Monday, April 4, 2011

A Heart Broken For What Breaks My God's...

I recently spent a few days in the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with my family for Spring Break. I remember thinking at the on-set of the trip,"Well I hope I can just relax, have a good time, and survive this trip". I had no idea that getting away from everything and spending time out in the great outdoors of God's beautiful nature would result in God revealing so many things to be. About myself. and about Him. I'm happy to say that for once I didn't stampede into the presence of God with words and phrases and worries like Solomon tells us in Scripture a fool does, I just sat back and listened to Him. And honestly, it has pretty much changed everything.

For the longest time now, I've been trying to lay out before myself, and come to a conclusion about, what are the areas in my life where God isn't glorified like He should be. What are the areas in my life where I want to please man instead of exalting Christ? Where have I fallen off the path to holiness in Christ and gone my own way? Every evening, as I knelt down overlooking the mountains, I did nothing but pray. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the only thing that came to my mind was "God, I can't figure this out. Show me the parts of my life that don't love you the way they should. Tell me if I'm not loving you with the best of my life".

I found out something about myself. Right there, looking out over God's beautiful creation, with no one around but me and God, I was convicted in a way I never have been before. The reality of everything hit me like a ton of bricks: In my own life, I tend to let the smallest circumstances and anxieties distract me away from my dependence on Christ to deliver me through times in which I don't understand, and in the power and understanding of God to reveal to me accordingly what I'm supposed to do in difficult situations. I'll break that down for you: Basically, I try to take the reins of control over my life in my own hands more often than I've ever wanted to admit. God's been awakening in my heart for a while now the desire to want more of Him. And He finally broke my heart this past week for what I would consider one of the most crucial components of following Jesus, and that's this: trusting Him with everything in my life, and never hesitating to hand over myself to Him.

To illustrate what I'm saying, I want to draw attention to an amazing quote by a great man of Christ, Southeastern Seminary professor and Christian author Alvin Reid:

"Some believers fail to witness because they know there are issue in their lives that bring reproach to the name of Christ. While some mistakenly think they have to be on some higher spiritual plane before they can witness, there are issues of obedience we must face to be effective in personal evangelism".

Dr. Reid continues on to point out how the consistency of possessing the true character of a follower of Christ is ultimately what defines everything about us. There simply cannot be voids and holes in our lives where absolute trust and confidence isn't being placed in Christ to lead our lives and give us strength when we need it. We can never grow in the righteousness of Christ, and desire to be vessels through which God can perform His wonderful works through if, in our hearts, we aren't willingly obedient to hand over everything to Him: our worries, our lack of understanding, our fears, our doubts, our confusions, and above all: our sins. every single one of them.

In the quiet of the evening, staring into those mountains, with my head bowed and my heart wide open, I realized a brutal, but yet beautiful truth: If I'm ever going to make a difference for the Gospel of Christ, if I'm ever going to help expand the Kingdom of God and take on God-sized risks, if I'm ever going to have the dream to travel wherever God leads me and evangelize people who I know desperately need salvation through Christ, then what it's going to take is radical abandonment. Abandonment of all of the thinking in my mind that actually tries to convince me that I know how to do it all on my own. Abandonment of the fear of feeling like this is too much for me and I won't be able to do what God has commanded me to do. Abandonment from caring for the judgement and acceptance by the world of people who I know will never understand me in the way my God does. In our personal lives, we must be obedient in allowing God to remove from us what is holding us back from faithfully serving His purposes. If we outwardly are preaching and teaching, and on the inside it's all a massive contradiction to the way that we are Really living our lives, then we're liars and impostors in the faith. We end up doing nothing but pointing people in a direction that Jesus never went in. Why do I call this "brutal"? Because giving it all up and asking God to cleanse me and take control will be the mindset that removes any control I will have on my own life. For most people, that will destroy them: to know that this life isn't up to them to decide where it should go and how it should be lived. But for me, it's a long-overdue promise that I now fully understand is necessary to my faith. If I lose this life I live, I know I will that much more gain the Christ I love. And for the rest of my life, I will let that be the biggest definition of the man that I am.

Some say the hardest thing to do, when it comes to the life of a Christian, is to figure out what God's will for our lives is. I disagree with that. I think that the hardest thing for us as Christians to do is to actually be willing to do what God has revealed and commanded for us to do. And so, with boldness and bravery, with a strong faith and a willing heart, with a powerful trust and a sinful life touched by grace, I will give the best of who I am to God. Gone are the days where this life is mine to direct. Gone are the days where what matters to me the most is how I look to the world. Gone are the days where my main focus in life is everything opposite of what brings honor to, glorifies, and demonstrates the infinite value of my savior to a broken human race. The time is now. My servitude as a steward of God's grace is rooted in the most powerful force this world has ever seen, and that's God love. My prayer right now, knowing the fear of the Lord, is to persuade others to grow in the faith by exemplifying a more passionate and Christ-honoring walk of faith. My cry is the apostle Paul's cry for courageous action and urgency in carrying out the message of salvation to the world, understanding that we have the opportunity to be reconciled back to God and that we must let the penetrating love of God compel us and flow through us as we strive to be sanctified in Christ. As we bring the truth of love and hope to a world in need, I pray we are devoted to God's vision above our own, alive in Christ's strength and not our own, and determined to see the truth of God prevail above anything we want for ourselves.

It doesn't matter what this world thinks of us. It doesn't matter what we don't understand or what doesn't make sense to us. What matters is God has given us everything we'll ever need in Christ. The hope of nations, the King of Kings, the Lord of everything we are is never far away. The opportunity for salvation is always there. The opportunity to repent, for those who are saved, or for those who may be considering the Christian faith and might be struggling with something, is always there as well. God, in His mercy and grace, looked on a world covered in sin and loved us through His son's sacrifice. He never gave up on me, and He won't give up on you either. We are supplied with extraordinary talents and gifts to witness and to share the Gospel to people. God is at work in us even when we don't feel like He's there. Join me as I take up my cross and follow Christ, lean not on my own understanding, and trust in the faithfulness of God to always know what step I should take, where I should go, and what I should do for His wonderful Kingdom. God bless you all.

2 Corinthians 6: 4-10 "But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, though slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything".

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