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Central Haywood church of Christ

Serving God from the mountains of North Carolina

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Perspective

Grace Centered

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Recently, I have been reading a lot of materials about this movement within the churches of Christ toward becoming more grace centered. It is quickly becoming the most important and at the same time, the most controversial movement within the church today. Continue reading “Grace Centered”

Stuck in the wilderness.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been seriously studying the books of the Old Testament. While studying I have come to some realizations that have been eye-opening and challenging at the same time.  This past week I have been studying the book of Numbers and trying to come to a better understanding of the bigger lessons to be learned. I have come to the conclusion that Numbers is a book that is extremely relevant and valuable in today’s church.

We must understand that faith in God and obedience to his words are central to being God’s people. Numbers show us that God always honors faith and punishes unbelief. At the root of Israel’s problems was their lack of faith in God. This unbelief plagued them the entire 40 years. It kept them from being successful and happy while marching toward their inheritance but more importantly, it kept them out of the promised land. Instead of claiming the Promised Land by faith they chose to wander and die in the unbelief. Too many Christians are stuck in the wilderness, marching to their death, never actually getting the blessings of God. Sometimes they are allowed to stand and look into the Promised Land but they don’t believe they can have it.

It seems like this is true of so many Christians today. Instead of claiming the blessings by faith they spend their time wandered somewhere between sin (Egypt) and blessings (Promised Land). They have been delivered from their Egypt but have not been able to get to the Promised Land, the new victorious life in Christ (Eph. 1:3). It is like they are aware of the blessings of God and desire them but they are not able to let go of Egypt long enough to actually get there. At every turn, every hardship, every little thing that doesn’t go the way they think it should, they want to give up and go back to Egypt. Thinking that it was at least familiar and comfortable. I am often amazed at the naïve way we look at the past, at the hardships, and forget just how bad life really was.

For Israel, Canaan represented a life of battles and blessings that they were unsure if they were able to accomplish. Too many Christians reach their Kadesh-barnea (the point of decision) and they look into the land, turn around and run. Instead of being conquerors (Rom. 8:37) their fears force them to march to their death, all the while, dying a little more each day. They have obeyed the gospel, become Christians but are falling way short of their blessings. In fear and unbelief, they miss out on God’s purpose for their life. They don’t trust that God is big enough or strong enough to overcome their giants, to knock down the walls before them, and part the waters standing between them and God.

I am sick and tired of watching Christians wasting away in the wilderness, stuck in a life that is difficult at best. All the time that Israel wandered through the wilderness, they were dying, and in fact, their total numbers went down. Christians and churches throughout our world are lost in the wilderness, wasting away, enduring unnecessary hardships, and failing to grow or honor God.

Instead of dying, stuck in the wilderness, let’s take God at his word and march to our promises.

A change in perspective.

One of the things I have been giving a lot of thought and prayer to lately is the idea of perspective and faithfulness. I have to admit that it makes me nervous to write this down because this is exactly the kind of thing that gets you labeled as a liberal and we all know how cruel others can be when they don’t approve of your thoughts.

The more I study about God’s grace and His Holy Spirit; the more I study about Jesus Christ, and what he really wants for our lives. The more I am convinced that my perspective on faith has been out of balance. The Old and New Testaments teach me about a God who loves me and wants my love and commitment. He is not a mean kid with a magnifying glass just waiting to burn this little ant of a person. He sees me much differently and I am convinced that I must learn to see Him differently too. He is not holding up a treat (like I do with my dogs), teasing me with the thoughts of something great, all the time knowing that I cannot jump that high. Our God wants us to succeed. He wants us to be at home with him, comfortable, and appreciative of what He is doing for us. He is the epitome of a loving and gracious father.

For most of us (I hope less and less each day), our perspective of faith and faithfulness is based on striving to be good enough. For me personally, my perspective has been (not as much anymore) one of self and works. I have always felt like I had to strive, with all my might, to be the very best Christian, preacher, husband, and father possible. I have worked tirelessly (to the point of burnout, physical and emotional exhaustion) as a Christian and preacher to be the best I could be. It seemed like it was totally up to me and when I failed, and I failed a lot, I had to drag myself to the throne of Jesus begging for another chance to get it right. All the time feeling like something was wrong, like something was missing in my faith.

Suddenly, I realized that the problem was a matter of perspective. I had approached my faith and the church with a flawed idea of God. I thought that if I could be good enough then I would be able to accomplish all these great and noble goals for myself and the church. A new perspective was definitely in order. As long as I continued to approach my faith, my work, and my ministry as something I had to be good enough to accomplish, I would continue to feel like I wasn’t doing enough.

I am sure you can sympathize with me. As Christians we have been taught, maybe conditioned is a better word, over time to believe that faith and Christianity was something we had to work at. Something we had to work hard trying to be good enough. Honestly, sometimes we would do great and sometimes, not so great. When it was all said and done; we walked away feeling like we were not good enough, had not done enough, and just couldn’t measure up. All it accomplished for us was feelings of guilt and worthlessness.

Church, I think it is time for a change in perspective for every one of us. It is time we quit focusing on trying to be something, someone else already accomplished, and focus on living our faith to the best of our ability. We need to accept that as people we are flawed, sinful, and always in need of Jesus Christ. We cannot be good enough to earn our salvation and we must stop trying to feel and act like we can. It is time that we accept that Jesus Christ was the only perfect person to every walk this earth. He died so that we could let go of a way of thinking that demanded more of us that we are capable of achieving.

The Gospel is good news because He stepped up and did what we could never do; be good enough. It is good news because I can accept his grace and mercy; striving to live to the best of my ability in appreciation for what he has already accomplished.

The change of perspective that I am talking about is that we are free to live, laugh and love, and fail as Christians because Jesus already accomplished being good enough. I don’t have to strive to be good enough anymore. Jesus sets us free from the works mentality and frees us to live in gratitude and thankfulness. We are free to revel in what He has already done; to revel in the love and grace of a God who loves us.

I am not a Christian because I got it right. I am a Christian because of Jesus. I don’t have to work to be good enough but I am free to work because of what has already been accomplished.

It’s time for a change in perspective.

 

 

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