Tip of the Iceberg
I was reflecting on these pictures today. It’s incredible to see how the building has changed over the last 3 years. Two renovation projects, many ministry changes, a new constitution (hopefully), new members, and more. I promise, there was a 10-year plan, but let’s blame this on COVID; but who’s sovereign over COVID? Who is providential in all of this? So I’ll say this is exciting. But I post these not to show how much things have changed because change is hard for many. I guess it’s hard for everyone but harder for some.
Knollwood hired a young guy with a young family. Probably for reasons that didn’t make me qualified to be their shepherd, but nonetheless, God brought my family here. I still remember the statement of an individual on the Search Committee who said, “You’ve made a lot of mistakes, haven’t you?” I obviously said yes. I continue to make them because I am human. I live in this land of in-between. And I also look at these pictures and am reminded of all of those mistakes, sins, and more.
Ray Ortland said it well when he said, “There is an in-between-ness to this life. God gives us great promises in the gospel. Then he calls us to wait for their fulfillment. He doesn’t give us everything right away. He calls us to wait.” But as I look at these pictures, I am reminded of these things. Because despite all the mistakes that I make, God is still working. He still works. I know this because God’s Word says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This is the tip of an iceberg. These pictures don’t really show much; we get fixated on how great things look, how much things have changed, or whatever, but I hear the voice of one of the senior saints on Wednesday, “There’s a renewed spirit at Knollwood.” Or I look at the letter I have on my disk from a young adult about the conviction to be a disciple who makes disciples and how they see God at work. Or the conversations in my D-Group with other young men as we pray for one another and our beloved church. I honestly struggle with seeing any good that may have been done by me; I’m really good at fixating on my sin. I’m a recovering Pharisee; I, too, need to be reminded of God’s grace every day; it’s why I need to be in God’s Word to be reminded of who he is. Jen Wilkin talked about how taking the Lord’s name in vain is more about doubting God’s character (None Like Him). Wow, have I done that. I don’t know why God uses a consistently pessimistic person, a person who struggles with cynicism, is guilty of taking shortcuts, or tries to do all the work in his own strength, or whatever, but God does. As I think about it, I know the real reason is to show us that it’s not our gifts or abilities that bring life where there is no life; it’s an act of God. As The Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men…”
So I look at these pictures, and I see a room that looks great. But it’s the tip of an iceberg of people who come to mind; people God has been working on. As a pastor elder, I get a front-row seat to what God is doing. It’s an underserving front-row seat. I think about the men and women I get to see growing in their faith. I get to see how they are growing in their desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. I get to see a young Associate Pastor who is maturing more and more every week. I get to see all of this. Something I wish all could see. So when I look at this room, I do see a great-looking space, but I’m more reminded of God’s hand at work.
I don’t understand how or why God uses a sinful man like me to accomplish his will, but he does. The Bible is full of examples of God using weak, sinful, men and women. I’m thankful that I get to be one of those. I live in this land of in-between. I often cry out with Paul in his letter to the church in Rome, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” And I’m tempted to stay there, but how can I forget the rest of the passage, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 7:18-8:1)
So when I look at these pictures and reflect on what God has done, it’s easy to get into a pessimistic mood or get puffed up and look at what I have done. But I am a man who is, as Paul says, “wretched man that I am” who, for some reason, gets a front-row seat to what he is doing at Knollwood. I’m stumbling through life on my way to glory by the grace of God. I’m exhausted, but my heart is full. And I’m thankful for seeing what he’s doing. These are more than pictures of something superficial; it’s yet another way God has been gracious enough to remind me that he is at work in people’s lives. These pictures are just the tip of the iceberg of what God has done.