I saw a headline following the earthquake in Chile that read, “Is Nature out of Control?” Upon reading that I said to myself, “Self, [because how else would I address me], is nature out of control? . . . who’s control?!” I replied, “Ours, I guess.” [I reasoned that since the article was from MSNBC, and they are not known as a bastion of Calvinism, this must be the implication]. We like control. We like to think we can control everything or at least that we should. C.S. Lewis made this intriguing observation in The Abolition of Man:
The serious magical endeavor and the serious scientific endeavor are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve . . . There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the “wisdom” of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.
How are they twins? Lewis argued they were born of the same impulse: to subdue nature to man’s wishes; to control and manipulate it. Let’s face it . . . we’re all control freaks. And that makes grace maddening. It is just so darn uncontrollable. Indeed, grace is not a manageable commodity. Jonathan Edwards reminds us of this:
Conversion is the peculiar work of God . There are some works that none can do but God, not men nor angels. Such is creation, and such is raising from the dead, and such is the conversion of the soul, which is both a creation and a resurrection. The grace of God is a gift that never any can bestow but God. It is a jewel that God has in his own keeping and never commits to any but his own Son to bestow.
If ministers knew perfectly the circumstances of every soul, knew all his thoughts and the workings of his heart, and so knew how to suit the word exactly to his case, if he could set fourth the Gospel in the most powerful, moving, and convincing manner that the nature of words will allow of, yet if the matter be left there and God does nothing, nothing will be done. The soul will remain dead as before. (Ministers Need the Power of God)
Often with the lost or wandering we want to be the hero with the perfect thing to say or we want a method that will change them..NOW! We want soul control. We do not and will not have it. Praise God! He has committed the “treasure” of the gospel to “everyday earthenware pots” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The picture Paul paints is of the most valuable commodity being housed in a relatively worthless container. That’s how God delights to work. We don’t need to be a hero with perfectly massaged messages. We need humble “begging” (Edwards’ exhortation) that God’s grace accompany our presentation of the great treasure of the gospel. We want Him to show off His heroic work, not ours.
Oh God. Debase our soul control mindsets and then dumbfound us with acts of your free grace. Thank you that you love to use earthenware pots like us.