Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Love of a Holy God

“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” Jeremiah 23:16-17

Jeremiah strikes fear--and probably the healthy kind--into my heart. This book is full of descriptions of Israel that can so easily apply to the condition of our culture in the United States, especially the Christian subset.

Today, I think we have a better grasp than ever on the concept that God is love. He doesn’t just love us-- He is the very embodiment, the definition of love. Love is integral to everything that He does. This, in itself, is wonderful.

But goodness, I think we may have taken it too far.

We’ve applied our modern concept of love to who God is, and it just doesn’t make the cut.

God is Holy.

God isn’t just uncomfortable with sin, but accepting of it anyway. God isn’t just embracing everyone’s choices as their own to make and perfect in themselves.

God hates sin.

He despises rebellion against Him and the order He created.

He loves us, but a love for the sinner and a hate for the sin are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. You would hate the drugs that destroyed your friend’s life, you would hate the drinking that caused the wreck that took the life of a loved one.

God hates sin. He hates the thing that mars the glory rightly His. He hates the thing that tears apart the creation he so dearly loves.

So why, why, why do we insist on embracing it?

Like the prophets in Jeremiah, we like to say what people want to hear. I know I’m guilty of it, at least. I want my friends to love God. I want them to see God’s love for them. I want them to be able to move past guilt and shame and bask in the loving, open arms God has for them. I want them to know He calls them as they are, broken and sinful, to find redemption in Him.

I believe these are Biblical concepts.

I don’t want them to feel like they need to fix themselves before they come to God, because it’s that very train of thought that ensnares me so often.

But, in an effort to effectively communicate this, I-- and many other Christians-- overcompensate. Instead of preaching a love that offers an opportunity to turn from sin and allow God to radically change our lives, we preach a “love” that says we can have peace without a change of heart, that God isn’t angry with us (AKA: God accepts our sin), and that we are fine just the way we are.

We aren’t fine.

In the words of Dr. George Calhoun: God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.” [source]

God offers His contentment and peace and love to everyone. But truly accepting that means seeing our sin, seeing our brokenness, and handing that to God. Repentance is laying ourselves at God’s feet, acknowledging that we are helplessly sinful, and agreeing with him that our sin, which separates us from Him and from the benefits of His love, is ugly.

And we submit ourselves to God.

That is when peace begins, and that peace continues as God begins to wreck our lives and rebuild them into something truly beautiful.

So please, let’s stop telling each other that God’s love means we’re okay in our sin. Let’s stop jumping to tell each other we have peace with God-- and start encouraging each other in the peace that comes from submission. Let’s share the love of a God who wants to bring us out of our sin and carry us onward. Let’s share the love of a God who wants us to be in fellowship with him, who is willing to take us as we are-- but not willing to leave us as we are.

"Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God....truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel." Jer. 3:22

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Stop Waiting for the "Real World"

“Just wait till you get out there in the real world….’

As a college student, I've heard this phrase over, and over, and over again. Sometimes it ends with “...this will seem like nothing,” or “...then you'll understand,” or “...then you'll see.”

Today, I’m going to throw something else out there for my buddies who are also in those precious stages of life before college graduation.

Dear friend, please don't wait for the real world.

Please don't wait for it, because you're living in it, now.

Look around you. Look at the place where you live, the school you go to, the church you attend. You are surrounded by opportunities to impact the world around you. You are surrounded by living, breathing human beings. And even if you aren't surrounded, you must have access to the internet, or you wouldn't be reading this. All those things connect you with information, opportunity, and humanity. How can anyone say this isn't a valid part of reality? Sure, it’s not what the rest of your life will look like. Sure, you have a lot of things being given to you that you will have to fight for in your future. Don't deny that your life will look a lot different after graduation.

Just don't waste the very real world you are in right now.

Friend, you have the opportunity to grow and develop as a person. That does not change when you graduate. It just changes form. Don't wait to start becoming who you should be.

Friend, you have a lifetime of learning ahead of you, if you'll choose to learn from experience when you leave books behind. But you don’t have to wait for those experiences to hit you like a wall of bricks. Go after learning: inside and outside the classroom.

Friend, you have every capacity to make a difference in the lives of this around you, whether or not you have a 9-to-5 job. In fact, the freedom you have now, as the world gives you a bit more leeway than it will later, gives you the opportunity to do things you might never have again.

Friend, just because you have the option of being noncommittal and disconnected does not mean you have to be. And, for the record, that option doesn’t go away. Choose the right one, starting now.

Your life is no less valid because you have the luxury of a summer vacation.
Your life is just as legitimate, your experiences as meaningful, as anyone “out there.”

Please stop living these years just  waiting for the future. Your life begins at birth, not graduation. The choices you make now are key to living with meaning. Take smart risks. Make stupid jokes. Show love. Speak the Gospel.

You don't have to wait until you've met someone else's expectations of realistic experience to start engaging the very real part if the world you are living in now.

Now, don't get me wrong. As college students, most of us don’t really understand our taxes, or support families, or know exactly what it's like to live on our own. We have so much to learn, and the people that say “just wait for the real world,” are probably just trying to communicate to us (because we're often rebellious know-it-all’s who don’t know as much as we think we do) that we have a long road ahead.

So when you are presented with that statement, take the opportunity to learn. Ask them questions. Apply their answers to your life. Respect those with more experience than you. Honor them. Be humble. You know what? They've had more time than you. Chances are, they're smarter than you in many ways.

But if you start to feel like your life right now is worth less than theirs is because you are in a phase of life where you are preparing for the future, then you are missing what it means to experience the real world.

Embrace every single moment you've been given, especially the one you're in.
Because if you keep waiting for reality to sink in, it never will. God put you where you are for a reason.  Find that, and go after it with everything you are. Most of all, use your time to pursue Him above all. Whatever you do, don't sit around waiting to engage your world.