Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jesus didn't die so we can live good lives

(this is a bit ramble-y, but I should be working, so oh well. I just have to get my thoughts out.)
I had a really good discussion the other day which lead to this revelation in the shower. I felt the need to share it then. Jesus did not come to earth and die for our sins so that we can live a "good Christian life." The majority of Christians will say that leading a morally good life is the most important thing of being a Christian. (I read this in UnChristian, a book put out by the Barna Research group.) Wow! We as Christians are really missing the point. If that was the reason Jesus suffered and died, then it was in vain. The Pharisees had good living down. But Jesus chastised them, and told them they were missing the point. (Now he never told them living clean was wrong, but...) Jesus said it is about relationship. We need to reach out to those who are not loved, and love them! But before that we need accept God's love for ourselves- what would our lives look like if we really understood God's love for us? I have had just tastes of this and I know that is not the way so many of us strive to live (including myself). We would not be focused on the right and wrong. We would not be calculating how much time we spend in the Bible, and how many verses we read. I read a book from the Bible 2 weeks ago and I am still processing that! We so often look at quantity. If we can read one verse and be challenged or encouraged, then let's take time to mediate on that one verse. Anything we try to do out of our own power is going to fail. We need to focus on God, receiving his love, and let our lives flow from that. When I am focused on God, I am not concerned about every little detail, but paradoxically he is influencing every little detail - so much more than I would be able to do on my own.
On a related strain, I was thinking about how this would affect the way we teach our children. (speaking generally here as I do not have children) What if I did not teach my child that one thing is right and another is wrong? Don't freak out! Hear me out. What if instead, I taught them what is loving; what is God's character? We attended a message on how people often view right and wrong as determined by the Bible, but he (Josh McDowell) taught instead that right and wrong is determined because what is wrong is against God's character. So I was thinking how would this shape the way we teach children? I think with this approach, we could end up some amazing children, who love God and others throughout their entire life. If a child understood God's love from the beginning, then he or she would naturally share that. That's the way children are. And so we would have children blessing other children and adults like crazy. When they grew up, instead of rebelling against the rules, having understood God's love, they would be lights in their lives, loving and caring for everyone around them. What an impact that would have on the world. I get so excited to think about it.

Wood and Gold

So often when I think of what is expected by the Christian church, and even as perceived from those outside, is a misunderstood humility. An extreme example are those who live a monastic life. God does not call us to live without, but he calls us not to be dependent on our physical belongings. When Jesus told the rich man to give up his wealth, he was asking the man to put God before his possessions. This was not a requirement to be without, but an example of where our priorities should lie.
I feel that who I am supposed to be "as a Christian" is also influenced at times by this mis-perception: that as a Christian, many people feel I should not want earthly possessions, and if I do, then I need to pray about that. It is okay to want things, but the deeper desires, those for God should overpower the smaller earthly desires. And I would say this is true of myself. Yesterday I said, "I would like to have a nice home with nice furnishings, but relationship is more important to me; I would give up the nice stuff to be able to be with those I love and to be in a place where I can minister." (on a side note, I used to think I had to have a nice place to minister. Now I know it doesn't matter where I am.)
So all this to get to a verse I read in 2 Timothy. It says that we are like a home containing wood and gold items, and God wants to remove the wood. This caught me off guard. Personally I feel there is so much emphasis on being low, that I would have thought we would be all wood. But instead God wants to make us into something precious and pure. All this is to say that I often miss this point. Humility is not something that should be self-degrading, but it should be honest. As my example given above, I do think I need to pray about my perception of "stuff." I often mess up when it comes to (what I mistakenly see as) my things. Humility is admitting that, and glorifying God for the times when my perspective is not messed up. I need to see myself the way God sees me, as redeemed through Jesus' blood, and an heir to his kingdom. God values me and wants me to be someone of value.

2 Timothy 20-21: 20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.