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Chapter 2 of Eugene Peterson’s book The Jesus Way($) is about Abraham and how his life is the beginning of the Bible’s quest to acclimate us to the way of faith. I found this chapter extremely challenging and, I hope, life-changing. It focused on God’s asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as the culmination of Abraham’s way of faith.
One idea that stuck out to me from this chapter is that somewhere along the way of faith we realize that we are not in charge of our own lives. We must realize that the Jesus way is not about bending and using God to bless our own will but instead being bent and transformed for Him. We don’t get to arrange life on our own terms. This isn’t a new concept at all, but I guess people like me have to realize this several times before it gets through their hard head! (Or hard heart as Scripture might put it!) I love this quote and want to meditate on it daily for a while. I’m thinking of making placemats!
“We enter the lifelong process of no longer arranging the world and the people on our terms. We embrace what is given to us — people, spouse, children, forests, weather, city — just as they are given to us, and sit and stare, look and listen until we begin to see and hear the God-dimensions in each gift, and engage with what God has given, with what he is doing.”
I hadn’t realized before reading this how I had slipped into a pattern of trying to arrange my world to suit my desires, and I was very convicted by this.
Peterson goes on to say that it is easy for us to create spiritual fantasies and illusions that are mere masquerades of real faith, and the way God reveals these to us is through testing, through sacrifice. He posits that a sacrificial life is the only means by which a life of faith matures, the only way to root out our attempts to use God and to open ourselves up to receive God on His terms.
“We need testing. God tests us. The test results will show whether we are choosing the way of awe and worship and obedience (which is to say, God) or whether, without being aware of it, we are reducing God to our understanding of him so that we can use him.”
Abraham’s life shows us that a life of faith cannot be programmed or guaranteed; it just means that we put our trust in God, no matter what. “We don’t know how God will work out our salvation, only that it is our salvation that He is working out.” I love that statement. It’s easy for me to wonder and ask God why He is doing certain things in my life, but the fact is that I know. He’s already told me why. He is working out my salvation. So often, I try to see the good that all things work for through my very limited earthly lenses, but I need to just trust that all things are working for my salvation and that anything He sends is absolutely necessary for that end.