What is your most prized possession? To find out we would only have to look at what you give your time, attention, and resources to.
For the Christian, what should be the most prized possession? Everyone including the First Grade Sunday School Class just rightly answered, “Bible.” Very good; but, why?
The reason why is because the Bible is rock of revelation that our faith is built upon.
As is I am sure is common in other places, we have experienced one of the longer, more intense spells of illness in recent memory. Here in Omaha, Nebraska sickness is being passed around like dollar bills. Our church family and our immediate family have also been greatly impacted. Even I, though not normally prone to getting sick, have come down with multiple viruses.
In recent weeks, while afflicted, some truth hit me like a surprise flu: I am generally very healthy. This is a tremendous blessing. In a world full of bacteria and sickness we get along pretty well. What’s more, we are not guaranteed health. Therefore, what we do get is a blessing.
If you are saved then you are saved by works.
No, I am not retreating or backsliding or apostatizing into Roman Catholicism or other synergistic form of salvation. I am simply restating the truth that the Bible declares. You are saved by works.
Let me elaborate and clarify the statement: You are saved by works, just not your works. If you are saved, you are saved based upon the works, the merits, the doing and dying of Jesus. This is the truth of the gospel.
I am an unabashed gym eavesdropper. This is really the only place where I shamelessly listen to people talking. Whether it is in the locker room, on the workout floor in the lobby or wherever: I listen. In one recent conversation I heard a couple of guys talking. The one guy was in his mid 50’s and the other guy, I’ll guess early 20’s. Both guys were in great shape. The older guy was telling the younger guy what he has been up to in terms of training. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other for some time and this guy was noticeably different. He explained how he changed his diet, got disciplined about weights, and didn’t try to go too fast. Over the last year and a half the guy has transformed.
As I listened to them I couldn’t help but notice the younger guy’s shock. He is knee-deep in the culture that demands instant results. He remarked of how amazed he was at the difference over time. In the end it was a proper plan, consistency of discipline, and time. The guy was a different guy.
Sometimes we speak of sin in extremely unbiblical categories. For example we may speak of our bad attitudes, selfishness or anger as defects that are to be expected. We say or think things like, “I am a sinner” or “I’m not perfect” or “I know I really should do…” And when we do say things like this our Christian brothers and sisters too often affirm these truth claims with passive affirmation (nodding, agreeing, or otherwise not helping).
This produces a culture where sin is not really a big deal. It’s just a necessary part of life that we need to deal with. Like a man with a limp we just keep moving along with our spiritual handicap.
This causes two immediate problems:
Recently I wrote an article for Christanity.com about the most attractive women on the planet. The specifics are related to what they embrace, their beauty, and their smile. Here is the link to full article. I suspect that you have seen these women and can testify to their distinctive beauty!
When you are a little kid you are very aware of your parent’s presence. As a Dad I see this when my two little toddlers sense me tiptoeing out of the room and then proceed to chase me down. At this stage in their lives they have weighed the cost of me doing a load of laundry or fetching something out of the basement against them being alone. And they have sided with the latter in every case. They are aware of and cherish their parents’ nearness.
There are many ways to apply Jesus’ teaching that we must become like a child in order to enter the kingdom (Mt. 18.1-6). The picture of a child fully trusting in and enjoying their parents with admirable simplicity comes to mind. Along with this a child’s awareness and cherishing their parent’s closeness and care. More to my point, another implication of becoming like a child is being aware of and cherishing God’s nearness to us.
This past year I ran my first marathon. As I ran I continued to chart my progress and endurance. Each mile marker rendered judgment against my goals. How am I doing? How will I finish?
The marathon is a fitting analogy for life. With the passing of each year there is a mile-marker of personal evaluation. There is an opportunity to take inventory, evaluate progress, and look ahead toward the finish.
To be honest, I have not done a lot of the latter. I have not looked ahead to the finish line and estimated my time. Like so many others, I like to live “mile-to-mile” making quick adjustments, taking advantage of quick bursts to make up for moments of laziness on the hills of life. While these inventories and adjustments are an integral part of doing what we set out to do they will not compel us in the same way as look at the end.
A look at the end of our life, the finish line, will bring a couple of things into focus:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 Jn. 3.16)
What is love? In short, love is joyfully and willfully sacrificing yourself in the service of others for the purpose of seeing them blessed. This is what we see in the gospel and this is what Christians endeavor to do as we respond to the gospel. The Gospel is the most heart-melting and liberating truth. It models and motivates true love.
The type of love we have in the gospel is total acceptance even in light of full disclosure. God knows how sinful we are but accepts us eternally based upon the doing and dying of Jesus.
As has been said by others before, “We are more sinful than we can ever have imagined but we are more loved than we can ever have hoped.”
It was Jesus who taught that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). It makes good sense then that we can get a good read on what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths. Particularly as Christians, we can learn a lot about what we believe about the gospel by listening to ourselves talk.
There is one phrase that is particularly indicting. It is a phrase that unwittingly slashes the gospel tires while making a personal excuse. In other words, this phrase deflates the gospel of its power while inflating us with an excuse. As a result, I think we should dump it from our vocabulary. The phrase is: “I can’t.”