Finding God at Zero

Finding God at Zero

hyperboleSince we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ, who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us.

 When we were unable to help ourselves, at the right time, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

 So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, He made us His friends through the death of His Son. Surely, now that we are His friends, He will save us through his Son’s life. And not only that, but now we are also very happy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we are now God’s friends again. Romans 5:1-9 (NCV)

At 2 AM I found myself wide awake. I concluded it was time for some cheese puffs and some late night TV. As I watched the man sing the praises of the gadget he demonstrated, it wasn’t long before I arrived at the second conclusion of the night—I needed that thing. In fact, by the time the infomercial was over, I found myself wondering how I had managed to live 52 years without it.

I ordered it. I anxiously awaited its arrival. Finally, the day arrived—the box holding the doodad that would change my life was on the doorstep. I opened the box to find a much smaller-than-anticipated thingamajig. I used it twice before it broke.

Sadly, my life remained unchanged from this life-changing purchase. Well, except I had $24.99 less in my checking account.

Hyperbole—does it seem like the message of The Gospel is too good to be true? I’m stuck here in Romans 5 because I wrestle with this—so you get to wrestle along with me.   What’s to wrestle with?

  • God loves us so everything should be OK—right?
  • God hates sin—so how can God love me? I seem to sin a lot.
  • If God loves me so much, why can’t I simply have a delightful life without struggle?
  • Depending on the person you listen to, God is angry and waiting to punish sin OR He’s squishy and drippy—only wanting to love (talk about hyperbole).

Hyperbole is extreme—so is the message of The Gospel. The link above takes you to a literary definition of hyperbole. There is a mathematic definition as well—it’s the mathematic definition that helps me understand grace. Don’t worry, it’s not too mathematical but it is very extreme.

Look at the arch—it’s a hyperbola—the distance between two fixed points remains the same. That is where the math archends and the metaphor begins—put your calculators away for now. Look at the familiar shape of the arch, perhaps an arch can help you understand grace.

Imagine, on one side of the arch is the grumpy-old-man image of God. That extreme mean God—the God who wants nothing more than to make your sinful, pitiful life miserable and is just waiting to send you to hell. On the other side of the arch is the image of God who is always in soft focus—the one who doesn’t care about sin, who gosh darn it just loves you to pieces.

Frankly, I’m not interested in serving either of those gods. Neither one makes sense. If God loves me and is powerful, I should never suffer. If God is strict and looking at the list of rules, I might as well give up—I’ll never meet that standard.

There is one unique part of an arch—it’s the apex—the very top of the curve. That’s where grace sits. God is neither grumpy nor squishy—He’s gracious. It’s not the fear of a grumpy God that brings one into relationship with Him. It’s not the indulgence of a soft permissive God that elicits our devotion. It’s faith in His grace.

You and I live on the sides of the arch. People interact with each other in human ways. We grind each other with extreme expectations and we indulge each other with love that overlooks faults and failures. We treat ourselves the same way—quick to both realize and overlook our faults.

God is different. He’s at the zero coordinate—God is at the top of the arch. He acts toward us in grace—something not human—Paul admits that.

If you try to understand God in human terms, you will always find yourself conflicted. You will be working for something you can’t achieve or you’ll give up in despair. The circumstances in your life won’t make sense. There is little joy in suffering for suffering’s sake or because God couldn’t or wouldn’t hear your cry.

If you convince yourself of the truth—God is different—His perspective on your situation is different, His motive is pure, and His character above reproach— life will become one filled with expectant hope. Confident hope that God’s plan for you is; to make you more like Him.

Is staying at the “zero” coordinate easy? Sadly, no. It’s easy to slip down one side or the other of the arch. That is, if you are trying to stay put on your own strength.

Paul introduces the One with the power to hold you and me in place at “zero.”

Father, help me understand that You are not like me. Teach me more about Your grace. Father, let the Holy Spirit teach me the profound, Godly truth of Your grace. Increase my faith so when I am tempted to define You, my circumstances and Your response to me in my human terms my mind is reminded of Your grace and your love for me. Forgive me for blaming You. Forgive me for depending on me. Help me rest in Your grace. Increase my faith.

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