Many things are simple to understand but incredibly difficult to master. For instance, a curve-ball. All that is required for a baseball to curve is placing a forward-right rotational spin on the ball. Pretty easy, right? Well… try to throw one. If you somehow manage to throw a curve-ball without wrecking your arm, now throw it at 85 mph so that a professional batter swings at and misses it! While the dynamics of a curve-ball are easy to understand, the ability to throw a solid curve-ball is rare and few have perfected it (the ones who have make millions each year!). The same is true of Christianity.
Think about it… Christianity is rather simple to understand:
Pretty simple, right?
The message of the gospel is that we can approach God without fear of judgment and condemnation because Jesus bore the full weight of the wrath destined for us. Christianity is a relationship with God instituted and initiated by God. It is rather simple; in fact, a child could grasp this. However, living this out is not so simple. Why? Our desires.
In Romans 1:24-28, Paul sheds light on the desires that motivate our wickedness. These desires are: 1) Our lust for impurity; 2) A thirst for degrading sexuality; & 3) a mind that elevates itself. All of us naturally yearn for the things God forbids! Meaning, we are born with an inherent thirst for evil. When we hear the gospel call us to Jesus, the core of who we are and what we desire must change. The need for such a change is easy to recognize and impossible to enact in and of ourselves.
You see, the difficult part of Christianity is not knowing the truth, the difficult part is walking in the truth. The truth is we do not have the power to live a godly life and in and of ourselves. This is why Christianity is so difficult for so many of us—we think we have to perfect and change ourselves through our own abilities! But this is not the case (see Gal. 3:1-5). Additionally, Christianity is not a one-time ticket purchase of a “get-out-hell-free card”—Christianity is a life-long, dynamic, and deepening relationship with God. Christianity is difficult for us because we face a constant temptation to dumb it down or live through our own power.
We like the easy road far more than we like the right road. Just as a pitcher practices throwing a curve-ball every day, so we too must practice the presence of God every day. In the course of time and practice, the young pitcher finds it easier to throw the curve-ball, and he does so with more speed and curve. In the course of time, we find it easier and more enjoyable to enter into the presence of God and enjoy Him.
This brings me to my question for the day: ARE YOU PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD?
Knowing that we should desire and do these things is not the same as DOING these things (James 1:22). It is easy to say we should seek the Lord, but the difficult work is the task of ceasing from the desires of our flesh and, instead, choosing to abide in the presence of the Lord. But know this… you are not alone or ill-equipped for such a task! Just as the young boy had a coach teach him to throw a curveball (and still does), we have a God teaching us and strengthening us to walk with Him!
I hope this encourages you to seek the Lord and enjoy His marvelous presence today!
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
How are we to understand these verses? I believe we can summarize these verses in the following statement: Godliness is neither natural to us or inherent within us. On the other hand, ungodliness is quite natural to us. We are far better at sinning and rebelling against God than we are at righteously living for God. Why do I mention this? Because our ignorance of God and His ways is our biggest handicap in our lives.
Some would say sin is our biggest handicap; however, this is not the case. Sin is a rebellious condition that finds its sole remedy in the Lord. Humanity has ZERO ability within itself to remove or purge sin. Only God has the ability to remove our sin from us, and He does so when we repent (turn/return) to Him. Consequently, if we never repent towards God we will never find forgiveness and restoration through God. This is why I argue that our ignorance of God and His work is our greatest handicap—our life is hindered and damned through our lack of knowledge of the Lord. However, many disagree with this concept.
Most people think we are inherently good, but that we possess a few weaknesses that must be overcome. So… we work hard and strive towards a self-determined morality deemed ideal. Jesus, on the other hand, looks at this approach and says “wide and easy” is the way to destruction, but “narrow and hard” is the way to life! How hard? Impossibly hard! In fact, only Jesus was able to perfectly follow the path of righteousness without sinning. That is why Jesus calls Himself the “gate” to life and salvation (John 10:9). It is through Jesus’ righteousness alone that we find life in its fullest (John 10:10). Inversely, it is through our way of life that we find death, destruction, and damnation (Prov. 14:12).
Our greatest challenge is responding to the Lord by drawing near to the Lord. We draw near to the Lord through His word and through prayer. This is why Jesus is identified as the Word (John 1:1) and why He tells us to abide in Him through His word (John 15:5-11). But herein lies the rub… the vast majority of Christians do not abide in the word of God to the point that it shapes their worldview (understanding of life). Sure, they may read the Bible, but they do not allow it to construct the framework for which they live. The Barna Group recently demonstrated this.
In their annual “State of the Bible” research poll, the Barna Group discovered that only 5% of Americans engage the Bible in a manner that is considered Bible-Centered. Meaning, there are approximately 17 million Americans that allow the Bible to influence and shape their choices. Interestingly, 38% of Americans are friendly towards the Bible and read the Bible anywhere from sporadically to frequently; however, these individuals chose not to identify themselves as Biblically Centered. Meaning, they do not fully submit to or agree with the authority and instruction of the Bible! Jesus would identify these individuals as walking on the wide and comfortable path!
Because godliness is not inherent within or natural to us, we must actively seek to know and submit to God and His instruction. Only the Bible is the authoritative, inspired, and powerful word of God—no preacher, friend, spiritual-book, or song can assume the place of God’s word in our life. Sadly, 66% of Americans identify as Christian, but only 5% of Americans actually submit to the word of God!
What does this mean for us? Well… I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions:
Sure, we have a sin problem, but our sin problem is the direct result of our rejection of God’s word and authority (see Genesis ch. 3). Let us not be found ignorant of God’s word and rebellious towards it!
I love you and look forward to worshiping with you this week!
Have you ever found yourself muttering those words under your breath? Why?
What stirs within us the desire to give up on something or someone? Last Sunday we noticed that God gives people up when they reject Him on principle, through humanistic-philosophies, and for idolatrous pleasure (Rom. 1:18-32). We see that God gives people over the things that they want more than Him when they consistently reject Him. But why do we give up. Sadly, we do not “give up” the way God does. God is righteous; therefore, when God “gives up” on someone He allows that individual the freedom to indulge in the evil they desperately desire more than Him. Stated differently, God does not force anyone to love or worship Him—He gives us the choice to do so. However, when we give up, it is usually the result of exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, or from the inability to see that value of pressing through the difficult times for the reward at the end.
All of us feel the temptation to give up on God.
Why do we feel like giving up on God? For starters, it’s not because God gives up on us; in fact, the Bible tells us that God will DEFINITELY complete the work He started in us (Phil. 1:6). We feel like giving up on God when we feel distant from God, feel isolated in our sin, feel the guilt associated with sin, and feel the damage of sin. We feel like giving up on God when we are in the midst of a heart change that relocates our source of pleasure in stuff to pleasure in God—the transition period is not always comfortable and makes us feel extremely unsettled! We feel like giving up on God when we face persecution, when feel that we don’t belong in various social groups we once identified with, or when we feel rejected by those we esteemed and valued. We feel like giving up on God when our finances are strained, our health diminishes, and our comforts are absent. We feel like giving up on God when those we love, like, and enjoy are tragically separated from us.
Pain, discomfort, rejection, persecution, and difficulties tempt us to quit our pursuit of God. However, the Bible instructs that these things can ACTUALLY MOTIVATE us to seek the Lord and experience His abiding comfort. While reading the Psalms this morning, I was reminded that the Lord is our source of joy when life doesn’t allow us to find joy. In Psalm 96, the author reminds himself (and us) to fear, worship, and glorify God. Why? Because God is honorable, majestic, strong, and beautiful (Ps. 96:6). The very things that we long for (and experience dejection over when we fail to secure) are eternally found in the Lord! Sure, we can look at the problems, difficulties, pains, and discomforts of life, or… we can look at our marvelous Lord and find an enduring hope, peace, and joy found in Him alone.
The author of Psalm 96 made a conscious choice to look at God and marvel in Him. In response, he experienced joy and excitement at the thought of God coming to the earth—even if it is to come and judge sin (96:13)! Why? Because he knew the Lord as the beautiful, glorious, strong, and one true God. You and I will either find life in God or work to find life in the things outside of God. What do you long for?
Let’s take this a step further and ask ourselves a few diagnostic questions:
I hope this encourages you to enjoy the Lord and find abundant life in Him! I love you and look forward to worshiping with you this Wednesday at 7pm. Until then, strive to enjoy the Lord with someone else today.