Action after Conviction

So I felt led to just write tonight. It’s super late and I should be getting sleep for my classes tomorrow, but sometimes God keeps me up late through the quiet night to teach me new things. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

 

It’s not until we sit still, that we realize how present our Father is.

 

I’m about to be a little vulnerable for two reasons:

1) Hopefully, someone can identify with me and this will be helpful for you.

2) Writing this out myself will challenge me to grow.

 

Lately, I’ve been deeply convicted about how selfish I can be. This past summer, I learned how unintentional with others I can be and how I tend to live for myself and my comfort. It’s a terrifying thing to realize. I mean it’s in our human nature to live for ourselves, but as a Christ follower that is not acceptable. Jesus tells us very plainly how we should live:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8: 34-35).

I can’t bear to deny myself a lot of times because I desire comfort over everything else. Jesus says, “let him deny himself.” That includes all comfort and selfish desires. I so often justify those desires and choose them anyway. I’d rather have the world than Jesus. That’s essentially what I am saying with my actions most often. It’s a bummer that I would do that. How foolish am I that I would exchange the truth of God for a lie?! It’s at times like these that I sit down and think to myself, “Do I really believe in Jesus and the mission he spoke of?” Saying that I believe in Jesus is one thing, but to really adore Him and follow Him is another thing. John Piper pierces the heart with these words in his book, Desiring God:

“Saving faith in Christ always involves a profound change of heart. It is not merely agreement with the truth of a doctrine. Satan agrees with the true doctrine (James 2:19). Saving faith is far deeper and more pervasive than that” (64).

I want to have a great willingness to act on my belief. I don’t want to be a mere hearer of the word, but a doer of the word (James 1:19). I pray that I will look to the Spirit of Jesus Christ because only with His help can I work for the Lord and be a doer. I need very much help because I am weak and easily tempted to dip into the comfort that the world has placed at my feet. It’s a choice. Jesus, or myself. Who will I live for? What is my treasure?

 Jesus speaks to his disciples soon before He gives Himself to the wrath of His Father. He says, “Do you now believe?” This is after his disciples have a light bulb moment and finally understand that He is going to the Father. However, Jesus’ question is rhetorical because He knows there is much more to his disciples merely saying that they believe. He is demanding that they put their belief in action. There will be tribulations, Jesus tells them, and He urges them to be active in their faith through those trials. The same way Jesus challenges them face to face, I am challenged by the Holy Spirit through spiritual convictions. I am pressed to willingly act.

 

It’s time to be obedient to the One that called me out of darkness.

How could I say no to the Winner of my soul?

 

All glory and praise to God.

 

 

 

A Deeper Look at Ourselves

Luke 23:13-25 holds an immense amount of truth.

Jesus was on trial before Pilate and was found innocent in his eyes, but the crowd was insistent, disagreeing with Pilate, shouting that Jesus needed to be crucified. Pilate needed to make a decision as whether to release Jesus or Barabbas, the man who had been thrown in prison for insurrection and murder. Who was he to choose… The man without crime or the man with a loaded record? Pilate eventually falls prey to the crowd’s wants and he releases Barabbas! Jesus was then delivered to the people’s will! Why would he do that? Jesus had a clean slate, no sign of fault! It stirs a righteous anger in my heart, wanting justice to be made! I don’t want Barabbas to be running around with blood on his hands! Barabbas SHOULD be locked away! Barabbas does NOT deserve that freedom!

…but then I stop and think to myself. Aren’t we all Barabbas? Don’t we all have blood on our hands before God? Don’t we all deserve to be in eternal prison for our overwhelming, undeniable sin? Jesus had to take Barabbas’ place because it was necessary and meant to portray the spectacular exchange on the cross, dying for us and ultimately taking our place.

Alive in Jesus Christ

What does it mean to be alive in Christ?

The answer to that question can go in a lot of different directions. But what comes to mind for me is that to be alive means that you must have been not alive at some point beforehand. Having life is an incredible thing. When a baby is born there is a great amount of rejoicing. The reason people rejoice for a baby being born is because there was once a potential for life inside the mother’s womb and miraculously the infant is born, fulfilling that potential. However, when I think of life in a spiritual sense, I think it is even more incredible. Before there is life for a Christ follower, there is spiritual deadness. Scientifically, from death to life is impossible. No human can conquer the grave. We have no power over our own death because we are so deep in our transgressions. We are useless when we rot in our deadness. We have no choice, but to rely on supernatural works to perform the resurrection we so desperately need. To go from death to life is truly a miracle because a chasm that lies in between the two is impossible to fill based on natural law. A divine act in the form of skin had to be the filler. Only could a righteous man on a rugged cross be the answer to our infinite debt that we owe to God. Only by him conquering death, the death that has us trapped, can the impossible be made possible. Through Jesus swallowing death and sin as a whole on the cross and making it his footstool when rising from the grave can we become alive and breathe for the first time. Either natural laws were completely broken in his resurrection or maybe Jesus was just showing us the way things ought to be. His ways our higher than ours anyway.
 
Being alive is not just breathing though.Being alive is experiencing, moving, and doing. Being alive in Christ is not a content tilt back and forth in a rocking chair. Not taking advantage of this life we’ve been freely given is finding what is comfortable and selfishly basking in that complacency. Being alive in Christ is a constant straining onward to allow others to know the Son of God. Being alive is obviously different than being dead. When dead, there is no offering, no service. Death can offer nothing, but a limp corpse. Life is radiant and beneficial. Alive in Christ means to be filled and motivated by Jesus and his work. Our fruit and progression comes from Jesus because he is the life that empowers us.
 
To sum things up, John MacArthur puts it this way, “Being dead in our transgressions means to be so bound in the sphere of sin, the world, the flesh and the devil as to be unable to respond to spiritual stimuli; totally devoid of spiritual life. But He made us alive together with Him. Only through the union with Jesus Christ can those hopelessly dead in their sins receive eternal life. Note that God takes the initiative and exerts the life-giving power to awaken and unite sinners with His Son; the spiritually dead have no ability to make themselves alive.”
 
Thanks be to God for having power to awaken us from our deadness!
Live in the truth that it is no longer you who live, but it is Christ who lives in you!

The Lord is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

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After a year full of new relationships, crazy adventures, unforgettable memories, and God’s goodness being poured out, it’s difficult to transition to a different atmosphere for a few months. Whether it is going to work at a summer camp, starting up an internship, or heading back home, we can get so nostalgic so quickly. It is a dangerous trap that the devil uses to gain a foothold in our lives.

As I was driving the long 45 minute trip back to my house after an amazing freshman year at Baylor University, I started to feel empty. It was as if the whole experience at Baylor was slipping away and I was never going to get it back. I wasn’t able to find the happiness that the people so dear to me and the University as a whole brought me. Sadness overwhelmed me. It was as if something in me wasn’t being satisfied. A friend of mine told me a few days ago, “Suck it up, it’s only 3 months and then we’ll be back.” While that is true, we can’t just push aside everything and “toughen” up throughout the summer. There is a much bigger problem at hand. If I were to remain blind to the fact that Baylor does not satisfy me, then I was going to be in big trouble. The dilemma was that I had made Baylor and the people there idols. Yes I said it. Idols. It might sound ridiculous, but I had said in my heart that Baylor would fulfill me and bring meaning into my life. I had essentially worshiped Baylor and at some points in time, replaced God with it. Tim Keller writes:

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

Baylor will not bring me significance the way God brings significance into my life. The people I became so close to will never make me secure the way Jesus does. The activities and the organizations I participated in cannot give me value the way the Holy Spirit in me does.

I realized just how small I had made God in those moments of nostalgia. When Baylor was an idol for me, God was lessened in my life. Even more so, I was thinking that God was not as big at home as he was at Baylor. It’s as if everything good was more good at Baylor. God’s work was so great throughout the year on campus that I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that God performs great work everywhere. The truth is, God does not change. He is just as good at Baylor University as he is at Pine Cove camps and the little town of Salado, Texas.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Because God is the same forever, why should I ever think to replace him with anything? It is amazing how suddenly I can find myself making myself or something else greater as I make God less. However, that is not even possible according to the Scripture above. If God does not change, than He is mighty, He is powerful, He is sovereign, He is awesome, He is gracious, He is merciful, He is faithful, He is magnificent, He is loving, He is just, He is glorious, He is righteous, and He is marvelous! He is greater than I or anything else will ever seem.

So what now after repentance and forgiveness? Let’s give thanks to God for his goodness! Give thanks for all the things he has done in the past year! I’m giving thanks for the awesome relationships he has formed in my life. I’m giving thanks for the wonderful university that I am able to attend. I’m giving thanks to God because he is oh so faithful even when I am not (2 Timothy 2:13). God does not change even when our hearts bounce all over the place, looking for satisfaction.

“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St. Augustine

Jesus Dying for the Ungodly

Aside

Not in honor of Easter season, but in honor of the day of the cross of Christ I write this.

It is that time of the year all over the world. On this day, Jesus Christ with humble obedience laid down His life to save our souls from God’s wrath. On this day, a perfectly righteous man bled because of false accusations. On this day, a sinful people hated that man and shouted in order for him to be crucified. On this day, those same sinful people did not know what Jesus was doing. On this day, redemption was born and a gift of freedom was presented to mankind.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)

It’s so true that we are sinners. We deserve death, each and every one of us, but because God is merciful, he wanted to give us a different path. This path leads to Him. Why else would he choose to do this other than because he wants to be with us for eternity? God wants us! And the only way it is possible for him to have us is that we believe that his son died on the cross for us, being resurrected from the dead three days later, saving our souls from eternal condemnation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) 

The cross is where our faith begins, where our hope restarts, and where our joy is found.

Our faith begins in the cross because we learn that Christ died just the way it was prophesied in Isaiah 53. We see that Jesus really does love us and that we are able to depend on him because he was innocent and did not deserve the death, yet gave himself up as an offering for us. Our faith is surely safe in Jesus Christ because he did what we could not do ourselves.

Our hope restarts in the cross because we are sinful, ungodly, filthy people that can’t possibly earn our way into heaven, yet God makes a way for us despite our unrighteousness. It is uplifting to know that God creates in us a new heart and grants us new mercies every day. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)

Our joy is found in the cross because Jesus died with the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), which is to spend eternity with his Father. We are heirs of Christ, meaning we have eternity ahead of us just like Jesus did. Our joy is the truth that our home is really a heavenly dwelling. “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 5:5)

We must not forget the whole gospel though. The cross is extremely significant, but so is the resurrection. What is the cross without the resurrection? Simply death.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:17-22) 

Our lives should be pitied above all men if Christ was not raised. It lays it out clearly for us. Our faith is futile if Christ was not raised. We must know the last part of that passage to be true, that all will be made alive. We are raised up with Jesus Christ and resurrected spiritually from our sins and justified once and for all!

Lastly, I want to leave you all with a passage written by Charles Spurgeon in his book, All of Grace: An Earnest Word with Those Seeking Salvation.

“THIS MESSAGE is for you. You will find the text in the Epistle to the Romans, in the fourth chapter and the fifth verse: 

‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ 

I call your attention to those words, ‘Him that justifieth the ungodly.’ They seem to me to be very wonderful words.

Are you not surprised that there should be such an expression as that in the Bible, ‘That justifieth the ungodly?’ I have heard that men that hate the doctrines of the cross bring it as a charge against God, that He saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. See how this Scripture accepts the charge, and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, He takes to Himself the title of ‘Him that justifieth the ungodly.’ He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin? It has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: ‘Him that justifieth the ungodly.’ I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify and unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that ‘there is none righteous, no not one.’ He knows that ‘all our righteousness are as filthy rags,’ and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but make us so: he justifieth the ungodly.”

Brokenness

A little over a week ago I was driving in my car while running an errand. I had been extremely busy for the past week and had not been able to sit still for a moment. My stress and frustration were building up. I had been trying to carry everything on my shoulders for the past week and I was growing weak quickly. It was so sudden that God grabbed my attention. I turned on a song called “Mercy Mercy” by Hillsong United. Within the first 30 seconds of the song, I broke down. I couldn’t hold it together. My strength that I thought I had turned into weakness and what I thought I had together turned into brokenness. My walls were knocked down and the truth that was revealed to me was that Jesus can shoulder my wrecked life. I found the end of myself in that moment, but more importantly I found the Cornerstone that I had pushed aside for so long. It is a humbling yet glorious position to be in when God brings you to your breaking point. I recognized the gravity of my sinfulness yet felt extremely wanted in that moment. It is such a mysterious combination that only God can work with. We figure out how truly inadequate and insufficient we are, but then at the same time we are so wanted by the Maker and Lover of our souls. Like the All Sons and Daughters song, “Brokenness Aside” sings, “You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.” It is nothing but the beauty and power of God that brings us to that point. He snatches us out of the world for a moment and we are brought into an encounter with Him. I pray for you all that you will have an encounter with God. It probably won’t be just like mine, but I do know that it will be wondrous.

Just for your information, all of these words weren’t my thoughts. I listened to a Tim Keller sermon called “The Gospel and Your Self.” It is one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. He talks out of Isaiah 6 when Isaiah sees God in a vision and has an encounter with Him. He goes through the experience that Isaiah had and explains just how great God is and how we experience that simply because of God’s holiness. I hope that you all will listen to the sermon. You will NOT regret it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LISTEN TO IT.

http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/gospel-and-your-self

And here is the song that God used to break me. Enjoy it. It’s a good one.

Seek an encounter with God.

Contentment

About 3 weeks ago I began wrestling with the Lord as to whether I should rush a fraternity here at Baylor. I was swaying back and forth between the options, constantly telling people I would do one thing and then the next day something different. It began to get frustrating not only for me, but I’m sure others as well. As the deadline was approaching where I had to make a decision, I was tossing and turning with my thoughts. I wasn’t hearing the Lord clearly and I had no idea where to go. I was struggling and being defeated day after day. The problem was that I wasn’t still. Not for a moment had I sat down and just listened to God. Not for a moment had I sat down and praised God. I was too caught up in all the commotion. I was too caught up in myself and where needed to go. I remembered that we must exalt God, praise him, and lift up His holy name before we begin thinking about ourselves. So many times in my life I catch myself being selfish and when I find myself being that way I am never content. The truth is, there is only one place where we can find contentment and it is certainly not in ourselves. It is clearly in the arms of God. That is where the peace that surpasses all understanding is found.

“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13:2

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I did end up rushing a fraternity and somehow got in. I am now currently pledging and it is a brand new experience in which I know I will be challenged. So if you could, please pray that I would be reminded of the gospel daily and would wholeheartedly seek God’s wisdom and strength. That would be greatly appreciated.

Now I was reading through a devotional, “The Valley of Vision” by Arthur Bennett and was struck silent by this following passage. I hope that by reading this you are convicted and reminded where contentment is found in this crazy life of ours.

CONTENTMENT

Heavenly Father,

If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,

make my heart prize thy love, know it, be constrained by it,

though I be denied all blessings.

It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants,

for by these trials I see my sins,

and desire severance from them.

Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,

if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil,

and be delivered from it with gratitude to thee,

acknowledging this as the highest testimony of thy love.

When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin,

he became more dear to me than sin had formerly been;

his kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny.

Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued

I must not only labour to overcome it,

but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it,

and he must become to me more than vile lust had been;

that his sweetness, power, life may be there.

Thus I must seek a grace from him contrary to sin,

but must not claim it apart from himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me

that in myself I am a dying, condemned, wretch,

but in Christ I am reconciled and live;

that in my self I find insufficiency and no rest,

but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace,

that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,

but in Christ I have ability to do all things.

Though now I have his graces in part,

I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state

where thou wilt show thyself fully reconciled,

and alone sufficient,

efficient,

loving me completely,

with sin abolished.

O Lord, hasten that day.