I am amazed sometimes by the things I take for granted. Over the past few months I have been having a lot of conversations with various people and I feel like I am repeating myself over and over and over again. Basically what I say again and again is “Glorify God.” “Know who He is, take Him at His Word, then put Him on display in the way you live.” And I’m thankful for the chance to get to talk to them and remind myself of what it means and why it’s my life’s pursuit and ambition. So…I thought I’d take some time to share what my feeble understanding is of what this Christian life is all about for whoever may care to read.
There is not one square inch of our lives over which God does not say, “That is mine.” Because of this we are not able to live lives that pursue ease, comfort, or “normality.” We cannot just avoid doing what’s wrong, we must pursue what’s right. Paul wrote to Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
God gave us His commandments for our good. He doesn’t just tell us to do things because He wants to. He does it because He created us, He knows us, and He can see far beyond what we can see and knows the best and wisest and most pleasant way for us to live. Because in Him there is no evil, to be like Him is most pleasing and we will spare ourselves great pain and angst if we choose to live the way He has commanded us to. When we live this way He is put on display as the good, loving, wise, perfect Being that He is, and we are spared from the consequences that are inevitably reaped from a life of sin (although He does continue to discipline believers for our good). King Solomon wrote, “Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good” (Prov. 13:21). He gets the glory, we get the help.
The Bible is much more than a rule book- it’s a book that describes the God of the Universe, the God who causes men like Ezekiel to fall flat on their face, men like Isaiah to say ‘Woe is me, I should die’ when he saw God’s glory, a God whose heart and desire is to dwell among His people and so He gave His people commandments for their good and His glory. All of God’s commands can be summed with with “Love God and love people.” But to love God and love people is far from simple or easy. It is costly, time consuming, and hard. Our hearts are bent away from God- they run from Him so quickly to pursue satisfaction in anything and everything else. Moment by moment our hearts have to be closely guarded so as not to run after all kinds of other, lesser affections. It’s hard, tiring work. That’s the fight of faith- to love God by trusting Him completely, obeying Him, desiring to know Him, treasuring Him, glorifying Him, modeling His likeness in all that we do. This is the work of our lives, enabled by God’s grace. And we will fail miserably at it, driving us to the forgiveness we find in Christ. But we have to fight for this God-centered living and joy in God with such a vehemence and passion that, if we must, we would gouge out an eye or cut off an arm so that we are happy and satisfied in God.
And loving others is the natural overflow of that, because God has commanded us to. We can’t put ourselves before others, we can’t think we’re better than others, begrudge anyone. We are commanded to be in each other’s lives in such a way that on a daily basis we are encouraging, admonishing, teaching, and bearing with each other so that sin doesn’t overtake us. This takes a level of commitment and vulnerability that is overwhelmingly hard at times. And it’s messy. It hurts and takes great sacrifice and courage. Because our desires war in our hearts to do what we want to do, to get what we want, to be the best, to be praised and thought well of, to have our own space, to have time for ourselves, to not put forth effort when we don’t want to, to not serve when we don’t feel like it. But no matter what– our lives are about others, not us. So even though we may look at the call to love and feel destined to fail, and even though we may look at it and feel petrified of getting hurt, or being known, or sacrificing when it comes at a cost– we can stare it straight in the face and press on full speed ahead because we know that our God will never leave or forsake us. He will give us the grace and strength to do all He has called us to. He is working for our good in all of the setbacks, dissapointments, successes, failures, and joys that relationships hold.
The combination of trying to love God and love others is far reaching effects every single part of our lives. As Christ says over and over and over again, being His disciple will cost us everything. And I don’t just mean monetarily. It will cost us everything.
But, like the Pharisees, we don’t want to work that hard- to be constantly watching over our hearts and motives in everything we do. So we come up with rules to live by. A list of “don’ts” and that is Pharisaical. And Christ blew their list of “don’ts” apart in the Sermon on the Mount. “You think it’s wrong to commit adultery? You’re right. But it’s more far reaching than that- you can’t even look at a woman lustfully because of what it does to your heart.” That’s just one example. Inevitably a list of “don’ts” will never be enough. Because our hearts and motives are simply not that pure. It’s like so many people today who ask “How far is too far?” It’s the wrong question. It’s not about how much we can get away with- how much we can feed our flesh. It’s about denying our flesh. It’s about wanting to be like Christ because we love Him and trust that His will is best and His ways are most wise.
The Pharisees missed it. And we will miss it and live a very frustrating Christian life unless our aim and goal is to treasure God and be satisfied by Him. Life looks so much different when God is all. you. want.
God’s promise to us in all of life, whether we are called to the mission field or to the inner city, or the suburbs, to singleness or marriage, to a career or motherhood, His promise is that in dying to ourselves- our desires, dreams, passions, thinking, cravings- we will find life! And His promise is that the harder we work to save our lives- to have it just the way we want it- we will lose it. That’s the Christian life. Believing God so much that our life’s pursuit is to die to ourselves and live for His glory because we trust in the unseen reward. That we’ll have life abundantly, joy to the fullest, satisfaction greater than any earthly thing can provide, and an eternity experiencing the pleasures of God.
I say this to plead with you, and in with own heart, to give up whatever your small ambitions are and to live for something so much greater. What I’m talking about is the difference between trying not to do what’s wrong and LIVING for Christ. So that we can say along with Paul, “To live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21) and “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
In Romans 14:7-9 Paul writes, “For none of us lives to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be the Lord of both the dead and of the living.” God sent Christ to die and rise again so that He could possess us, provide for our needs, and so that we do everything we do to please Him and honor His name. So we have to determine our lifestyle, our conversations, our habits, our pursuits, our vacations- everything – by what pleases the Lord. And let others think what they want. But “half-hearted allegiance to Christ in the practical affairs of everyday life not only robs Jesus of the honor we owe Him, but it also robs us of joy and purpose.”
Thanks for reading this if you’ve made it this far. May we be constrained in all we do by God’s love and may His character shine through our words and deeds so that others may see and give Him the glory He is due.