Choosing Life

toasterContinued from here.

So, then, what does it mean to choose life? In a word, Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Follow Jesus, and he will transform you from death to life, which is why he came in the first place. Paul summed up how to do this here:

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” ~ Rom. 10:9-11

This is what it means to choose Jesus as your Savior and Lord, which is choosing life. Simply tell Jesus that you are sorry for living in death and that you want to live in life through him. It really is that simple, although I have said many times that simple is not the same thing as easy.

It’s hard to humble yourself, admit that you have made a mess of your life, and that you need a Savior. You know what’s even harder? Being dead … living only for yourself … making your own judgments about what is “good” and “bad” … bearing the consequences of those decisions because your worldview is skewed … being mired in bitterness toward everyone who has wronged you … taking advantage of other people before they take advantage of you… Being dead is hard work!

I gave up a lot when I became a Christian. I gave up my “right” to live my life however I feel like living. You know what else I gave up? Being dead! I gave up reliving all of the ways that my abusers harmed me … fixating on my bitterness … judging everyone around me while worrying about their judgments of me … suicidal urges … an eating disorder … severe anxiety disorder … panic attacks … self-injury … Yes, I gave up a lot for God, and following Christ was the best decision I ever made!

Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live. Are you ready to live?

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace popping out of a toaster saying, “Not bad. How are things in your life?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Why Jesus Came

lifesaverContinued from here.

So, if Jesus did not come to make bad people good, what did he come for? To make dead people live! That is the good news that if we really grasped, we would experience joy and peace every minute of every day for the rest of our lives! (And, no, I am not there yet, either.)

God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. When they ate it, they did not physically die. However, they did spiritually die, and that is what Jesus came to undo.

From the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their perspective shifted. Instead of seeing the world in alignment with God, they aligned their worldview with Satan, whose worldview is in direct opposition to God. Sadly, we have all inherited this skewed worldview, causing us to naturally behave in ways that are counter to God. Our problem is not that we are “bad.” The problem is that we are DEAD! This is why God told the Israelites through Moses to “choose life” rather than to “choose to be good:”

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ~ Deut. 30:19-20

Don’t be deceived – your default setting is death. If you do what comes naturally, you will consistently choose death over life. That’s the consequence of the Fall and why we live in such a broken world today. God gives us another option – to choose life, and He sent His Son to die for us to make this possible … not in our own strength but through the equipping of the Holy Spirit.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a lifesaver and saying, “Ur a Lifesaver.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus Did Not Come to Make Bad People Good

overruledContinued from here.

One of the lies far too many people believe – both Christians and non-Christians alike – is that Christianity is about “being good.” They mistakenly believe that the Bible is a rulebook of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” If I do this, then I get to go to heaven, and if I do that, I will burn for eternity in hell. That’s not why Jesus came!

If we could will ourselves into “doing good” by following a rulebook, then Jesus would not have needed to die for us. Paul captured this dynamic beautifully:

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” ~ Rom. 7:18-20

If it were possible to do what is “good” through following a rulebook, Paul should have been able to do so. After all, he was a Pharisee well-versed in the Law. And yet, as he so eloquently explained, he was unable to do what was “right,” even though he knew better than most what “right” is.

That’s why we need a Savior! Even when we know what is “good,” we are helpless to do it because the drive of selfishness is so deeply ingrained within us. So, it’s pointless for me to spend my time memorizing a bunch of rules and fixating on how I am going to follow them because I cannot do it! In my own power, I am helplessly “bad.” I am entangled in sin and death. The power of both is too strong for me to withstand. Thankfully, God provided us with a solution:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Rom. 7:24-25a

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace slamming down a gavel and yelling, “Overruled!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Futility of Trying to “Be Good”

nopeContinued from here.

When I was a teenager, I did try to “be good” and was mocked for it. I was called a “goody goody,” “goody two shoes,” and other such nonsense by my peers. I wrestled with “right” versus “wrong.” Adults wanted me to “be good.” My abusers “punished” me through severe abuse for “being bad.” My peers mocked me for “being good.” It seemed that no matter what I did, it was never “good enough:” I was never “good enough” for the adults or “bad enough” for my peers. Whatever I did was always “wrong” in somebody’s eyes.

As a child and youth, I was terrified of “being bad” because this came with dire consequences. My abusers would set me up to fail and then “punish” me for that failure through severe abuse. To this day, the dynamic of being placed in a position in which there is no possible outcome but failure triggers my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, despite all of the grace that God has lavished on me over the years.

Because of this deep fear, I came across as a perfectionist to the people around me. Everything needed to be “just so” for me to be OK. (This developed into Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in my 20’s and 30’s.) However, my underlying drive was not that of a perfectionist – it was one of sheer terror of the consequences of something not be “just so.” My “perfectionism” was driven by a severe anxiety disorder.

I tried really, really hard to “be good,” but I simply could not do it. No matter how deep the terror of falling short, I was unable to succeed in “being good.” “Being bad” (selfish) comes as naturally as breathing while “being good” (godly) feels like being told to walk on the ceiling. It is completely unnatural, and all the willpower in the world cannot make us successful at it.

News Flash: It is not possible to “be good” in our own strength. Thank God for sending us a Savior to do this for us!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running in fear over the words, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Jesus Came to Make Dead People Live

deadI have previously shared that I am enrolled as a student in Divinity School. In one of the lectures, the speaker said something so simple and yet so profound that I have been mulling this over for days:

Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.”

I do not know who to attribute the original quote to. This was tweeted by Ravi Zacharias, but a version of this quote is also included in a newsletter for the C.S. Lewis Institute in an article written by Thomas A. Tarrants, III. Regardless of who originally said it, it’s brilliant, and I am grateful to have heard it because this quote succinctly encapsulates the Christian faith.

I am always disturbed when I hear someone assume that my walk with God is about my efforts to “be good.” Believe me – I have no illusions about my “goodness.” Nothing within me is “good” apart from God. I know where I have been and what I have done. I know that by God’s standards, I am a murderer. While I have never taken a physical life, I have repeatedly relished envisioning torturing and murdering my abusers in such sick and twisted ways that it’s a wonder even God could forgive such evil … and yet He has!

Not only do I know what I have thought and done, but I also know my complete inability to be able to overcome my deep-seated drive to be “bad” – to be selfish, play God by judging others, and inflict my will on everyone around me. This drive of “badness” comes as naturally as breathing. While I might look sweet and innocent on the outside, there’s nothing sweet and innocent on the inside beyond what God has redeemed.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace’s head sticking out of the ground in front of a tombstone that says, “I’m Dead.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

A Lesson in Humility

airplane_take_offContinued from here.

I continued my meditation on the enormity of God as I flew to visit a friend out of state. As I looked out the airplane’s window, I considered the reality that God fills all of this space! He fills the plane, the atmosphere as far up as I could see, all the way down to the earth thousands of feet below, and every house peppering the landscape below.

And that was only as far as I could see! In that moment, He was also surrounding the Alps in Switzerland, the tropical fish at the Great Barrier Reef, and the penguins in Antarctica. Our God is truly massive!

Then, I thought about myself in comparison. I was taking up this little sliver is space in the middle seat of one airplane, wedged between my son and a stranger. The God of the Universe is EVERYWHERE, and I’m in this teeny tiny space. So, why do I often act as if the world revolves around me?

When I consider the mammoth size of God (actually, He makes a mammoth look teeny tiny), how distorted is my world view when I behave as if the world is supposed to cater to my desires? How could I possibly have any expectation that the rest of the world should defer to my whims?

And then consider my arrogance in trying to bend God to my will. How dare I tell God that He should do X, Y, and Z when my perspective is so severely limited. He sees EVERYTHING while I cannot even see through the seat of the person sitting in front of me on an airplane. How ludicrous of me to presume to know better than God how my life should go.

In my humanity, my own comfort often fills the frame of my perspective: what I want, need, or desire. So, what I view as “good” or “bad” is based on this teeny tiny sliver of space that I inhabit. Only God sees the whole picture. Only He is in the position to know what is truly “good” or “bad” because He sees the needs of EVERYONE. And He is good, so He cares.

C.S. Lewis said,

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

When I think about the enormity of our God – that He is, quite literally, EVERYWHERE, I am deeply humbled as I take my eyes off myself and place them onto my God, where they belong.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving through an airplane window above the words, “Ready for take off.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Promised Land Living: Importance of Humility

If you want to experience Promised Land living, you are going to need to become more humble, which is the key to Christian discipleship. Most of us balk at the term humility, but we wouldn’t if we understood what it actually means. The Bible tells us to walk humbly with our God and that humility is the fear of the LORD, which brings us riches, honor, and life. Considering that humility is the vehicle that brings us riches, honor, and life, shouldn’t we at least ask what it is?

Let me start by explaining what humility is not. It is not humiliation. God promises us a double portion instead of our shame, so He’s not telling us to humiliate or shame ourselves. Humility is also not weakness. C.S. Lewis defined humility best:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I’m no C.S. Lewis, but I’ll give you my own personal definition of humility: It’s choosing to stop being so full of yourself so you can start being full of God.

While I am no artist, I took a shot at trying to illustrate the stages of humility in the graphic.

progression_of_humility

The first graphic shows someone before receiving Christ as Savior. As you can see, this person’s body outline is completely filled by the person. In other words, the person has no humility and is completely full of herself. To quote Joyce Meyer, nothing makes you more miserable than thinking of yourself all the time. Sadly, this is our default setting without Christ.

The second body outline shows someone who has received Christ as Savior but not as Lord. Notice that she now has a yellow heart but otherwise still fills her body outline with herself. God has planted the seeds of the fruit of the spirit inside of her, but she is too full of herself for those seeds to bear fruit yet. Unfortunately, far too many Christians never progress from this infant stage. They can check “going to hell” off their list of worries, but their daily lives don’t look much different than the lives of those without a relationship with God.

The third graphic shows a Christian who is bearing spiritual fruit through discipleship. She is no longer full of herself, so her body outline is progressively filling up with God. Her life looks different from the lives of those around her, and people can see God’s light shining through her life. She still struggles with self-focus, as can be seen by contrasting this stage with the fourth graphic, which shows someone with perfect humility, a state that only Jesus ever accomplished. While you and I are never going to achieve perfect humility, we can choose to grow in humility by becoming less full of ourselves, leaving more room for God to shine His light through us. This is the key to discipleship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: “Progression of Humility.” Shows four body outlines. First: Cartoon of Grace taking up all of the space in the body outline. Second: Same graphic as the first but with a yellow heart at the center. Third: Yellow heart is the same size, cartoon of Grace is much smaller, and yellow fills the rest of the space in the body outline. Fourth: Grace’s body is so small that it is almost hidden behind the yellow heart. Almost everything in the body outline is yellow. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]