Monday, January 19, 2009

the how much more of god

I spent my final year of seminary writing a senior thesis entitled "The Restoration of the Person." I worked closely with an advisor – a wise, Godly systematic theologian with 1 Corinthians 13 written on her face (metaphorically speaking). And our pattern for working together went something like this. I’d write a chapter. And then, she’d find the cracks - or potholes. OK, she’d find the craters – in my logic or theological interpretation. She’d tell me about them. And then I would go and fix (99% of) them.

It was a special time for me – and for her too I hope – and I’ll always be grateful for professors that invest in their students. Today, I’d like to reflect briefly on something she told me after reading my chapter on “sin.” She said it was good. Coherent. Orthodox. But, I’ll never forget her initial feedback. “I’m just not seeing the how much more of God. I don’t see much grace.”

Of course, I got defensive. “It’s a chapter on sin! And you told me to read Calvin.” She was gentle, but firm. “I don’t see the how much more of God.” And what she meant was this. My thesis acknowledged the horror of sin but didn’t so much as hint at the extravagance of God’s solution. In other words, it’s not just that God fixes our sin or overlooks our sin or forgives our sin. No. God does “much more.” How much more? He makes us adopted sons of God. Co-heirs with Jesus. He kills the fatted calf, puts a ring on our finger and “puts us in charge of many things.” In other words, if our sin is great (which my thesis acknowledged), how much greater must God’s solution be?

The “how much more” of God is on every page of the Bible. Consider a few examples from the New Testament. “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask” (Matt 7:11)? “How much more valuable is a human than a sheep” whom God loves (Matt 12:12)? “Of how much more value are you than the birds” (Lk 12:24)! “If [the Jews’ present exclusion] means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean” (Rom 11:12)! If the ministry of death came in glory, “how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory” (2 Cor 3:8)? If the blood of goats could purify our conscience, “how much more will the blood of Christ” (Heb 9:14)?

The problems in our world are great. The problems in our lives are great. At times, they may seem overwhelming. As disciples of Jesus, it’s not enough to know that God forgives us. It’s not enough to affirm that God is going to “fix it” one day. Of course, both statements are foundational and true. But, we have to go further. We have to consider, meditate on, and delight in “how much more” God intends to do with us and with our world. For our God is a God of extravagance. It is God’s delight to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). Not just more than we can imagine. “Abundantly far more.”

The how much more of God is everywhere. Whether we see it or not, grace is everywhere. Even in our sin. Needless to say, I went back and tweaked that chapter just a bit.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Great reminder, John. It's easy to focus on the forgiveness and the eventual "fix", but the "how much more" allows us to delight in and live into the present more.