Thursday, January 3, 2019

Now, where'd that get to...it was just here!

There are times when what I need is right there in front of me, but for some strange reason, I just don't see it. I was working in the shop the other day, using a small level to ensure some shelves were put up squarely. The first one up, I was ready to install the second. Wouldn't you know it - that level was nowhere to be found! It was right there a moment ago, but at the moment I needed it, it had vanished! The sad truth is that it was right there in front of me, just slightly hidden by something I had placed half over it! While new life in Christ is available to all, we must still choose to avail ourselves of what is right in front of us. God stands ready to both give us his gift of grace and to forgive us in his mercy. There have been lots of periods in our growth as a society when that message came through loud and clear. I am not so sure that God's message of salvation is as clear, or as loud as it once was - it has been drowned out by the many other messages we hear today. It has been obscured a little by other things that seem to cover over that message of hope.

God's readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation's available for everyone! We're being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness. (Titus 2:11-14)

The truth we need to hear clearly is that our new life in Christ starts right now - it is always fresh and new. There is nothing stagnant about serving Christ - it is a living message, constantly filled with the discovery of truth. God's message may not be the the loudest, but it is the most consistent one, even in times when it seems the 'other messages' we are hearing are louder. There are all kinds of other messages that promise good things, but they soon fall short of fulfillment because they are not backed with anything of enduring character. Just like that level, the truth can get obscured by some other messages being proclaimed a little louder, but none will do the job of the message of truth! Nothing would substitute for the level when I needed it. I have a few others in the shop, so to have that one obscured was inconvenient, but it wasn't a total loss at that moment. The message of Christ is without substitute, though. There are no other 'interchangeable' messages or truths that will do what his message of hope will!

God not only provides the way or means to salvation (restoration with himself and full forgiveness of our sins), but he shows us how to live this life out in our daily walk. We are not left to figure this "new life" out all on our own. We have his assistance each step of the way - to make sense of our choices in a world that often offers choices that are contrary to what is best for us. I am a novice woodworker right now, so every project I begin requires a bit more research than others may engage in who have been at it a little longer. I have to study how the cuts are made, how the joinery is accomplished, what bits to use with the pilot holes, and even which finish is appropriate for the task at hand. There are lots of resources I can turn to with my learning needs for woodworking, but only one resource that fills my heart to overflowing, restores my soul, and fills me with true joy. That resource is Christ and his grace - nothing else guides us quite the same, nor accomplishes the task required within us quite as well.

God's goal is that we become less "self-absorbed" and more Christ-centered. As we turn our backs on those things that indulge our lusts, we are being shown how to find fulfillment in having Christ at the center of our choices. Today's blessings are just a "whetting of our appetites" for what really lies ahead for every follower of Christ. Notice, this "new life" experience, the blessings that come with it, and the hope for what lies ahead are not simply for those that "believe" in Christ. They are for those that "follow" Christ. Scripture tells us that many "believe" - even the devil! It is something else to follow. I can read a whole lot of directions on how to complete the project in the shop, but if I fail to follow them what is produced is not going to work out that well! Believing in Christ is simply having the confidence that he exists, that he is reliable. Beliefs are something we may have confidence in, yet they may not fully direct the course of our actions. When we are followers of Christ, we move into a place of accepting his leadership over our lives - we align our goals with his, our desires are submitted to his planning, etc. Believing is having understanding - following is putting into action what it is that we believe.

We are to turn our backs on a godless life and take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This is never done by simply believing in all the right stuff. It is only "lived out" in the exchanging of one set of goals (our self-indulgent ones) for another set of goals (those with Christ at the center). Beliefs impact our actions, but they are not actions themselves. Therefore, we need to take what we have come to believe about Christ and put his leadership into practice in our lives. When we do, we begin to live the "exchanged life". If you are a believer in Christ - that is the beginning point. Your next step is to become a follower of Christ - allowing his authority and leadership to direct the course of your steps each and every day. It is time to put into practice what you have come to believe! Just sayin!