It’s been pointed out that most of the New Testament is about the Jew/Gentile problem. Most of the New Testament is basically the story of the Jewish Messiah coming unexpectedly, surprising the Jews and then accomplishing salvation for the whole world. Of course it was there all along, since Abraham gazed into the night sky and tried to imagine all of the families of the earth. But we are all one-trick ponies. We find some sweet spot in our repertoire, be it business savvy or athletic prowess or an attractive body or intellectual brilliance or stylistic suave — we get blessed and then we try to hold the blessing. We try to bottle the blessing. But this is like Peter taking his eyes off Jesus while walking on the waves in the storm. It’s to cave to satanic fears — fears of loss, fears of not measuring up, fears of failure, fears, insecurity, worry, all stemming from the gaping, black hole in our hearts ripped by the guilt of our sins and the death we deserve.
And this is all related to the Jew/Gentile problem. First off, recognize that the New Testament is not just a historical curiosity, a record of obscure ethnic tensions that are largely irrelevant to 21st century Christians. No, the core of the Jew/Gentile problem is the security/fear issue. The core of ethnic pride is insecurity and fear — fear of the other, fear of difference, fear of the new, fear of the unknown, fear of shame, fear of death. And so people travel in herds, affirming and praising one another for whatever holds them together (athletics, fashion, alternative medicine, circumcision, etc.). This is why even though the presenting issues are questions about the law (“shall Gentiles be required to be circumcised?”) the more fundamental issue is whether Jesus is enough. Is His blood enough to cover all of our sins (past, present, and future)? Is His righteousness enough to cover all of our shame? Is His death and resurrection enough to reconcile the greatest tensions of the human race: male/female, slave/free, Jew/Gentile, etc.?
James helps here: Where do our tensions come from? Where does our racism, our elitism, our bitterness, our hatred and backbiting come from? It comes from our lusts (Js. 4). Because of our guilt and shame, we have hunger that cannot be satisfied. We have an appetite for praise and glory that is never satisfied. And so for all that is given, it is never enough, and we grow frustrated and angry. And why are we angry about what we do not have? Because we have not asked God for it, and when we do ask, we ask with messed up motives. Why? Because we are like adulterous whores. We run around on our Faithful Husband and then we show up all casual to ask for another 20 spot for another hit of coke and another night of being used by our idols. In other words, where do our tensions come from? They come from the fact that we are not in fellowship with our Maker, our Savior, our Lord. Where did the Jew/Gentile problem come from? It came from a lack of faith, a lack of fellowship with Lord Jesus. Why did slave/master tensions continue? Because the Church needed to more fully comprehend the riches of the inheritance in the saints.
And so this is the point: In Jesus, all things belong to us. All things are ours, in life and in death, in riches and in poverty, in families and in solitude, in health and in sickness, in favor and in deep misunderstanding. Coming into Christ, walking with Jesus in His Spirit is for the fullness of God to be completely at our disposal. The Christian life is not like my home improvement projects where I spend most of my time driving back to the hardware store to look for another tool that I don’t own. In Christ, all that we need has already been purchased, paid for, and thought of ahead of time.
Like the coolest moments in James Bond movies, where the perfect weapon, the exact tool is already in place, just right there in the tip of the pen, in the back of the wrist watch, in the hollow of the boot heel, all things have been planned for, all the grace needed for all of life has been provided. In Christ, you have been given life fully loaded. It’s called abundant life, eternal life, the good life. You are not lacking anything. But this is why there is no need to grasp for the blessing of God. You don’t need to stuff your pockets with the manna God has given you today. It will rot that way, you know. But your Father knows what you need even before you ask. He gives us each day, our daily bread. He gives us blessings enough.
So this is how we ask in the right way, we ask for the grace we need for today, forgiveness for this sin right now, and the wisdom for this situation right in front of me. And when we trust our Father for this daily grace, He always comes through. He is never late. He is never undersupplied. There are never waiting periods. You are already pre-approved in Christ. So do not cling to your business savvy, your to-die-for good looks, your alternative diet fad, your intellectual RPMs, your stylistic flare. In so far as these are gifts from the Good Giver, just receive them with simple joy for as long as He gives them. In so far as these are already forms of respect-hunger, praise-starvation, emblems of your security-freakishness. Let them go. Get a hair cut. Eat a cheeseburger. Take a nap. Breakup with the jerk. Stop looking down. Because life is a storm, and you will sink if you think you can keep yourself from sinking. But Jesus is enough. He is all you need to be all that you are. And in Him, you will become far more than you can ever gin up on your own.