Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Foremost of Sinners

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. -- Acts 2:42-47
Much has been said--some of it by me--about why today's church seems so depressingly distant from the ideal of Acts 2. She has strayed from sound doctrine, from prayerfulness, from belief in the God of Wonders, from true generosity, from disciplemaking. In fact, none of these critiques seems entirely unfair. The church seems to be on her heels and falling backwards.

Yet as I get older and (maybe) a little wiser, I find myself faced with simpler and more personal truths:

I am the problem.

I increasingly find it difficult to point a finger at the church's failings without seeing those remaining fingers pointing back at myself. An honest assessment of the way I spend my days and my energy returns me to this galling fact: I am much too highly committed to fulfilling my appetites.

Sure, maybe I have cleaned these up over the decades to make them more publicly "acceptable" among the brethren. Still, the bottom line remains that by most objective measures (i.e., how I spend my time and energies), I am far more interested in my own comfort and near-term gratification than I am with God's glory, His gospel, or His children.

God sits on the throne of my life, yet I can't find time for His people or His priorities. I stand by His grace before a dying world in need of that same grace. He has rescued me from destruction and despair, invited me into His holy presence, and entrusted me with the most noble and amazing of missions--the salvation of my neighbor's eternal soul.

But I can't be bothered, because I've got stuff to do.

So where does that leave me?

In desperate, daily need of mercy.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. -- 1 Timothy 1:15