Substance (1) - Introduction
God is sovereign: nothing happens without His purpose, permission, and limitation. Right now we can’t see God’s purpose in allowing the majority of our students to be prohibited from meeting in-person. But we know from His Word that He is always working for our good and His glory. Think of Joseph’s enslavement and imprisonment or the years David lived as a fugitive—we serve the same God and as He was with them in difficulty so is He with us now.
God doesn’t take away all our troubles, but He is present in them all (Psalm 91:15). What is more, He uses the difficulties we encounter in this fallen world to make us more like Him. If we saw Christ’s beauty fully we would realize that He is indeed the Pearl of Great Price and though we lose all to gain Him we still gain all. If we had eyes to see God as He truly is we would be able to consider all our trials “pure joy”, knowing that they can help us to become more like Him for there is nothing more beautiful or worthwhile than becoming more like the Beautiful and Holy One.
As many of you know I write weekly messages centered around our four distinctives (Gospel-Centered, Classical, Collaborative Learning, and Joyful Discovery). The goal of these messages is to deepen your understanding of what we do as a school and why we do it as well as to empower you to flourish in your dual roles of co-teacher and parent.
I am going to start this year with a series on how we as Christians can grow, and how we as parents can hep our children to grow, in substance. In writing these weekly messages I will be relying on the book Substance by Nic Gibson. (Nic Gibson serves as a pastor at High Point Church.) Substance is designed to help people grow in sanctification. A core assumption of this book is that godliness is an integral part of God’s great gift of liberation and freedom—i.e. Christ did not come only to save us from sin, death, and damnation but for something as well. He died so that we can be like Jesus—so that we can live lives of moral beauty, strength, and goodness.
But if this is true, why are many of us not experiencing this promise? Jesus said that we would feel like we were living unfruitful lives when our faith is strangled by worldliness. Worldliness is the source of many of our feelings of despair, dissatisfaction, and fear.
In discussing worldliness it is important to remember that worldliness is not simply a desire to appease the flesh. Legalism/moralism is a kind of worldliness. The legalist is trying to get what he wants by obeying the rules rather than through rebellion and lawlessness. But he too puts the goods of the world above Christ. By making anything in creation an end in itself is to put on it a burden that it was never designed to bear. Christ may be our savior, but as long as we put our hopes for happiness or security in things of this world, we make them into false “saviors” and they will do nothing but let us down.
According to Gibson, the solution to our fear, anxiety, despair and dissatisfaction is not the mere removal of these things or “trying harder”, but overcoming them in Christ. According to Gibson, “Jesus makes his yoke light by making us strong.” Christ desires that we be “oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3). To a mature oak tree, every burden is light.
The first step to becoming an oak in Christ is to admit that we are not one. This is hard! It is hard for us to admit when we are fragile, but there can be no growth without humility grounded in the truth.