My idealized life story:
- Graduate with a degree in Biblical studies
- Do something ‘grand and glorious’ for God, and see tangible change
- Marry man of my dreams (strict qualifications, of course)
- Have amazing children
- Die with an extraordinary legacy
Now, I’m an expert manipulator, as are you. Like it or not, we use, and oftentimes subconsciously use, manipulation to get to where we want to be in life– and to get what we want out of people. We do it to those around us, and we even try to do it to God. Even in wonderful, God-honoring plans of our own devising, we can try to manipulate our own fingerprint onto our lives.
In the list above, it would seem, there is nothing dishonoring to God. These are great dreams and goals. But, since these are my own dream and goals, I have become aware that, deep down, they partly exist to manipulate God into loving me and giving me what I need from him by what I give Him and do for Him. I’ll explain:
- If I work hard to ‘know’ a lot about the Bible and God, then I will grow closer to Him and He will be pleased with me.
- If I spend my whole life serving God and others, and laying my life down selflessly for Him, then He will love me more.
- If I marry a ‘Jim Elliot’, he will serve to help me get to numbers 1. and 2.
- If I have children that love God, then God will see me as successful.
- If I leave an ‘Apostle Paul’ type legacy, then God will see me as valuable and special.
At the root, these desires aren’t wrong. To desire to want God to be pleased with me, to love me, to see me as fruitful, and to see me as special is not wrong. It’s what I do to meet those desires that make it wrong.
As Christians, each and every individual has God’s full attention. There is nothing I can do to make Him any more pleased with me than He already is. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more than He already does. God already views my life as a success, and He already sees me as a prized, special vessel–even if I never do anything to attain these things. Why? Because Christ is that for me, and He is worthy for me. He is everything for me and to me. Though I fail and fall, God will not love me less, because Christ is in me; and if Christ be in me, I am blameless–brilliant.
In conclusion, It is His work, not mine. There is nothing I could give Him to manipulate my standing with Him. I have nothing to give, and He gives everything. Honestly, this is pretty revolutionary for me. What is revolutionary is the ‘receiving’ aspect about walking in relationship with Christ. Actually, to be perfectly honest, what’s revolutionary about being in relationship with Christ is that it’s all receiving. We really have nothing to give, which sounds edgy to some because we so badly want to bring something to the table; but we waste our time, for the table has already been set–the Lamb has already been slain. Similar to the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, we try to work hard to get what we want–what we really desire; we try to impress God when He is already knocked out by us. He says to us, “Sons and daughters, I am always with you, and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31).
It is so hard for us to accept this truth: that we are the recipients of everything we desire in Christ, grace upon grace–gift upon gift. We don’t need to work for love; we must simply receive.
Thief of Joy
Envy, no more my heart entertain,
Separation, it selfishly employs;
For me and You gives mutual pain,
It robs us fellowship and joy.
Self-loathing takes me to a sphere,
Where, in God, many flaws I find;
My heart, it plays back like a mirror,
Contentment, losing strength of mind.
Thief of joy, your fault is found,
Your common but pretentious lie;
Your doubts now buried neath’ the ground,
Will help my fears to gently die.
Make me whole, my God,
My heart has torn from sin,
Mine eyes can’t see Your beauty,
My soul, it groans within.
Lead me in Your light,
For shame I hide my face,
When wandering in the night,
I strain to see Your grace.
Keep me faithful, Lord,
Until the very end,
My heart, it often wanders,
My faith, it often bends.
Destroy my fortified cities,
That I for comfort build;
Bring me out in lasting joy,
To coffers You have filled.
Oh, Lord, You are sufficient. Your grace overflows my cup with living water. When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.
“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”
― C.S. Lewis
This is my calling-this is our calling. As Christians, we are called to be conformed to the image of Christ, and that means letting go of the things we try so hard to find identity in. The things that we think will give us purpose and meaning outside of Christ.
It’s a messy process, and sometimes we wonder if we will ever make it home in one piece. If we do (He promises so), we wonder if anyone there will recognize us anymore. We’ve been so disfigured by trials and strivings, discolored by grief and pain. The battles of our souls have left gaping wounds that still sting when they are touched.
So we hide. We can’t let them see our failings. We strive, trying so hard to remedy our imperfections.
Bitterness grows like a weed, for so many have wronged us. We build walls so we don’t get hurt, in constant fear of being so.
We cry, “Lord, how long? How long till I am home, and I get to see the hope of my salvation?”
And He says, “Look, you are not far off. Do you not see, beyond the valleys, mountains, and oceans, your rest? It won’t be long till you see My face.”
Then we answer, “But the valleys are filled with thorns, the mountains their precipices, and the oceans their torrenting waves.”
“I know, I’ve been there.”
“Why the deserts, Lord? Why the pain?”
*“I take you through deserts to have all the things you settle for stripped away, so that the hunger of your soul will be allowed to grow and reveal to you that you hunger for Me.”*
Then He touches our wounds with His own, and begins to tear down our walls. We become vulnerable. We become fleshy. Pain floods the sinew and skin. Many tears are shed, none of which He does not hold in His hand. They are a precious offering to Him.
Then we begin to see ourselves. Not for the dirty, bloody mess that we saw, but for the righteousness of His son that He sees.
Then there is joy.
“But what about the pain?”
Pain does not smother joy. Pain only brings true joy a meaning, and something to hope in. For without hope, that is, eternal hope, there would be no reason to sing through the pain.
Oh, weary child, we are almost home.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
*Credit to Pastor Scott Moore-thanks for pointing out this massive truth.
That Which Was Lost
Lost-Trying to find ourselves
Lost-Chaos and confusion
Lost-Separation and fear
Lost-Lack of joy and an envious heart
Found-In our deserts, Jesus finds us
Found-Peace and clarity
Found-His work, not ours
Found-Unity and vulnerability
Found-Joy and gratitude
What defines me? Is it my amount or lack of beauty? Of talent? Of intelligence? Of piety?
No. It cannot be these things. It cannot be anything that I can do, for I am a helpless beggar in need of compassion and mercy.
Yet, Jesus humbled Himself as to so look upon me in that state. He did not walk by in disgust, leaving me in the dust, when he saw me. He did not turn His face, too embarrassed to be seen with me. Instead, He stooped low and was full of compassion. He lifted my head and delt gently with me, telling me of all His great and glorious promises. Then, He bound my wounds with His own and said,
“See how much I love you; see and believe that I love you.”
Thus, it is His love and compassion that defines me.
I found this video by Justin Peters very eye opening. It is good to know what doctrines are out there contrary to Scripture. Unfortunately, these people are mistaken to be the face of Christianity, so it is good to know what they believe in order to refute them with biblically sound doctrine. I think it is a must watch, though it is long. Enjoy!
“and many false prophets will arise and mislead many.” Matthew 24:11