What is Righteousness? (part 2)

So how is it, then, that we can be 100% righteous in our POSITION, but must constantly strive towards righteousness in our CONDITION?  We understand that the Bible is our “How To” guide on EXACTLY what a righteous life looks like, but how can we be both ‘all’ and ‘nothing’ at the same time?

Let’s first understand the righteousness of our POSITION in Christ.  As you saw on the graph, when we open our hearts to the understanding of God’s love and accept Jesus Christ, we are saved. And IMMEDIATELY, our righteousness shoots up to 100% and remains there until we die.  This is because, when we truly believe in the Son of God and believe in the opportunity of salvation, we are FILLED with the Holy Spirit! We spoke about this before–we are emptied of ourselves and we are filled with the Spirit! We are saved and our souls are sealed and protected from that point on. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Wow…WOW. So when this occurs, when we make the conscious choice to believe, we are 100% righteous in God’s eyes. How? Because He no longer sees us. He sees His Son in us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, is completely righteous.  So, in God’s eyes, our souls are 100% righteous and we are instantaneously forgiven. Forgiven for everything…forgiven for our past, forgiven for our present, forgiven for our sins to come.  THAT is the power of Jesus Christ and what His life did for us.  It offers every single person on this earth LIMITLESS forgiveness and grace, if they simply believe.  It offers us a seat next to the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE for all of eternity.  All it takes is one simple choice on our parts–a simple recognition that our life is far greater than ourselves.  A simple recognition that we are nothing without Him. A simple recognition that His sacrifice was not in vain, but was for the protection and freedom of our souls. With that simple recognition, we are saved. We are made anew and our lives here on earth can’t help but forever be changed.

Now we understand that our POSITION in Christ is unshakable.  We are 100% righteous, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are saved. Every single one of us who chooses to believe. Why then, does the righteousness of our CONDITION seem so volatile and inconsistent?

The answer to that lies in a topic we discussed before–our flesh. We are human. Every single one of us. And, since we are human, we are stuck in a form that is sinful. On top of THAT, we live in a world that is a whirlpool of sin! So we are stuck in a body that loves to sin, living in a world that sin thrives. Crap. We are 0 for 2 right off the bat. (Which should make you even MORE grateful that His forgiveness is offered so unconditionally, because without Him and His grace, we would be screwed from the get-go.) It is literally impossible to live an entire life free of sin.  Jesus Christ was the only man who ever has and ever will be capable of that.  Should that deter us from trying? Absolutely not.  And if you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, the thought of just throwing in the towel and saying “Oh well, I’m saved anyways. No point in trying to fight these urges to sin…” shouldn’t even cross your mind.  Because, as believers, we must recognize the importance of our role on this earth.

We must live our lives, every minute of every day, working to thin that sinful flesh and grow in our level of righteousness.  We must strive, constantly, to live more and more like Christ. Will we mess up? Yes. Will we be discouraged? Constantly. Will we be criticized and judged and put down? Every single day. Should we allow that to affect us? NO WAY! 🙂 You see, this line of righteousness is so inconsistent because we, as humans, are inconsistent. And we are surrounded by temptation, lust, desire, greed, sin, and everything earthly, impure, and temporary. And, unfortunately, we are surrounded by people who buy into all of that and can’t grasp the concept that it’s all empty.  But should we allow those people, who act in ignorance and unbelief, to affect us?…Or should we take the opportunity to share God’s love and grace and affect THEM? (I choose plan B!)

Lives can be changed and people can be saved if we, as believers, can be brave enough and bold enough in our faith to constantly strive towards righteousness in our condition and let God’s light shine on others. We, as humans, are the primary vessels for God’s light to other humans.  That is the importance of our level of righteousness in our condition.  If we can strive to live more like Christ, then Christ’s light will be able to reflect through us.  Through our actions, through our words, through our relationships, through everything.  And we won’t even always be aware of it! We can affect more people than we will ever know if we simply look in a mirror and work on ourselves.  If we simply open the Bible, understand the words, and work really hard to apply them.

IT’S NOT OUR JOB TO IMPRESS GOD. He already views us as 100% righteous. He recognizes we will mess up. He recognizes we will sin.  He recognizes we can’t do it perfectly. But our seat in heaven is assured.  We don’t have to “prove” anything to Him. It is impossible to “gain favor” with God.  We are already saved and assured salvation when we accept His Son.  IT IS OUR JOB TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT UNBELIEVABLE SALVATION AND TO ALLOW HIM TO USE US FOR HIS WILL.  It IS our job to work to thin our flesh.  It IS our job to turn away from the darkness and strive towards the light.  To humble ourselves and recognize we are nothing without Him. It IS our job to set an example for others and to teach as much as we can.  To WALK THE WALK, not just TALK THE TALK.  To grow and to learn and to live for HIM!

The level of our righteousness in our CONDITION is largely determined by us.  And it is completely indicative of the depth of our faith and our commitment to God’s will.  We aren’t trying to impress God, we are trying to show Him to others.  We are His vessels. We are his tools. We are His children.  And it’s our job to take even the slightest bit of the burden Jesus Christ carried and GLORIFY HIM!

So let’s stop making excuses. Let’s strive to thin that flesh. Let’s strive to improve our condition.  Let’s strive to glorify Him and serve Him.  To thank Him for the undeserved, unbelievable grace that He offers us. Let’s strive to live righteous lives!

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What is Righteousness? (part 1)

If you look back at the “Position .v. Condition in Christ” posts, you may recall that the y-axis of the graph identified our measurement of our “righteousness”. The graph showed that when we are saved, our POSITION in Christ shoots up to 100% righteousness. It also showed that our CONDITION in Christ, or our journey as Christians, worked throughout our lives to climb higher on the “righteousness scale”, but it bumped and stumbled along the way. Understanding this visual helps us understand what righteousness really is.

So then, what is righteousness? How is it defined? What’s the simple definition? How can we be both 100% righteous, and still waiver and grow and stumble in our level all at the same time? How does righteousness define our walk as Christians?

In the simplest of terms, Jesus Christ was 100% righteous. He was completely Godly. He was literally the Son of God. He came to earth to set an example for exactly how humans should live in order to please God. He basically set the perfect example for us. He lived a completely righteous life. And his actions and teachings were all recorded in the Bible. Therefore, OUR level of righteousness is determined by how “Christ-like” we live our lives. How well we follow His example. As Matthew 4:4 clarifies, it is living by every word of God–living according to God’s perfect law. In other words, striving to live like Jesus Christ lived–living a life of faith, love, and obedience.

As I said in an earlier post, 1 and 2 Timothy are FANTASTIC resources for defining why we should strive for righteousness. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 says,

“But you, man of God, flee from all that is of the world and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith.”

2 Timothy 2:22 goes on to say…

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

And, finally, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 lays out exactly how we can work towards righteousness by saying,

“All scripture is god-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

WOW! Beautiful scripture. So what does all of this mean? In the most basic of terms, it means that, in order to live as righteous as we can, and allow Christ’s light to shine through us as bright as it can, we must strive to live like Christ lived. How do we know what all that entails? THE BIBLE! It’s like a “How To” guide! haha. And what is most beautiful about it is that it is the living, breathing word of God. So, every time we open its pages, the words can hold different meanings and interpretations for our personal journey. But that is why the Bible is so important. That is why studying, digging in the Word, and learning is so crucial. If we want to live as righteously as possible, as we should all strive to do, we have to engage ourselves in His Word for guidance and growth.

A wonderful spiritual mentor of mine once taught me a great lesson…picture a chair. You can look at it, touch it, walk around it, lean on it, see it from every angle, feel it, and so on. And, in doing this, you may have an idea of what that chair can do. BUT, you will NEVER fully understand the magnitude of that chair’s purpose until you sit in it. You will never be capable of understand the comfort and relief and support and use of that chair, until you USE it. Now apply that metaphor to the Bible. We can glance in it, pull little verses out of it here and there, carry it around, flip through it…but we will never understand the magnitude of the Bible until we USE it–until we study it, read it, APPLY it into our lives, learn from it, and truly BELIEVE it! And in doing that, we can strive for righteousness. We can truly learn how to live like Christ!

If righteousness is defined as how Christ-like we are living, we must learn how to actually live more Christ-like by studying His Word–studying how it’s done. We can grow SO MUCH in our condition

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 2)

Alright, to pick up where we left off, let’s take a look back at this awesome visual…

We discussed an overview of what the graph represents and what the lines and colors represent up until the big “dot”. Then we discussed that, BAM!, that dot represents something so unbelievably powerful–that dot represents our salvation! (If you missed yesterday’s post, I would encourage you to look back and read it so that you can follow along from this point on.)

Alright, so our life-line hits the point of our salvation and suddenly breaks into three trails. Immediately, in that instant, everything changes.  Don’t be mistaken here, being saved is not just an emotional movement. It is a literal change that takes place inside of us. We are physically filled with the Holy Spirit. We are unmistakably different.

Let’s take a look, first, at the blue line that immediately shoots straight up to 100% righteousness and then travels horizontally at 100% throughout the rest of our lives. This line represents our POSITION in Christ. In other words, this line represents what God sees when He looks at us.  We discussed earlier in the “Redefining Our Reflection” posts that after we are saved, when God sees us, He sees His Son in us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. So no matter what we do, we cannot change that position. We are Saved. We are SAVED! Wow. Take a moment to let that sink in. THAT is God’s unbelievable grace. That is the TRUE definition of God’s unfathomable grace. That no matter who we are, no matter what we have done in our past, no matter where we came from…we are SAVED. Our souls are sealed. The red zone disappears because we are His. Can you even imagine that? That concept literally brings me to my knees. He would forgive a sinner like me? He would immediately, without question, secure my soul? I don’t have to prove anything to Him? I don’t have to be flawless or have a perfect past or even understand all there is to understand about Jesus? He loves me THAT much? YES. YES! YES!!! It’s unfathomable. It’s overwhelming. WHAT AN AMAZING GOD WE SERVE! WHAT A GRACIOUS KING!

THAT is what Jesus Christ’s life did for us. THAT is salvation. We will study much deeper into that a little later on. It is such an unbelievable concept. We will definitely return to it. But what an unbelievable truth. No matter what we did or what we do…no matter how many times we stumbled in the past or how many times we stumble in the future, if we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, that’s it. We are saved. Unreal. Check out this AWESOME verse. One of my favorites…

Paul, who once murdered Christians and was truly a horrible man–a man who society would dismiss and judge without thinking twice–was SO filled and moved by the Holy Spirit, that he wrote this scripture,

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The GRACE of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1: 13-14

Beautiful. He is so unreal.

Okay, now let’s take a look at the black, wiggly line that breaks from the salvation point. This line represents our CONDITION in Christ.  This is a line that is ever-changing.  A line that represents our walk with Christ and our growth in our faith.  It is wiggly because we are human.  Like we discussed before, we are bound by human flesh.  We are bound by temptation and emotion and greed and lust and everything else that falls into our human-nature. AND, to top it all off, we live in a world that sin thrives.  So this line illustrated our journey.  We have highs and lows in our walk. Everyone’s looks different. We have struggles, we give in to temptation, we learn, we grow, then we repeat it all again. We are incapable of doing it perfectly. But this line, this condition, is so important. Because this represents how Christ-like we are living our lives. And it represents how bright His light can shine through us to others.

In studying this line, you have to take into account the red line that breaks from the point as well. Just because we are saved, doesn’t mean Satan just goes away. No chance. He doesn’t have a shot at winning our souls anymore, but he definitely still has a shot at affecting our earthly condition in Christ.  Ideally, he would love for our paths to follow that red line’s course. That is what he is trying to drag us down to–because if we are incapable of rising above his lies, then we are incapable of properly teaching non-believers and spreading God’s word.  The more he can affect our condition, the more he causes confusion, and deceit, and temptation and resentment.

Our condition in Christ is basically what we work at our whole lives. The reason we study the Word and go to church and participate in fellowship and constantly strive to grow in our faith is so that we can grow in our condition. It is NOT so that we can “impress” God and get a better seat in heaven. No way. It is impossible to “earn” His love. It’s already granted–100%–when we accept His Son as our savior. I think we often have the perception that we are “working” our whole lives to “get in” to heaven. No. That’s just not the case.  What we are working at our whole lives is to grow closer to Him. To teach others and to share His love with as many people as we possibly can. Not just through our words–but through our actions and through our hearts.

Does that make sense? It’s so beautiful. It’s blindingly beautiful. And it’s so humbling.  I feel like this is a topic that isn’t taught clearly enough in our society.  So many people have such a skewed perception on what salvation really is and what our true purpose is, as Christians.  He loves us SO much and He asks SO little of us, but SO much of us at the same time. Nothing about our condition in Christ is easy. It’s so challenging. And it’s even harder growing in our condition in this world that we live in.  But that is what we strive for, as Christians.

So that is a general overview of that visual. I hope it all makes sense. In the next several posts, we will start to look at each specific component in much more detail.  We will break it down and see how it applies to our lives and how we can better understand it all. He loves us so much. That blue line says it all…

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 1)

After feeling drawn to go off on that emotional tangent in the last post, I sat down and spent a great deal of time in prayer about the direction of the blog right now. I know I told you we would start by evaluating love and relationships (and TRUST me, I am pretty neurotic and want nothing more than to stay organized in the sequence of posts), but I really don’t believe that’s what He wants right now.  So, I am going to put a pause on our study of love and relationships and rewind us a bit.  I want to take us back to the basics again. I really feel like there is much more that needs to be elaborated upon and taught, pertaining to the fundamentals of our faith, so that we can better appreciate the journey.  It would be a futile attempt to teach if I continue to write about what “Mo” wants to write about and didn’t listen to what He wants, so let’s take a step back and understand the fundamentals a little deeper.

One of the most important and mind-blowing understandings that I was recently introduced to was the difference between our “position” in Christ and our “condition” in Christ.  Understanding this principle serves so many purposes.  It has been instrumental in pushing me towards self-forgiveness.  It also allows us to understand the true definition and magnitude of God’s grace.  As well as appreciate the significance of the forgiveness offered to us by Jesus Christ’s life.  It is all relative to our assurance of salvation and what it truly means to be saved.

Below is a really basic, really helpful visual that totally altered my outlook on my salvation when I was taught what it meant.  (You’ll have to forgive the handwriting, I had to write it all backwards because the camera was flipping the image. haha.) So let’s take a look at this overview and, over the next several blog posts, we will break down exactly what it means…

Okay, so before you let your mind wander and you get confused, let’s break this down piece by piece.  This is a graph that illustrates our hearts and our walks with Christ. Every single person’s graph looks different. Every single person’s is individually tailored to them throughout their lifetime.  This one simply serves as an example. Along the bottom is our time here on earth (this graph stretches to 100 years).  Up the y-axis is a measurement of our righteousness.  In other words, it is a measurement of how “Christ-like” we are living. Synonyms for this would be our purity, or our morality, etc. This is what we strive for, as Christians.  1 and 2 Timothy are fantastic resources for “defining” what righteousness really is. If you have a Bible, jot down these verses and take a look at them–1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Timothy 3:16. (Again, Righteousness is something we will elaborate on more later.)

If you look at the graphed line, it starts at our birth. Though we are each perfectly and beautifully constructed by God, we are born into a world of sin. So we start at zero. The dark line shows our lives before we are truly saved. Before we truly accept Jesus into our hearts and recognize what He did for us.  As we are exposed to the Word, we grow and mature, so that line tends to crawl upwards.  However, just because we go to church and hear the Word, does not mean that we are saved. A tough lesson I had to learn: going to church isn’t just our “ticket in”.  This line looks different for everyone. The variations of this line are innumerable, but they all start at zero.

If you notice, this line is in a “zone” that is shaded in red. Any red on this graph represents Satan.  Yikes! I just got a little scared, too. But this is the fact of the matter. If we live our lives in the zone that is shaded red, our spirits and our souls are fair game.  God grants us free will. He grants us the right to choose. He is a just God.  But if we live our lives in this zone, then we are still subject to His wrath.  Unfortunately, Satan still has equal access to our spirits. And trust me, Satan LOVES when people’s souls are in this zone. He thrives on it. He loves when people turn from Christ and refuse to recognize the truth or are captivated by what this crappy world has to offer.  Because, sadly, this world is Satan’s playground. So think about it…what happens here? What happens if you die in the red zone? What happens if your brother, or your best friend, or your teammate or your boyfriend dies here? What happens if they live their whole lives and never recognize Christ as their Savior? I mean TRULY recognize Him?…….Do you get it? THAT’s the urgency here! That’s why it’s so crucial that, as believers, we spread the word as fast and as passionately as we can.  Because if someone has been exposed to the gospel and they die in the red zone–if someone’s life is cut short, or even if they live a long life and never humble themselves to the truth, it’s game over. Satan wins that soul.

So now you’re probably wondering what the giant dot represents. Ahh! I LOVE this part! So we live our lives in the red zone for a while.  We live our lives in this dangerous place. But the moment we TRULY recognize the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for us…BAM! SAVED. Holy cow…SAVED! Can you even wrap your head around that? That instant, that moment that we truly let Him into our hearts, that moment that we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit…BAM! GAME OVER, SATAN. Good try, big guy, but you lose. AHH! Doesn’t that make you want to jump in the air and give a massive fist pump. GEEZE! God is SO GOOD! That moment that we let down our guards, that we fall on our knees to His power…in that moment, our spirits are locked and sealed and we are SAVED. Man oh man, this is a topic that I could sit here and type on forever, and we will look at it in more detail soon, I promise.

But, wow. So incredible.  Okay, so we hit that dot on the graph. And if you notice, the red zone disappears and several different lines break from it. Now, what does that mean? What does that represent? Who are we after we are saved?

(to be continued…)

 

 

Redefining Our Reflection… (part 3)

I want to take a deeper look at what it means to be a true woman and a true man of God.  Now only can this help us reevaluate how we act, but it can also help us identify characteristics we should seek in others–especially if we intend on spending time with them or entering into a relationship with them.  We discussed our identities through salvation and the beauty God sees in us, but in order to redefine our reflections, we have to learn a little bit about how we should strive to carry ourselves.

An individual brought up a great point in the comment section of the last blog post.  This was a point I was planning on studying, in detail, later on, but I would like to touch on its relevance now, as well.  As humans, we are stuck in a bit of a predicament.  Because, in recognizing Jesus Christ as our Savior, our souls are sealed and protected.  We are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  However, we are still bound by our humanly flesh during our time here on earth.  And that flesh is ugly and riddled with temptation, lust, greed, and sin.  It is the “human” in us all–and it’s gross.  That’s what made Jesus Christ so phenomenal. He was a human being. He was bound by the same flesh we are bound by.  He felt all the same temptations, emotions, urges, desires.  But He STILL lived perfectly.  We must recognize that, for us, that is an impossibility. There is no way we can do it flawlessly. But, it is something we should STRIVE for–something we should live for, daily.  As Christians, we should work towards thinning that flesh so that His light can shine through us as brightly as possible.

With that being said, it is not enough for us to sit back and coast. To think, “Okay, I recognize that He’s real, I recognize what He did for me. But, I guess since I’m bound by this flesh and since He’s always going to forgive me, then it’s alright for me keep living how I’m living. I guess it’s alright for me to remain comfortable in sin. Because, this guy’s sin over here is far worse than my sin. I’m a good person, so I’m good to go.”

That mentality is so off-base.  It’s a mentality that I, myself, held for a long time.  That’s a very human thought process.  If this forgiveness is endlessly offered, then it is a human reaction to attempt to take that for granted.  To try to slide by. To compare ourselves to others and to weigh our sins. But that is so far from what’s real and true.  That mentality is so dangerous.  I know I functioned like that for a very long time.  And I can tell you now that, even though those thoughts still run through my mind occasionally, the Holy Spirit is convicting.  And if the Holy Spirit is truly living inside of your heart, you will feel the conviction of wrongful action.  Whether or not you show it on the surface, whether or not you express it, whether or not you even openly acknowledge it, you know where your heart stands.  You know when you are acting in flesh.

I told you this year would be convicting.  I refuse to sit back and say only what is going to “feel good” and make us all feel warm and comforted inside.  We have to be broken of our earthly mentality.  We have to be broken of our thought process that has been conditioned by this crappy society.  And in order to be broken, we have to be uncomfortable.  We have to reevaluate ourselves and be honest with ourselves.  If you are surrounded by people who constantly tell you that what you are doing is so wonderful and right and good, and you never stand eye-to-eye with someone who tells you that you could be better, and holds up the BIBLE as proof of the improvement you can make, then you will never grow.

If we are going to TRULY redefine our reflections and live for Christ, then we have to humble ourselves. We have to let down our guards and open our hearts.  We have to feel that conviction and RECOGNIZE it! Recognize that it may take a shot at your ego or your pride; that it may embarrass you or anger you or stir up your emotions. But there is BEAUTY in humility. There is BEAUTY in our scars. So let down your walls. I’m right here with you, doing the same.

Break through the flesh that is binding you down and strive for greatness.  We strive, daily, for advancement in our lives.  We strive for the starting spot on our athletic teams. We strive for the promotion at work.  We strive to make more money. We strive to be perceived as having the perfect family. We strive to be the most popular. We strive to be the most famous.  We strive to be the most attractive. We strive to be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, the best. SO WHY DONT WE STRIVE FOR THAT SAME ADVANCEMENT IN OUR FAITH? What are we so ashamed of? What do we have to lose? A little ego? A little pride? Get real. Break down the barriers this society says we should build around “religion”.  Break down the perception you have of where “religion” should be kept on your schedule!

Being a Christian is not about just being in church on Sunday. Being a Christian is a 24-7, 365 day a year TRUTH.  Why are we suppressing Him? He is in fellowship, He is in bible study, He is in church, He is in the workplace, He is in our schools, He is at the dinner table, He is on the football field, He is at the bar, He is in the port-a-potty, He is in your car, He is in the airplane, He is in the homeless shelter, He is in the huts of the homeless, He is in the fields of the farmers, He is in the waves of the sea, He is EVERYWHERE! He is everywhere. Who are we to ignore Him? Who are we to try to stifle Him? All He wants is for us to see Him. And to love Him. And in return, He will love us more passionately and more fantastically than any other love we will ever know. He is waiting for us…He is waiting for you. Open your eyes and see Him. Then fall in love and break down your barriers and climb on top of the tallest platform you can find and PRAISE Him. NEVER be afraid to praise Him. Never stop praising Him.

Let’s step away from who we were. Let’s make ourselves so vulnerable that we are raw. Then let’s study Him. Let’s study the Word, and let’s figure out what it all means together.

I know I went off on a bit of a tangent today. I promise next post we will get back to the topic of being men and women for Christ. We will start really studying together.  I just really had all of that on my heart and had to let it pour out. I love you, and He loves you. Let’s be exceptional. Together, let’s learn…

Redefining Our Reflection…(part 2)

Okay, we discussed the beauty God sees in us once we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We discussed that, in His eyes, we are literally emptied of ourselves and filled with His Son–and there is no greater beauty than that of Jesus’ Spirit. (Still mind-boggling to try to understand, but amazing!) So how does that define us? We know what we look like to God once we are Saved, but what does it look like to other people? How is that beauty reflected through us?

To put it in the most black and white terms, when we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ literally lives inside of us, it is impossible for Him not to shine through us.  So the beauty that defines us and that others see, should truly be the beauty of Christ as well.

To sit here and say, “We must live our lives like Jesus Christ did…” would not only sound cliché, but it would also not even touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an explanation of the beauty we should host in our hearts.  1 John 3:18 does an amazing job of summarizing it in saying,

“Dear children, let us not simply love with words and tongue, but with action and in truth.”

If you look at the context of 1 John (not to be mistaken with the book of John) it addresses our salvation and clarifies what it means for us to truly be saved and for the Holy Spirit to live in us.  It also provides “evidence” of exactly what it looks like for Christ to live in someone’s heart. Evidence of the beauty that then shines through that person.  So, this particular verse, though not drowned in detail, says volumes.

A study of the Bible, or simply of the New Testament, for that matter, is a study that lasts a lifetime.  It is a study of the life of Jesus Christ and a guideline for how exactly we should strive to live our lives.  It is extensive and detailed and FILLED with unbelievable truths, but it takes patience to learn.  Each passage addresses a different concept, each book addresses a different pillar of our foundation in the faith.  We should strive to study the Word and mature in our walks daily…hourly…constantly.  But we must also understand that we will never learn it all. We will NEVER be able to do it all perfectly. Only He was capable of doing that. HOWEVER, the Bible also tells us that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with hunger, filled with comfort, filled with conviction. So, though it may be impossible to ever learn it ALL and apply it ALL constantly, when you are TRULY saved, that becomes your all-consuming objective.  That becomes your identity. That becomes your greatest goal. And THAT is the beauty that others see within us–the beauty that truly matters.

As Christians, if we are truly walking in the light, then not a single person should ever be able to cross our paths without clearly seeing that there is something different about us. I’m not simply talking about the people closest to you, I’m talking about everyone–I’m talking about our teammates, I’m talking about our fraternity brothers. I’m talking about the man you bumped carts with in the grocery store. I’m talking about our co-workers. I’m talking about the taxi driver you sat with for 5 minutes. I’m talking about your neighbor, your doctor, the janitor where you go to school. I’m talking about the one person you despise the most. The person that bullies you or torments you or makes you feel any less beautiful than you are. That person deserves, more than ANYONE, the opportunity to see that light through you. Because that light will affect them. No matter what. Whether it hits them now or it hits them 20 years from now, that light WILL change them. And you may be the only person in their life that has the opportunity to shine on them. (We will touch more on this concept later in the year, as well, so stay tuned!)

But THAT is the beauty we should search for in others and that is the beauty we should allow to shine through us.  It is not hard to see. At all. It is not some mystical element that you have to be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of.  This world would love to tell us that form of beauty is an illusion or reserved only for the “best” people. No, it is not visible on the surface of our skin, but it should pour from us the minute we open our mouths. The minute we move. The minute we smile.  That beauty is not the beauty this shallow world recognizes and, sadly, not a beauty that every person has recognized is within them yet. But it is a beauty that is contagious.  And it is a beauty that can only be spread through us. We are His vessels.

Step back. Take a look in the mirror. Take a very long look at yourself.

Do you find yourself beautiful?

(to be continued)

Redefining Our Reflection…(part 1)

Step back. Take a look in the mirror. Take a very long look at yourself.

Do you find yourself beautiful?

I don’t mean “beautiful” in the same sense that this world defines beauty. I am not talking about how groomed your hair is, how tan your skin is, how white your teeth are. I’m not talking about whether you are a size 2 or whether or not your clothes are expensive and new.  I’m not talking about your body type or even your smile. I’m talking about true beauty.

I am talking about the only type of beauty that God sees when He looks at us.  I’m talking about the most magnificent beauty–the beauty of our hearts and the beauty of our condition in Christ.  I am talking about the beauty of your soul as a true man or woman of God.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that this world is blind to, because it is not simply visible on the surface.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that people so easily disregard now-a-days. REAL beauty.

Before we can even begin to look at love and relationships, we have to redefine our own reflections in the mirror.  How can we be anything for anyone else, if we aren’t even aware of who we are for our King?  How can we enter into friendships, fellowship, and romantic relationships, if we don’t know our own identities? Too many people get lost that way. Lost and never found. We can’t be defined by any other identity than our identity in God.  Meaning, we aren’t defined by our athletics, we aren’t defined by our careers, we aren’t defined by our husbands or our wives or our children. We aren’t defined by our “roles”. We aren’t defined by our hardships, nor are we defined by our successes. Our identity is defined in Christ.

What, then, does that look like? What does our beauty look like to Him?  What does it look like to be a man or woman in Christ? That answer lies, most clearly, in the gospel.  In understanding our salvation, we can understand our beauty.

We discussed earlier that the way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Plain and simple.  The belief in Him and the belief in the truth of His life, His death, and His resurrection.  The Bible clearly tells us that when we are truly saved–meaning, when we TRULY accept Jesus Christ into our hearts–then we are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  THAT is the true definition of the grace God shows us.  The Bible tells us that the moment we accept Christ into our lives, Christ literally lives inside of us.

Woah…take a moment to let that sink in.  Because that’s incredible.  You may be sitting there, staring at the computer screen, totally confused right now–so let me explain in the most basic of terms.  The book of John does a fantastic job of teaching us about our beauty because it teaches us about the Holy Spirit.

Imagine waking up every single day and not worrying about a single thing.  Not analyzing what you were going to be doing that day. Not living by a schedule or a plan–but simply waking up and following one man.  That is what Jesus’ disciples did for years.  They followed Jesus, with complete trust, through every step of every moment of every day.  Throughout His life, Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that He would die one day.  The disciples were really upset because they didn’t want Him to leave them. They didn’t want to be abandoned.  They placed so much dependency and faith in Him, that they didn’t know what they were going to do without Him. But Jesus was prepared for their reactions, and He made a promise to them (and to all of us).  He told them that, though His body would be gone, He would still be with them.  His spirit would live in them.  He may not PHYSICALLY be there with them any more, but He would never abandon them.  They believed in Him so, therefore, He would always dwell in them. THAT is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is Christ’s spirit inside of us……..wow. (I just did a fist pump thinking about how amazing He is! haha) Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, it is not a one-sided deal.  We aren’t just making a sacrifice and giving, giving, giving…it’s an exchange.  In giving control to Him, He fills us with His spirit!

Can you even imagine? Can you even wrap your head around that? Incredible! When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are completely filled by the Holy Spirit. We are drowned in Him.  Once we have accepted Christ into our lives, we are emptied of ourselves.  When God looks at you, He does not see YOU anymore. He sees Jesus Christ. He sees His son. What an unbelievably humbling concept. Can you believe you even have the honor of hosting such a spirit? But that is what He tells us.  That we are no longer ourselves. Rather, we carry Christ in us. Ah! No wonder it always feels so amazing! 🙂

To tie all of this back toward the beginning, ask yourself again what God sees when He looks at you.  Ask yourself again how beautiful you are. If you believe in Him, the answer is simple…He sees His Son! He sees the beauty of Jesus Christ! And THAT is the truest, most overwhelming, most humbling beauty that exists. You are SO beautiful. You are SO BEAUTIFUL. You have to believe that fact.  If He is living in you, you are SO unbelievably beautiful.  No matter your past, no matter your flaws, no matter your sins, you are beautiful in His eyes.

Now how does that beauty define us?…

(to be continued)

“His Mosaic”

I fancy myself a mosaic,

a mosaic constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed,

beautifully humble, yet odd.

 

For I once was I clean sheet of glass,

free from blemish or flaw.

I was polished and buffed, fragile but tough,

pure and simple, yet raw.

 

What you must understand, is a clean pane of glass

reflects light with splendor and awe.

But it lacks dimension, lacks retention

and only shines on an area, small.

 

But God took notice of my flawless pane

and saw potential for greatness and use.

He knew it would sting, He knew I would scream,

but He knew I could withstand abuse.

 

So He sat down, alone, on His sturdy workbench

and slid my heart into a darkened sack.

Though it hurt Him to do, He knew what was True,

so He swung a hammer and felt me crack.

 

The first blow of the hammer, I lost control

and was broken by an evil disease.

It consumed my thoughts, consumed my body,

but His hand still held me with ease.

 

The next blow of the hammer, my father was gone

and the pain split through to my core.

My breaks turned to shatters, my heart was left tattered,

but He knew I could withstand more.

 

The final swing of the hammer and everything stopped,

I stared death in its formidable eyes.

My body was broken, the pain left a token,

but my spirit was ever alive.

 

The King then sat back, with the sack in His hand,

filled with my broken self.

He then gently restored me, gently He poured me

onto a magnificent, heavenly shelf.

 

With much care and patience, God pulled on His gloves

and began to sift through my remains.

He took His sweet time with a vision, divine,

and pulled pieces of virtue and pain.

 

One-by-one He gently placed the fractures He pulled

into an empty and pure frame.

While I struggled and grew, a battle ensued,

and He humbly took all the blame.

 

But He never stopped working, rebuilding my heart,

He toiled throughout many years.

He so often showed grace, loved me through my disgrace,

and in time, He banished my fears.

 

An artist of power and an artist of Truth,

He carefully re-sculpted my heart.

With much concentration and much designation,

the beauty shone through from the start.

 

When His work was complete, He welcomed me back

and led my soul to His humble workbench.

With the pride of a Father in love with His daughter,

He held tight to my hands as they clenched.

 

He pulled back the canvas that shielded His art

and revealed to me His masterpiece.

I was blinded by beauty, in awe of it truly,

and humbly, I fell to His feet.

 

You see His light that shined, through my restructured heart,

shone with glory and refracted abound.

It danced to the ceiling, sparkled with feeling,

and touched all that rested around.

 

Before my adversity, before all the trials,

I was a pane of unweathered glass.

His light could shine through me, but though there was beauty,

it had no opportunity to refract.

 

In breaking me down and building me up,

He had very clever intent.

For now when His light shone with delight,

it was scattered, refracted, and bent.

 

It could reach every corner and touch every heart

that came within its new bounds.

I could now shine His light, with power and might,

to all who yearned to be found.

 

I was humbled in thought that He cared for my heart

with such personal, attentive grace.

It was then that I learned, it was simply my turn,

and that others filled infinite space.

 

You see He works on us all, every single heart,

for we are all His children anew.

He loves us so deeply, and spends time with us neatly,

rebuilding even YOU.

 

I fancy our hearts as mosaics,

mosaics constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed

Beautifully humble, yet odd.

“Back to the Basics” (part 3 of 3)

Pillar #3–the proof.  One of the three most important foundations of our faith that we must believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. #1–Jesus Christ was a real man. #2–Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died and rose again. And #3–The Bible is the Word of God.

This is yet another topic that I feel like people are quick to say, Duh, obviously. Of course it’s the Word of God. But, again, there are a number of elements that go into this belief. A number of elements that are really helpful to be reminded of frequently.

You see, the Bible is obviously the first thing that people associate with Christianity.  Just as the Torah is associated with the practice of Judaism,  the Quran with the practice of Islam, and so on. But what IS the Bible? What all does it represent? Why should we just believe everything it says? Who wrote it? Why are there so many different translations and versions? And can’t I just search for verses when I need them for motivation or inspiration?

I’ll explain, in brevity, an overview of this fantastic book.  The Bible is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, which is also recognized by the Jewish faith, was written by divinely inspired prophets. Don’t let that term intimidate you–essentially, the Old Testament was written by individuals who were spoken to by God long before Jesus was ever born. Individuals who recognized that there was a greater power at work and were communicated with by our King.  They were able to communicate their understandings in writing and document historical information from as far back as the creation of the universe.  Fantastically, all of their stories and translations lined up perfectly with one another’s AND came to fruition in the future and the New Testament–giving validity and evidentiary support to all of their prophecies.

The New Testament, on the other hand, picks up at the birth of Jesus, and serves as historical documentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–written by Jesus’ disciples and well as other individuals involved with Jesus throughout His life. Essentially, it is a documentation of all that this fantastic man taught, all of the miracles He performed, and all that “proves” the magnificence of God.

Since the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by God, and the New Testament was written about the Son of God, we MUST believe that the Bible, as a whole, is the living, breathing Word of God.  You may be wondering what I mean when I say the “living, breathing” Word of God. But the words in the Bible are exactly that. There are individuals who have read the Bible cover to cover, memorized the pages, and teach of its magnitude. Those individuals, who seemingly should know all there is to know about the Word, STILL read through it and find new meanings to new applications, daily. You see, there are no defined meanings for the words of the book.  It was not God’s intent to give us a history book to study. It was His intent to give us a reference that human beings could open until the end of time, and constantly learn and grow from.  It was His intent to provide us with a means of communication directly to Him. That’s not meant to sound mystical or eerie, it is simple fact. The Bible is a book of beauty that opens a door to His Kingdom.

Recognizing that it is, in fact, the Word of God, we can’t allow ourselves to be “cultural Christians”. We can’t just open the Bible when we need a motivational quote or a neat scripture. We can’t just pull out the pieces we want to believe. If we are going to believe one single word in the Bible, we HAVE to believe every single word. It is not our right to pick and choose what we think is true.  As Christians, we have to recognize that it is the Word of God, and challenge ourselves to live by it. To apply it. To work, daily, to obey it. We have to study it and to challenge ourselves and the people around us, constantly, to grow in our relationship with our King.

Being a Christian is not easy–especially in the world we live in today. It is not glamorous or comfortable or simple.  Being a Christian is not just being a good person.  It is hard, it is challenging, and it is humbling.  It requires us to be MEN and WOMEN. Real men and women of God.  It requires us to have integrity and humility and understanding.  It requires us to set aside our egos and our desires and our dominance. It requires us to humble ourselves, daily, and realize that our world and our lives are not just about US. It requires us to give up control and to be different. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him like He, unconditionally, loves us. Do you believe? Are you up for the challenge?