I enjoyed a series on Ruth by Alistair Begg recently and he concluded with a message on “The Mystery of History” – how God weaves time, people, and places together to create history. Ruth, for instance, was born into a culture opposed to God, married an Israelite in direct opposition to “the rules,” and yet she is honored in Scripture as “a woman of excellence” who has an entire book that bears her name and figures prominently in the bloodline that gives rise to King David and eventually, the Lord Himself. Begg is quick to point out that Ruth’s example does not give us license to be unequally yoked in marriage, but her story challenges everyone to note that God honors this woman’s attempts to seek the truth and orchestrates her life’s circumstances (although they look exceedingly bleak, especially in the beginning) in a way that only He can.
In one of the light moments of the message Begg said a few words about the popularity of researching your ancestry online these days: There you are online doing whatever you need to do, and then you see an ad for “ancestry.com” in the sidebar. You click on it…and [gasp!] it’s as you’ve always hoped! You’re Scottish!!
You have no idea how funny I thought that was. I’ve obviously been laughing over his faux ancestral research scenario for a while now – so much so that I felt compelled to write this post. Ed, you recall, is Scottish, like F and Alistair Begg – but the real impetus for me writing this was that Timmy spoke on Sunday and one of his points was that the believer’s goal is to be recognized as a child of God. Wow – when I typed the phrase “child of God,” I suddenly got nervous, like that might be overstepping. But it’s not – Christ made a way for us to be adopted. One of Ed’s favorite phrases is, “You got some scripture to back that up?” Why yes – thank you for asking:
Romans 8.15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
I John 3.1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…
But what if you click on the ancestry.com link and everything is NOT what you had always hoped for? Many people come from family lines full of all kinds of trouble – some of it resides in history, or it could be ongoing. Some might even come from families whose name is in school textbooks under the heading: “perpetrators of great crimes of the 20th century.” This kind of baggage would be heavy indeed. Although you might be doing everything you can to make good choices for you and your family today, what happened in the past necessarily influences how you think and how others think of you.
There is wonderful news, though – the decision to follow Christ involves a name change and a whole new way of seeing. It is radical enough (heart transplant, anyone?) to disrupt the paradigms built from birth since the renewing of your mind (Ephesians4.23) is prescribed and within reach.
Oh, and before I forget – don’t worry if your past is so ugly its shadow haunts you 24/7. God can handle your shame and regret. Take comfort in the fact that His Son bore every single shameful, ugly thing on the cross. He knows everything already and persists in loving us. He is not surprised, grieved, but not surprised, by the things we confess to Him. But for the repentant believer, there’s hope – a new day, a new direction, a new life.
2 Corinthians 5.17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.