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Gospel Talk and Dollar-Store Dross

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A snippet of a song kept going through my head the other day.

“Let your conversation be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.”

It goes way back into my youth group days (waaaayyy back), and I can only remember part of it. I tried to Google the line for the rest of it, and couldn’t find any hits, but I did hit on some Scripture verses it aligns closely, but not exactly, with.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

That sent me on another search for an article that I wrote several years ago for Tabletalk magazine where I examined the concept of gospel conversation, which was itself laid out in a series of sermons by Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, compiled into a book by the same name.* Burroughs, in his winsome and dialectic style, addressed not simply conversation as speech, but also, as only a thorough Puritan could do, all the ways in which Christians display the gospel in the give and take of life – in the church, in the marketplace, in the home, etc.. We speechlessly talk up what we believe in every sphere by our decisions, actions and reactions, stewardship, friendships, good works, childrearing, buying and selling, love lives, sex lives, because we are, in a way, conversing in all these circumstances.  The full compendium of the doctrines of grace can be at the forefront of those spoken and unspoken conversations if we make a point of it.

All of these musings and memories have a thread running through them, and that is that our gospel conversation, the words of our mouth, must be rooted in meditations of the heart, or else they are nothing more than flat, shiny distractions from the day to day living we experience. Christmas is coming, and we can all tell the difference between the cheap, drossy décor we can pick up at the Dollar Store and that which reflects the beauty of quality materials, a slow and steady refining fire, and the skill and creativity of the craftsman. I think the same is true with our words and whether they are formed from hearts of dross or hearts of true gold.

I faced dross earlier this week and there was much more of it in my heart than I expected to find. A sudden increase in lumbar pain landed me at the surgical center on Tuesday for my first ever steroid injection. Blessed with a high pain threshold, I’ve been through medical events that challenged those thresholds: a dislocated knee that had to be popped back into place, a med-free delivery, a spinal injection for another delivery, so this should not have been an unsettling experience, right?

Except, it was, and I found myself with only rote words of comfort on my lips. Somewhere between the forging of joyful meditation and trudging through the pain, I had forgotten the higher truth behind that casually spoken phrase, “Blessed with…” and had settled into a dependency upon the speech part of gospel conversation to get me through the trials rather than the supernatural grace that leads to glory. When the affliction came, the words were not enough. In fact, I shuddered, lying there on the exam table, as I realized that my words sounded like a mantra!  

Okay, okay, I thought to myself. This isn’t working. Muster up the feelings, recall the truths, glory in the hope.

Thankfully, the Lord in His goodness and mercy saw me through.

Philippians 1:27, the text of Burroughs’ messages, says: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

I can’t say my manner was worthy of the gospel of Christ. It took me almost a whole day before I remembered that an abundance of good things had been mine over the past 24 hours:  a doctor with a sure hand, a nurse who seemed to sense my soul distress and rested a hand on mine, a son who was willing to drive me there and wait for two hours, the relief from the injection. I didn’t deserve any of it, and yet the Lord provided. John Piper applies his gentle icepick to thanks-oriented distinctions in his Desiring God blog post this week:

Authentic heart-feelings are not in our control. We can’t make ourselves feel thankfulness. …Thankfeelings are a work of grace. Therefore, as fallen sinners whose hearts are often dull, we should regularly pray for God to overcome our sinful hardness, and cause us to see his goodness and feel thankful. (Psalm 51:10-12) [John Piper,”Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling and the Glory of God”]

Cultivating a language of thankfulness begins with more than rehearsed self-talk. When the soul-ground is turned over in recognition that all good things come from God, when showers of grace quench my thirsty, arid heart-soil so that seedlings flower into authentic gratitude, then my lips and my heart overflow with thanksgiving! Yes, this adversity is worth it for the sake of His glory!

So the sacrifice of thanksgiving that glorifies God is the offering of contrite and broken-hearted thankfulness for undeserved mercies. This makes God looks glorious – it glorifies him. [Piper]

I lost an opportunity to glorify God in the conversation of getting an injection in my back. May my manner of life be more worthy of the gospel of Christ in what I do tomorrow and the day after. May the Lord do that daily work of grace in me to overcome my sinful hard-heartedness. May my meditations on the adversity – and the words on my lips about it – be acceptable in your sight, O Lord!

*That article is now available in digital form only through Logos Bible Software.

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Written by mrsdkmiller

November 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

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