God blesses and rewards the good and punishes the bad?
That’s not good news – that’s karma.
God invaded our planet NOT to make us nicer or better but to make us His own; to be different, not better. Lewis’s analogy is perfect: a better horse can run faster and jump higher than others; a different horse grows wings and flies.
It’s time to fly. For 2015, here is the final commitment – number one of seven – to help transform our hearts and minds to think and live differently.
Commitment 7: Don’t get so easily Offended
Commitment 6: Don’t be so Offensive
Commitment 5: Get Equipped
Commitment 4: Get Accountable
Commitment 3: Get rid of Agendas
Commitment 2: Love. Serve. Pray. Repeat
You can review and read about each of these commitments in the previous posts below.
The final commitment is the most important and the foundation for the others. It is a practice that has helped to deepen my faith, strengthen my resolve and widen my joie de vivre. It is really the first step.
Commitment 1: Examine Your Life.
Plato wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living.
Unfortunately, our culture provides defective perspectives and little space to examine our lives.
So we don’t examine our lives; or, we slip through life so quickly we think we are fine. We accept that we are not perfect but we certainly are better than most people. We do just enough to keep the spiritual lights burning.
“Our temptation is to look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted.” Lewis says. “We are in fact very like honest but reluctant taxpayers. . . We are very careful to pay no more than is necessary. And we hope—we very ardently hope—that after we have paid it there will still be enough left to live on.”
Does it Matter?
If we think examining our lives is unimportant, read these rather disquieting words from Paul:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5).
The context is that some of the Corinthians had questioned whether Paul was really speaking from the Lord. After answering them he turned the question of authenticity back on them: are you really in the faith? He wasn’t kidding. His challenge resonates with professing Christians today.
So, how do we examine and test ourselves?
We can look at the past and say, “I made the decision. I trusted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I asked Him into my heart. I’ve been faithful going to church.”
But the minute we start talking like this we realize how easily we are fooled by our habits and deceived by our hearts.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
Maybe it was because of our family, our school, our church or our friends, but we got into the habit of doing spiritual things – praying, reading the Bible, going to church, giving.
We know the right words
We know the lyrics of the songs
We have put in the time
We have put in the effort
We have the membership card, the decoder ring
We are in.
But maybe we were really converted to a youth group, a church, a music group, a girlfriend.
Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of God.”
So, just saying the words is not enough.
He goes on: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name and do mighty works in your name?’
And I will say to them, ‘I never knew you’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
And so, evidently “doing the will of God” is not doing some pretty amazing acts of ministry (prophesying, demon demolition) but having a far more personal relationship with him. He says “I never knew you” not “You never knew me.”
What Jesus thinks of us is far more important than what we think of him.
A Look Inside
So we look at our lives:
*Are we growing?
*Is our love deepening?
*Is our thankfulness expanding?[This is a crucial question. Thankfulness and grace come from the same root word. Grace taking root in our lives creates an attitude and life of gratitude in all things]
*Is the Spirit’s fruit (Gal. 5:22) more evident in my life now than six months ago?
*Do I really know Christ?
*Does he really know me?
As with any relationship, our relationship with Christ is either living and growing or else it is dying.
The real examination starts with an honest look at our heart. Yes it is deceitful, but not always. That’s why Paul, after telling us to examine ourselves, says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?”
We find it easy to orbit around the people in our lives. We crave and need their approval. Almost every waking moment is absorbed on what others think of me rather than what God knows about me. But, as Manning says, “When I draw life and meaning from any source other than my belovedness [in Christ], I am spiritually dead.”
He loves and accepts us not in spite of our sins and constant failures but with them and sometimes because of them.
Instead of saying, “God, how am I doing? Have I done enough?” We listen to him.
He says, “I love you. Bring me all of yourself – your lies, your lustful thoughts and actions, your cheating heart. Bring them to me. Stop hating yourself and let me love you. I do love you, you know. In fact, I am quite fond of you.”
“But . . .” we start to respond.
“No buts,” He says. “Remember my story of the Prodigal? His father did not require that his son clean off the swine dung or change his clothes before the father threw his arms around him, weeping with joy that his son had returned. That’s me, you know.”
He died to take away everything that stands in the way of calling him Father: he paid for our sin, cancelled our debt and forgave our rebellion. Until we take the radical step to cast our whole lives onto his grace, his promises and his love, we can never be known by him. “He knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7).
Through his Word and through his Spirit, we know that we are loved.
And this is where the examination ends. What we are required to do is trust. Not just every now and then. Always. If we do, the way we live will not only be different but the way we see the world will be different, too.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything (1 John 3:19-21).