Don’t take your convictions for granted

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How do we fall so far?

I was sitting in my Pastor Carl’s office a few months back talking about some things I was struggling with. In the midst of it all, I told him that I’d be willing to give anything up for Jesus. Wisely, he heard my words as more habitual than real, the remnant shadow of past genuine conviction.

“You need to cultivate that, Sarah,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted. Convictions must be nurtured, or they become empty words.”

It reminded me of another conversation, with another pastor, Andy, several years before. I was grieving the fact that several Christian leaders, who I’d long looked up to, who had trained me and nurtured me and developed me in my faith, had drifted away from their convictions. Instead of the passionate faith-filled people they once were, they are living their lives like cold coals, far from the fire in which they had once burnt so brightly.

“How does this happen?” I lamented.

“They lost sight” Andy said, “They stopped watching the Lamb.” (This is a reference to a song- the lyrics are here).

I do not believe that true salvation can ever be lost, but it is a certain tragedy that our love can grow cold, in the very midst of noble sounding platitudes.

I must not assume that a fire that once burned bright will continue that way without careful tending. Today, afresh, I must commit to holding only to Jesus, with a willingness to let all else go.

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What I discovered about drinking the blood

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Knowing the God of the Bible, it is no surprise to me that His book is unparalleled in its elegance. The symbolism and imagery is astoundingly sophisticated considering the time period over which it was written and the number of different pens put to parchment.

One of the strongest symbols in the bible is that of blood. It is the blood of a living being that carries its life, and it is innocent blood that must be shed to cover guilt.

Two compelling pictures of blood impacted me in a new way recently, as I received a fresh understanding of the significance of the communion drink.

The first communion occurred at Passover time, drawing a direct connection to that night when the Israelites, enslaved in Egypt, painted the blood of a lamb over their doors so that they might be saved from the angel of death. This blood acted as an external covering that protected them from the wrath of God.

Jesus does something amazing when he institutes the new covenant. No longer are we to paint this blood covering on the outside, but we are to consume it. The blood of the new covenant transforms us from the inside out. As we drink the cup, we willingly take into ourselves the symbol of the atonement. This metaphor of Jesus’ blood enters our digestive system and is absorbed into our own bloodstream. In this profound image we are not just covered by the blood, we are transformed by it.

Jesus was never all about you.

proud_21072161Today I’m pondering the humanistic nature of… well… humans. We seem to believe that the whole universe revolves around us, which is, of course forgivable if you take God out of the equation. What bothers me though, is how much we still seem to believe it, even with God in the equation.

 As we approach Christmas, we do take the time to focus on the birth of Jesus, but I’ve been wondering – why do we think that Jesus came?

He came to redeem us (of course); because he loves us (He does)… but was it really all about us?

I think too often we think it was and we reflect that in the way that we attempt to emulate Him. Our mission on earth, in an attempt to reflect His, often becomes very human focused.

I’m convinced that Jesus was never all about us. He was all about His Father. His entire purpose on earth was to do the will of His Father; to serve and glorify Him, even to the point of death. The amazing thing about this was that it was the will of the Father that we should be saved; that Jesus should serve us and suffer and die for us.

As we aim to follow Christ, I think it is important that we follow him in this; that we realize that Jesus was all about glorifying the Father, and that his focus on humanity was a glorious byproduct of that.

Jesus beside the Cross

torn-cross_21293264This weekend I visited the young adults’ camp for my church. While I was there our pastor spoke about having no confidence in the flesh or the law, but rather trusting fully in the person of Jesus Christ for both our salvation and sanctification. Even as he was speaking, I found myself wresting with my need to feel more repentant; to work harder to know Jesus, to somehow maneuver myself into the right frame of mind.

I closed my eyes and took my insecurities, fears and sins to the cross. But instead of laying them there and walking away, I wrestled with them. I wanted to do it right; I wanted to feel genuine; I wanted to know that I was truly repentant.

In my mind’s eye I saw the cross: empty, with blood running down across the muddy ground beneath my knees, and as I struggled with myself at the foot of the cross, I saw the face of Jesus, standing to the side. He looked on me in love and compassion, and gently reminded me ‘Sarah, it is finished.’

When people come to the cross, attempting by human effort to make some form of restitution for their own sins, they will not find Jesus hanging there. Instead He stands beside it, to remind them that ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing we can add to the cross. Jesus paid it all, and then it was finished, for now and forever.

Why is the message of Christianity offensive?

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The message of Christianity is offensive because it’s exclusive.

One of the foundational premises of Christianity is that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. He claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life and that ‘no one comes to the Father except through me.’ Acts also states that ‘…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among menby which we must be saved.

Christianity claims to be the one true religion, reconciling people with the One True God. You can accept it or reject it, but you can’t mix it with other faiths or worldviews.

I’m sick of people ranting about how Christianity is all about tolerance and acceptance. I wonder if these people have ever read a Bible. While Christianity welcomes all people, irrespective of their sinfulness or their past, it demands total allegiance; the renouncing of all other paths and the acceptance of salvation through Jesus alone.

This can be hard to swallow, but there is one massive payoff: It’s the truth! As Paul said ‘… the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’

The Gospel message saves people! It offers hope, it transforms lives and it restores fellowship with God. It is the greatest miracle to have ever touched humanity.

It’s exclusive because it has to be; because it IS the only way. It’s a Jesus plus nothing message, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.