What’s the Point?

Yesterday, I had one of those “What’s the point?” moments. Not in the sense that I wanted to give up, or that I was suddenly turning on my faith, but in the sense that I was hungry to learn and understand with more depth, why.

What is the purpose and message of Christianity? Love.

Why do we love? That’s how people see Christ in us.

How do we love? Service and sacrifice.

Why do we serve and sacrifice for others? That’s how God tells us to love.

Why do we love? Christ first loved us.

So… what now?

As you can see, my mind seemed to be going in circles, and I just couldn’t seem to make any of the gospel make sense in my head.

(On a side note from all of this, it is so humbling when God reminds us that pursuing him is a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment, neverending desperation for his guidance and spirit in our lives. It seems so natural {prideful, really} to assume that after a certain amount of time “being a Christian”, we can take the reigns and understand life on our own. Thanks for the reminder, Lord.)

What is the connection between Christ’s love for us and how we respond? Friends, this is crucial. If we have this twisted, then we may as well give up and oppose the word of God altogether. If we do not connect our lives of sacrifice and service to the vine that is the reason for it all, then we are simply gongs and symbals and goats that will be separated from him on judgement day because we never knew him (1 Corinthians 13:1), (Matthew 25:31-46).

Yeah, whoa.

Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Paul is telling us that when we live sacrificially, in a mindset of constantly thinking of others and counting them as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), we are worshipping God. Being a “follower of Christ” is not merely a label – it means literally, just that.

We follow in his footsteps.

We do as he did when he walked the earth, and as he still does through the power of the Holy Spirit. And, we don’t just sacrifice when it’s easy or convenient, or when we are feeling motivated, or when we are in the right mood, or when people are acting in such a way that makes us want to help and love them.

That is why it’s called sacrifice.

We love when it’s hard; we give when it hurts the most; we make time when there is no time; we treat others not according to what they “deserve,” but unconditionally so.

We are so prone to slip when religion becomes a routine, and we begin to do things without first knowing and being content with Jesus alone. When our eyes turn from Jesus, the “why,” and onto our own preferences in life, this is when we so easily forget that it’s actually not about us at all. But it’s when we are viewing life through the correct lens that we are able to see that sacrificing on behalf of others is sacrificing on behalf of Jesus – in response to all he endured for our sinful, wretched sake.

And this changes everything.

He doesn’t need anything we could give, and our giving will never earn our salvation or right standing with him.. that was finished on the cross. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Endlessly. But when, by the grace of his spirit, we are able to grasp the truth of the gospel, and the beautiful injustice of a perfect man dying such a torturous death so that such wretched sinners as ourselves could have communion with him at absolutely no cost, what are we then compelled to do?

 

Lifetime > Resolution

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As the New Year approached and last year was coming to a close, I thought and thought, and thought some more, about what I wanted to change in my life. What could I improve about myself? What do I need to be better at?

Several things flooded my mind as I brainstormed for 2015, and then reflected on 2014. But nothing really resonated with the desires of my heart. Some ideas were vain, some not quite the right timing (truly not, that isn’t just a copout), and some made it plain obvious that my brain was just trying to muster something up to scribble down on a “New Years Resolution for 2015” list.

As I prayed and spent some time reading, it occurred to me that my life had more potential for joy. Not because circumstances could be better, or because of something someone else was responsible for, or because I feel I am lacking in anything tangible, but because I don’t spend enough time being thankful. 

That’s when I decided to spend 2015 in gratitude.

And then after spending a year being intentional about it every single day, for 365 days, my hope and prayer is that being thankful would become a habit and a lifestyle – a permanent one. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. That’s approximately 17.38 times the amount of time I am setting for myself to achieve this goal. I figure that’s reasonable, since old habits such as complaining, or selfishness, or criticizing others will be constant temptations as long as I – we – are humans formed from flesh, blood, and dust. In fact, I am positive that it will not take the year of 2015, but a lifetime and an unending process until I meet Jesus, to be a grateful person.

Gratitude by definition is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness."It is a state of mind. It is a choice.

Sure, circumstances, Satan, and people will be temptations for me to allow to alter that state of mind, but the Holy Spirit of God inside of me is so much stronger. There will be far more power, and more glory brought to Christ, in my sacrifices of praise (thanking God when it hurts and doesn’t seem like the right response to pain, suffering, and frustrating circumstances in this life), than in my constant focus on what and who needs to change and why.

All of that to say, I’ve still yet to think of a New Years Resolution. And I’ve finally come to peace with the decision that I am not going to make any for 2015, but rather, start this year prayerfully seeking a change of heart and a change of mind. It will take constant prayer, constant correction of perspective, and more perseverance than I have. Thankfully, my hope rests in the grace of a perfect Creator who does not expect perfection, but my dependence on him to complete this work in me. 

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18