I occasionally substitute teach. I have to say, it is one of the most difficult jobs I have had: maintaining a classroom of dozens of 11 year-old children, and attempting to instruct them in mathematics, language, science, and any other subject. What was once an abstract principle has become exceedingly tangible: my understanding of God directly influences everything that I do. And yet, as a man, simul iustus et peccator (simultaneous justified and sinner), there is no possible way I can perfectly illustrate God to these students.
Do I believe in God’s grace toward me? Yes.
Do I believe God is yet just, exacting the penalty of my sin upon Jesus? Yes.
And how do I behave in grace and forgiveness toward some students while upholding the justice of God?
Grace and justice aren’t the only tensions to maintain.
So do teachers’ pets receive greater forgiveness and less judgment?
So how can I show them that ‘doing the right thing’ isn’t salvific?
So how can I tell students that I saw a good deed they did, and thus reward them; will this not encourage false piety?
So what of those tattle-tale tellers?
So how do I teach the general judgment and the particular salvation?
So how do I tell parents that their children have chosen to be less than they are?
The list could go on and on and on. How does anyone ever catch a glimpse of the true character of God when everyone around us in the world is sinful and incapable of perfectly representing the person and character of our Triune God?
The third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit.
We need the Holy Spirit, desperately.
Yes, there is a difference between ‘perfectly representing’ and ‘faithfully representing.’ Believers can faithfully represent God even if they do it fallibly. But even faithful representation, without the work of the Holy Spirit is destined for abject failure. Most, if not all, of those students are unregenerate, un-indwelled beings on a dismal path toward damnation. And I will fail to reach them and to deliver them into the Kingdom of Christ. But the Holy Spirit is able. He is able to bring conviction to their hearts; he is capable of growing sinews and making their bones animate; he is able to draw them to God, though he is not far from each one of us. Thank God for his providence in the world we inhabit; thank God that despite all the failures of believers and all the misleading of unbelievers, he is still able to draw men to himself.
How many interactions have you had in life? And how many of them bore the face of God? What percentage of your interactions have been explicit or profoundly implicit reference points of God? And yet, has God drawn you to himself?
I believe God is wise. I believe God is good. I believe God is capable.
If I did not, I would quit right now and become a nihilist.
Take time today to call or text someone who was faithful in representing God to you.
Take time to bask in your ineptitude and praise the sufficiency of God.
Lessons in Teaching, Post 1