Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cross [Part 1]

For the past six months of my life, I’ve been on a journey of learning to live by His will and not my own and learning how to live in pursuit of holiness. Before that and during my first couple of years of college, I thought I had everything figured out. There was just one big problem: God was not in the picture. Sure, I “loved” Him and I had previously “asked Jesus into my heart” – but I had nothing to show for it. My life was bearing no spiritual fruit whatsoever.

I had dangerously confused my dilute American Christianity for truthful biblical Christianity. I thought as long as I showed up to church every now and then and occasionally said a bedtime prayer that I was doing okay. I was far from okay. Since then, I have come to see how God can take our mistakes and turn them around for His glory (thankfully by His grace). I was living a very sinful lifestyle to say the least, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to turn away from that way of life and not look back.

In the Bible, we learn the importance of not looking back. When we look back and are hesitant, we are vulnerable to becoming stuck again. In Genesis 19, we see that Lot’s wife looked back toward Sodom and she was turned into a pillar of salt (verse 26). I didn’t realize it at the time, but despite all of my disobedience and sinfulness, God was setting the stage for what was to become the spiritual climax of my entire life. He always knows just what we need and just when we need it…even when we don’t know it! He brought me from what was a deep pit – and even though I went through many stumbles and road blocks – I came through victorious because of His grace and mercy. I was made new. I was redeemed. Victory in Jesus.

I say all of this to say that God uses the broken. I certainly was in no position, I thought, to serve Him or to ever make a positive difference for His kingdom. But He had a plan for me. He always has a plan for us! However, it does requires spiritual obedience. I had finally hit the bottom of the deep pit that I had been in, and it was there at that bottom that I came to the foot of the cross. At the foot of the cross, there is level ground. It doesn’t matter our background, it doesn’t matter our history, and it doesn’t matter what kind of person we have been in the past. It only matters the kind of person we become when we come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His goal is to change us and make us new in and through Him so that we can live a life more abundant and full. He desires to give our lives meaning!

And the good news: we don’t even have to be perfect. I had listened to the enemy’s lies for so long, and I thought that I wasn’t good enough for Jesus. But anyone is good enough for Jesus – no matter who you are! In fact, Jesus speaks more highly of the poor than the wealthy. For everything that has happened in my life, I am thankful – for the good, the bad, and the ugly. It led me to that place I mentioned at the foot of the cross. It was at the foot of the cross that I learned how clouded and misguided my perceptions were of what living the Christian life is all about. It was at the foot of the cross that I began learning how to live by His will and not my own. It was the foot of the cross that I learned how to pursue holiness. It was at the foot of the cross that I learned how to be a follower of Jesus instead of just a fan of Him, and it was at the foot of the cross that I found hope. Hope for a future in and of Him.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’” Luke 9:23

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