Perspectives on Restoration (2)
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1.31
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living. Psalm 27.13
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4.8
The way things ought to be
We have seen in this series that the world and everything in it are not, in Neil Plantiga’s phrase, “the way they’re supposed to be.” Sin has brought corruption, degradation, abuse, and waste into the world, wreaking its effects on people, cultures, societies, and the creation in many different ways.
Our calling to restore the reconciled world takes place within this environment, where lost souls are trapped in the lie of unbelief, cultures and societies are blighted and broken, and the whole creation groans and travails, waiting for the liberating work of the sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8.19-22).
Yet for all this (as Hopkins might say), there is still plenty of goodness in the world. Creation still shows the glory of God in many ways. People do good to one another. Societies manage at least a semblance of order and fruitfulness. Wonders of culture abound. All of which is evidence of God’s Spirit, striving with sinful people and restraining them from doing their worst (Gen. 6.3), while the common grace of God sustains and enriches the world, and gives us hints about the way things ought to be.
Things ought to be uniformly good, as God intended when He created the world. God’s truth should be the standard giving guidance to all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. And when His goodness and truth are present, the beauty of the Lord will emerge in surprising ways. As we set our minds on the work of restoration, we need to think on the things in our life through the lens of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty, meditating on Him and seeking to bring His glory to light in every aspect and facet of our lives (1 Cor. 10.31).
We need to nurture a vision of how things ought to be in our own spheres of influence, and then devote ourselves to the work of restoring the reconciled world wherever our influence may be felt.
It is essential that, increasingly, we establish our lives on the foundation of God’s Word and truth. An old Harvard rule used to insist that the purpose of education was to “lay Christ in the bottom” of a student’s life. This must be the case with each of us if we are to make any real contribution to restoring the reconciled world.
In the life of a Christian, it ought to be that we hunger and thirst for the Lord (Ps. 42.1, 2), that we delight in and feed on His Word as more important than the food we eat (Job 23.12; Jer. 15.16), and that we bring the entirety of our lives into the light of God’s truth, to discover what He intends. In our generation, believers are drifting from reliance on the Bible. Many have come to regard the Bible as little more than a resource for some word of comfort or counsel to bolster them for their day. Few have the kind of attitude toward Scripture that Job and Jeremiah displayed.
It ought to be that believers devour the Word of God, seeking to grow stronger and stronger in the solid meat of God’s truth (Heb. 5.12-14), and laying a sure foundation of truth and a closer relationship with Christ under every aspect of their lives.
If our daily discipline of seeking Christ in His Word and growing in His truth is not what it ought to be, we will not be able to make progress in restoring the reconciled world. Set aside the first and best hour of each day to seek the Lord in His Word and to bring your life, in all its aspects and facets, into the light of truth. Thus you’ll be equipped for every good and beautiful work (2 Tim. 3.15-17).
As you grow in God’s truth, you will be able to discern the good works that He intends for you each day (2 Tim. 3.15-17), and to plan and prepare for them accordingly. You’ll find that you’re more eager to do the work God has appointed to you, and that you’ll be able to know how His glory can be revealed in the good works you do each day (Ps. 90.16, 17).
We don’t need to go through our days like a pin ball – shot into the game of life and careening and rebounding off situations and circumstances, hoping to do the best we can. We can plan the time of our life for good works, as our study of God’s Word makes ever clearer to us which works will most enable us to realize the goodness of the Lord in our own life spheres. And we can call on the power of God’s Spirit to be at work within us, willing and doing according to God’s good pleasure, above and beyond all we’d ever asked or believed possible, to make us witnesses for our good King Jesus in everything we do (Phil. 2.13; Eph. 3.20; Acts 1.8).
A life of good works, grounded in the truth of God, brings the beauty of God into everything we do. Jesus increases in us as we decrease, and His beauty – His loveliness, excellence, radiance, kindness, charity, and grace – extend through us into every facet of our lives.
The beauty of the Lord can come to expression in many different ways – in our conversations, how we dress and do our work, our table manners, when we’re being hospitable to others, how we care for and decorate our homes, our preferences in music and film, and much, much more. The beauty of the Lord brings delight to others, as we see in the apostles before the transfigured glory of Jesus (Matt. 17.1-8). Beauty lifts the soul and tends to edification, as anyone can attest who has ever thrilled at a performance of Handel’s “Messiah”, contemplated a painting by Vermeer, or meditated on a poem by Hopkins. People in the world long to be counted among the “beautiful people”; we have the wherewithal and calling to become precisely that.
Our world may be a place of pervading gloom, uncertainty, mistrust, and ugliness. But our lives can be islands of truth, goodness, and beauty, attracting others to the hope that is within us and the King Whose reconciling work we are busy about in every aspect of our lives (1 Pet. 3.15; Mic. 4.1-8). But we’ll need to nurture a clear and growing vision of the way things ought to be in our spheres of influence, when the truth and goodness and beauty of Jesus are filling us and everything around us with ever-increasing glory (Eph. 4.8-10).
1. Would you say that your vision for your life sphere is based on God’s truth, goodness, and beauty? Explain.
2. How could you improve your use of God’s Word to grow in the areas mentioned in this article?
3. What can you do today to bring more of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty into your life sphere?
Next steps – Transformation: Take one decisive step for truth, goodness, and beauty today. At the end of the day, give thanks to God for helping you to create an island of the way things ought to be in your sphere of influence.
T. M. Moore
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