On the Outskirts of Eternity…

January 23, 2011

Christianity, Meditation

Diary: Southern sun and cold temperatures make strange friends.  Limbs are scattered about the yard; casualties of the latest bout of ice and snow.  No vestiges of fall remain.  The windblown piles of leaves and the brown skeletons of garden plantings speak of their recent fullness.  We have sure hope of new growth, but it will be a growth built upon previous struggles.  Now is a time of contemplation, when the dark elements of thought, thoughts of winter, death, cessation, failure, press upon us the need to drink again from the only fount that can bring reprieve.  It is at this time we unravel the mystery of the near future.  There is much to be discovered this winter and we have a full two months left….. We are all hopeful for the new spring.  But not yet.

Musings: Why do I like to read so much?  Other than the times when it is a true burden, when the mind ceases to be able to engage the activity, I suppose the true joy of reading comes from finding something so new and exciting that it fully captivates and delights my thoughts.  Such was the other day…

What was it about the life of John Newton that imbued him with clarity of thought and purpose?  When I read his letters, books or hymns, there is a depth that defies logic.  Intellectual, earthy, holy, wise and reverent can only begin to describe the stature of his ability.  Apostolic fishermen come to mind; when God says he will use the simple to confound the wise.  Monergism recently posted a letter of his that must have likewise impressed the content editors of that site.  The letter began with an off hand comment to the effect that “I think I’ll talk about walking with God.”  As if his intent was to merely have a brief discourse “off the cuff” as it were.

Truly God gifts some with the grace of eloquence.  These are the people we look to for teaching, clarifying and exemplifying the word of God.  Read this excerpt from the letter:

When we are justified by faith, and accepted in the Beloved—we become heirs of everlasting life; but we cannot know the full value of our privileges, until we enter upon the state of eternal glory. For this, most who are converted have to wait some time after they are partakers of grace. Though the Lord loves them, hates sin, and teaches them to hate it—he appoints them to remain a while in a sinful world, and to groan under the burden of a depraved nature. He could put them in immediate possession of the heaven for which he has given them a fitness—but he does not. He has a service for them here; an honor which is worth all they can suffer, and for which eternity will not afford an opportunity, namely—to be instruments of promoting his designs, and manifesting his grace in the world. Strictly speaking, this is the whole of our business here, the only reason why life is prolonged, or for which it is truly desirable, that we may fill up our connections and situations, improve our comforts and our crosses, in such a manner as that God may be glorified in us and by us.

Thanks be to God for giving John Newton the ability to put the concepts of justification and our truly depraved natures into the context of our eternal existence.  Some many things come to light in this passage.  For one, to groan under our depraved nature is not sin, it is our call.  God understands our position, that our natures fall grossly short even in a saved condition.  It is what He has ordained.  Two, the illuminating perspective is that this condition is indeed an honor.  If we truly understand but a little of who God is, his complete Holiness and omnipotent power, then to know that a God who could use any means imaginable and unimaginable to accomplish his will, who by His sovereign choice enabled us to achieve anything for His Righteous Name is simply amazing.

The entire letter is a short and balanced discourse on the simple reality of walking with God.  It can be read in its entirety here.

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