe in Jesus” means “I am saved.” It seems simple but it’s not; because having faith is different from believing. It takes a lot of inner work to have faith in order to see grace and to see how Jesus is the purveyor of grace. I don’t think it’s something that happens overnight.
Jay: I agree that equating God with goodness and recognizing that goodness exists is to accept grace. But then what? Is it automatic that I will then do something in response? Is it uncontrollable? Judgment seems to be based on acknowledging and accepting grace—or not. Even though all people might acknowledge that goodness exists, is there some kind of discriminating factor at play? I’m not advocating for a search for the discriminating factor. We should be seeking grace and goodness, but when we do, does something automatically happen that’s uncontrollable for the human being?
Kiran: For a long time I thought overcoming meant that I had to do something to fix myself. So I would write down a list of all my mistakes each week and then work on them. The more I tried, the worse it got. It caused so much depression in me. The effect of it was to focus myself on myself. Jesus said that when we focus on him, we’re transformed into his likeness. But instead of that, by trying to overcome myself, I’m focusing on myself more and more and getting worse and worse.
Focusing on God means realizing that I cannot fix myself and being thankful for all the gifts God has given me. He paid for it all. He paid for my past mistakes, my current mistakes, and my future mistakes. His payment freed me from the burden that I had. Focusing on God and his goodness, his kindness, his attributes is transforming me slowly and steadily so that I can exercise a little bit of kindness and compassion towards other people.
Before, I was miserable, and I made other people miserable. But now, I forgive other people in relation to what God has forgiven me—it gives me a reference point to work from. By focusing on God, a lot of the pain and suffering and the guilt that we go through goes away.
We think the discriminating factor is whether one accepts Christ and his grace not, but the way I look at it is, whether you are Christian, non-Christian, atheist or whatever, there are two kinds of people: One kind of people rely on themselves to better themselves; the other kind recognize that it is too big of a task for them to fix themselves, and consciously or unconsciously, realize that they can be saved only through divine power. They may not know the concept of grace as we do, but they recognize that it is too big for them to save themselves. I think that’s the discriminating factor.
Sharon: I see overcoming as simply giving up control. We’re in a battle to determine whether I’m going to control me or I’m going to overcome and give my complete desire to the Lord Jesus to use me as his will dictates, not as my will dictates. I think the secret to overcoming is to give up my addictions, give up my need to manage my own life, and give the Lord Jesus through his grace and through my prayer and dedication to his desires, to make something that becomes something beautiful for the people that I work with and those that I seek to serve.
Life no longer is about me. It is about them, and about serving them and giving up my own personal agenda, my own personal control, so that Jesus can be glorified and live out his life through me as an empty vessel that’s no longer trying to navigate my own well being and my own desires, but in serving the Lord and trusting him to navigate what he needs me to do for him. Giving up is peace-inducing, because I’m no longer in control, but the power and the Holy Spirit of Jesus living in me is what has control.
Don: Well said, but I think Jason’s question still is hanging out there: What does giving giving it up look like in terms of operationalizing your life?
Sharon: I just came back from Dwight’s Nelson’s sermon in Pioneer Memorial Church. He equated giving up with having a prayer session every single day and just relinquishing control at the beginning of the morning, as the very first work, to the Lord Jesus Christ. He said it’s a very simple act. You don’t preach it to people. But by giving yourself over to Jesus every single morning and making it your first work, you overcome, because you’ve given up yourself. So his sermon was simply: Pray, pray, pray for the desire to overcome. He said you don’t have to overcome, you just have to pray for the desire to overcome. And in praying for that desire, then the Holy Spirit comes into your life.
I don’t think I have any miracle solution for Jason. But I do think that it is part of the battle to say “It’s not my will but thine.”
C-J: I think there is accountability. I think that we are to be a witness, to be disciplined, to be held accountable before God, not in terms of the grace being rescinded. But there is work involved, with fear and trembling. We acknowledge the great price that was paid, and we are to be guides and teachers to those who don’t see that.
If I were to do what you just said in a group session with addicts, I wouldn’t be giving them permission to say I’m not responsible for this. If God wants me to be completely healed of this disease, I will be; and if not, I’m going to keep using, because I’m powerless to change that. That’s a very easy one to put your finger on.
But we all have pieces of our personality—anger, pride, etc. Those are moving pieces, depending on our situation or how strong our conviction is. But there’s a time for a gentle response and there’s a time for war, a spiritual warfare, and that decision takes effort. But it isn’t an effort or strength that comes from me. You’re right: There comes a point where “I’ve done all that I can, Lord, and I surrender it to you and I leave it at the cross and you’re going to have to do the work in me first, before I can do the work that I believe needs to be done that you’ve revealed to me.”
It’s a hard place and it’s constantly evolving. Just when I think “I got this,” something will happen, I go “Not so much Connie, not so much—you need to go back there and think about why you responded that way, when you knew better, but you did it anyway, you went off on that person anyway. Because you could self justify it. How many times!” But really, it is God that does the spiritual work, but we live in this dimension also. We are spirit beings, but we live here. We are held accountable, one to another, one before the Lord, one in the body of Christ. We are the ambassadors and people watch us carefully.
Chris: Maybe there’s something around this concept of adoption and being told we need to be as little children. I can relate personally to adoption, I can view it from my own experience. Adoption can go one of two ways. Either the child accepts and bonds with the adopters or, for whatever reason, does not. Maybe it’s much like that with what Christ is saying: “My grace is here. You’re my adopted child, you may choose to accept it.”
When it is accepted. I do believe there are certain manifestations. The child doesn’t look to have control but rather looks to the person who adopted them and starts to mirror their actions and their thoughts. But if the child does not want it, the manifestation looks different. So maybe there’s something within this whole concept of being adopted, and grace, where there is something that has to occur personally with us. And based on what happens personally, there is an outcome, there is a manifestation that I believe occurs.
C-J: I think what you just described is rooted in trust. If somebody has been plucked, and that process of learning how to trust—even in small children as you were saying—some can adapt and others cannot, because their root wasn’t really secure in the soil that it was coming up out of. If this happens here, if I risk bonding here, how many times can I do that and still survive and feel safe? Even if somebody leaves, I will still be strong in my position before God or this community.
I am a person who cannot trust. Trust comes very hard to me, I always have a reserve. I always expect people to come and go. I don’t like it when people expect me to stay, either. Because things can change. If I feel at risk, I’m out of there; even if it hasn’t played out, I am gone if I feel at risk. I think that’s part of the things that we’ve talked about in terms of how do you cope, how do you grow in a place where you can’t trust?
For me when I get to the place where my spirit is so heavy that I don’t even have words to pray, I find myself on my knees in front of my sofa, crying, and not even trying to put a sentence together. I just say “I leave it with you, Lord. I don’t understand it. But I leave it with you.” I don’t have the capacity within me to trust. I can’t even think about it. It just takes too much from me.
Reinhard: I believe we all accept that we need the divine power to be operational in our life. I think faith is the determining factor. We have grace through faith. It’s a whole package: When we accept grace, it means we accept Jesus. We have to live humbly and submit to God a hundred percent That’s what we need in life.
Ephesians 6:18 says to pray at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication. So I think to fend off evil, we have to keep in constant communication with God through prayer. I think that’s the key. Prayer covers everything. We show the glory of God by constant communication, as Pastor Nelson said. We need to put everything in God’s hand, and let him complete the difference when we fall short of obtaining our goal. We are going to rise and fall, but God’s grace makes up our shortcomings.
In the end, we want our name to remain in the book of life. That’s our goal. So we should keep constant communication with God by praying and reading the Bible and being on guard all the times. The Holy Spirit will work in our life, and we will see the results.
Chris: Children don’t work very hard at having relationships. They are very much more accepting and innocent. So the idea of having to work hard to maintain the relationship… I don’t know if it’s really that hard. If I’m acting more like a child It comes much more naturally. You can see what your adoptive parent (God) has done for you without having to continually pray and so on. The transformation is going from “I need to do this” to “It is natural, things are just naturally happening.”
When I allow that to naturally happen, I don’t see how others around you won’t benefit from that, or won’t see that. I don’t think it’s as hard as we think, or as we make it sometimes.
David: I absolutely agree.
Anonymous: I agree too.
C-J: If I liken that to a child, the expectation is that the child will grow up and be a functioning, productive adult. Paul speaks of it as meat and milk. You want to eat meat because you need it. You need that meat protein to do the heavy lifting, to do what God has asked you to do. And that can look different for everyone. If you’re going to be a missionary, you’re going to do some real heavy lifting. If you’re going to be a decent neighbor and a good parent, there’ll be some frustrations, but you’re not going to be out in the wilderness.
So there is an expectation. Maybe I’m speaking out of my own experience and how I cope with disappointment and what I consider fair and unfair. I think it’s really important that we have the expectation that we will be responsible, productive adults. Everyone here—our lives demonstrate that.
I see a real problem in American culture. There are some awful lazy kids out here—disrespectful, rude, clueless; and there is a small percentage that is dynamic, responsible, forward thinking in terms of climate and other things, social issues, etc. They’re doing the heavy lift, they’re doing the majority of the lift, the fulcrum is not centered. But I think that’s the way life is. You decide as an individual if you are going to take responsibility for the gifts. To whom much is given, much is required.
And some of us are driven. Some of us come out of adversity and we’re driven for something else; those who become refugees, etc. But I believe God does expect us to grow up. It’s inevitable. You can’t plant a seed and not give it everything it needs to grow. You can’t let it wither and die because it’s too much work. If there’s good soil, water, sunlight, and enough room, the expectation is reasonable that it will grow.
Kiran: Price’s Law holds that in every field, in every workplace, everywhere, 10% of the people carry the weight for the remaining 90%. It’s as true in America as in India. But what happens to the 90%? Are parents happy if their children are part of the 90%? What would our Eternal Father do if 90% of his creation was losing its soul?
Michael: How do you make sure that when you’re praying, you’re praying to God instead of praying to yourself?
C-J: That’s pretty large! Why would I pray to myself if I thought I was going to be able to do it? I am broken. I have no other place to go. I want to make sure that I’ve done my research, that I’m not jumping in my own ego to do something that God has not said “Go do this.” No way! There’s no comparison to what I know.
I don’t believe there is a ceiling. I believe that if I say, “Lord” and I’m humble, even if it doesn’t make sense to God (“Go think that out again, Connie), that it doesn’t hit the ceiling… that experience of “Lord, I don’t know what to do” is in itself a beginning. I do believe in grace for everyone. I just think it’s like the workers in the field, the ones who worked an eight hour day and the ones who came at the last minute—all of creation would be blessed.
There is a rhythm. Some children die in utero, some live to be 100. It’s not for me to question that. There’s a purpose. And as I look out at each of those, there’s a lesson in it, so I don’t I don’t question it. I question the willfulness to be absent, to willfully say, “I don’t believe that, I don’t understand it, I don’t need to understand it. I’m not interested in understanding it.” That’s different, when it’s been sitting there, over and over again, the opportunity. But even then, God says, “Come, I don’t care if you’re on your deathbed, come, and I will receive it. I’ve seen your heart, that whole journey. I’ve seen your pain. I’ve seen your stubbornness.”
I see the intention of God, which is love and grace, I have to believe that. There just can’t be any other way, because the world is so unhealthy.
Jay: The Christian experience is to be warned time and time and time again not to chase after the works part, but we want to chase after the works part. We can’t help ourselves. But if you can get to a point where the works part is automatically taken care of by accepting grace, you are incapable of not good work. But this is only if you accept grace, truly accept grace, truly accept that God is goodness.
If I do that, does the works part automatically take care of itself? We’re not perfect, so of course there’s going to be times when we make mistakes; but in general, will it take care of itself? Does it just take care of itself?
Chris: Is works the means to the end? Or is works the end?
David: Works become irrelevant, don’t they? If you’re a child, if you’re a baby, no one expects works of you! And that’s what Jesus expects us to be: In spiritual matters, be as children. We (children) are not looking to develop spiritually. That’s an adult intellectual exercise. God doesn’t expect us to grow into spiritual adults from spiritual children. He wants us to remain as spiritual children forever. Intellectually we either accept God or we reject God, but spiritually we all accept God whether we recognize it or not. Works are completely and utterly irrelevant.
Kiran: In a sermon he preached last week, Jason discussed Moses’ interactions with God and his desire to see God’s face. But God said, “No, you can only see my back.” Jason asked: What would you do if you saw God’s back? You‘d follow him! He emphasized that the focus is more on following God, which is exactly what he’s asking us to do.
I think that’s what happens when you truly accept grace and you realize you can’t fix yourself, that it’s his job to take care of you and you’re freed of your burden and your guilt. When you start following him, that’s when things work out. There is something magical there, which I don’t think we can explain.
Rimon: A child hasn’t gone through life yet. He hasn’t crammed years of junk into his head. So it’s pretty easy for the child. But as an adult, it depends on how that person was raised, and the accumulation of conditioned thoughts that he accumulated throughout life. So it depends on where you are on your faith journey.
To some people, it comes naturally. They accept it and don’t require much prayer to recognize their connection with God and their inseparability with God. But if you drop that, it’s pretty easy for the separation to set in, and for fear and disconnection to take to take hold. So some people need that constant acknowledgement that we are connected with him and we are an expression of him and not separate from him.
Michael: Yes, children grow into adults, but whenever we talk about this analogy—of needing to be like children—we imagine shoving ourselves back from being adults into being children, as if we’re retrogressing. If you want to become a child after being an adult, I don’t think the way is to lose your sense of adulthood and become a child. It must be a forward step, not a backward step. It might look a little different than being just a little child. It’s not a naive state. It’s a second naivety. You’re naive, but you’re still an adult.
So I think it’s a step forward, not backwards, into being a child.
* * *