Perspectives on Restoration (4)
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. 2 Corinthians 12.15
… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3.18
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise. Proverbs 11.30
In his book, God’s Good World, Jonathan R. Wilson insists – rightly – that we must not separate the work of creation from the work of redemption, or the work of redemption from the work of creation. The salvation that we enjoy in Jesus reaches to the whole world, bringing restoration and renewal to all that Jesus has reconciled to the Father by His life, death and resurrection.
Dr. Wilson reminds us that it takes restored people, who are becoming new persons in Jesus Christ, to take up the work of restoration: “The reality of being and becoming a person begins already in Christ. We are not made persons by healing and wholeness; we are made persons in Christ. In the new creation, all will be healed and made whole. In Christ, we will be fully the persons that we are created to be. In that time and for eternity, our full beauty and goodness will shine in the glorious splendor of life.” Thus, as we have previously written, our work of restoring the reconciled world must begin in our own souls, where we are becoming more like Jesus in heart, mind, and conscience day by day.
But love for our neighbors – and especially our believing neighbors – must be a restoring love. We must take up the responsibility of loving our neighbors so that they may increase in wholeness and restoration. C. S. Lewis wrote about this duty in his essay, “The Weight of Glory.” We seek, through increasing obedience, to realize more of the glory, beauty, goodness, truth, and Presence of the Lord in every aspect of our daily lives; and we want the same to be the case for our neighbors. We want to “drink joy from the fountain of joy” together with increasing consistency. We must therefore be continuously mindful of our duty to help our neighbor along in this joyful journey: “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken” Lewis adds, “All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.”
Investing in others
Paul says that the best investment we can make of our time and energies, next to increasing in Christlikeness ourselves, is to spend and be spent for the souls of our neighbors, especially our believing neighbors.
Paul took as the focus of his ministry the souls of those entrusted to his care. He invested himself and all his resources and energy in nurturing his charges in their minds, hearts, and consciences. He addressed their understanding, by seeking ever to enlarge their vision and increase their knowledge, always focusing all his instruction on Christ, the treasury of wisdom and knowledge. He addressed their affections, challenging them to search their hearts and bring them into line with the heart of God. And he addressed their values and priorities, and the inclination of their will, challenging them to put everything in order before Christ, to follow Him in all things.
It will do no good merely to address the outward lives of people, whether to encourage them to take up some disciplines or patch on some practices that ought to be present in the lives of Christ’s disciples. We must speak to the inner person. All our most earnest desires for our neighbors, therefore, must drive to the soul, aim at the soul, speak to the soul, and call for revival and renewal in the souls of those to whom God sends us each day.
This is not a call for some “big bang” effort to shake the souls of our neighbors to life. Rather, by our example, conversation, and works, we seek day by day to show the glory of God and to encourage others to enter that glory with us, that we may know the joy of the Lord together.
Be ready with the Gospel
It takes wisdom to live this way, wisdom which comes from the fear of the Lord and increasing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it requires that we be always ready with the Gospel, that we might point to Jesus as our happiness and hope (1 Pet. 3.15), encouraging our believing friends to seek Him more earnestly, and calling on our unbelieving neighbors to consider Him and His promises.
As we grow and are more fully restored in Jesus, the fruit of righteousness will be more consistently apparent in all we do. It will take the form of hope, expressed as peace, joy, confidence, buoyancy, and the anticipation of blessing, even in the midst of trials. It will issue in words that calm, affirm, encourage, edify, excite, and challenge. It will be demonstrated in sincere listening, patience and understanding, and a willingness to carry on conversations intermittently and over time. And it will be always ready to give thanks, praise, and glory to God for any goodness, grace, beauty, or truth experienced by others through us (Ps. 115.1).
Lewis sets before us this daunting challenge: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, “arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ verelatitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
Our work of restoration includes whatever and as much as we can do to help our neighbors realize who they are and what they are called to in Jesus Christ.
1. What are you doing to make sure that your soul is increasingly being restored to the likeness of Jesus?
2. What can you do to be more conscious of your ongoing duty to help restore the souls of your neighbors?
3. How can believers work together to become more effective in helping others to know the glory and joy of the Lord?
Next steps – Preparation: Whom do you expect to see today? How will you work to restore their soul? Commit these opportunities to the Lord, and wait on Him to help you prepare for them.
T. M. Moore
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