Monday, October 20, 2014

Introspection, the Gospel, and Joy

The other day, I was laying on top of a large rock in the Nevada desert at nine o clock at night, far enough away from the neon I could actually see stars with nine other men.

Welcome to my life.

We weren't all laying together on the rock, you weirdos. We were spread out, spending time in the quiet and peace of a beautiful September Mojave Desert night, praying and searching our hearts with no distractions.

No phones, ipads, pagers, music, yelling kids, barking dogs. Just beautiful, peaceful silence.

When was the last time, you separated yourself from all distractions and noise and just spent time in solitude with the creator of the universe?

In front of me was a paper with scripture and thought provoking questions to ask myself. The scriptures all carried a theme of asking God to search my heart, try my spirit, inspect my heart.

As I read one of the questions, I stopped and thought.

When you read scripture, listen to sermons, and read Christian books, do you feel conviction for sin?

Totally. All the time. Constantly. I'm a forgiven sinner who is still full of indwelling sin and working on getting that crap removed. I beat myself black and blue over my sin. Go conviction and repentance!

Do you celebrate the successes of the Gospel and take time to enjoy your relationship with God?

Do I do what?

I realized that I take so much time to learn about my own depravity in contrast to God's holiness that I never take time to bask in the beauty and joy-filled exuberance of my own salvation.

While it is important to have a clear and educated knowledge of our sinfulness in comparison to God's unattainable holiness, God never intended that sobering information to be used as a means to abuse ourselves in to self-attained holiness.

On one hand, we see the depth of our sinfulness, how, everyday, we struggle to combat sinful tendencies and the sin that we struggle with over and over. We see how many of our decisions, though good in appearance, are laced with selfish motivation and rebellious intentions. We are broken.

On the other hand we see God in His holiness, eternally perfect in every way. His plans, His grace, His mercy, His judgement, His wrath, His love is all perfect all the time, all at the same time. His standards: perfection. Nothing imperfect can stand before for He is perfect. He emanates blinding glory, and His voice shakes the very foundations of the heavenly throne room. There is none like Him, and none are worthy to stand before Him.

Looking at these two truths is sobering, but I believe God uses this revelation to magnify one thing:
The work of Christ on the cross. By realizing our brokenness in context to God's immeasurable holiness, we see exactly how huge of an impact the work of Christ made. We went from being condemned to an eternity separated from God to being called "sons of God" and "heirs with Christ".

People talk about how unfair a condemnation to hell is when we brought that condemnation on ourselves. 

Want to know what is really unfair? Salvation. The perfect, righteous king of all giving His righteousness to an undeserving and broken people in exchange for their punishment. 
What a swell trade.

With this bouncing around in my head, I feel... Exuberant. Broken. Undeserving. Loved. Like I have purpose and value. Brand new. What else can make you feel like that? There's not a substance or relationship on this planet that can give you that freedom or feeling of phenomenal love overflowing and welling up like the purest spring in the midst of a barren wasteland of mirages and dried river beds. What else fulfills or heals like the eternal and perfect love of the creator of the universe? 

And how can you not rejoice in unbridled exuberance in the face of that undeniable truth? How can the spirit of the living God reside within you without dramatic change? What broken, ignorant person looks in the face of perfect love and looks away in undeserving shame?

Me. I do. And I recognize it as my tendency to view my righteousness as something I can earn rather than something that Christ handed to me while He was enduring my punishment. That's an unfair trade that makes me feel uncomfortable. As much as I struggle, there's no way I can repay Jesus for what He did for me. I belong to Him. He bought me out of slavery.

So when was the last time I took time to celebrate the greatness and goodness of the truth of the Gospel? When was the last time I marveled and rejoiced at the successes of the Word of God? Am I joyful in the face of my brokenness and Christ's restoration of my soul?

As always, I'm a growing work in progress. Lately, I can't help but smirk in the midst of brokenness and destruction, not out of a sadistic pleasure, but out of a joyful hope and expectant witnessing of God's glory.

I think that's what blows people's minds about Christians. In the midst of surging surf and rising tides, we turn our eyes to heaven and worship the God who created the water. 

Why? Because He IS our joy. 

Happiness is an emotion influenced by outwards circumstances and internal feelings. 
JOY is the direct product of faith in God's endearing faithfulness and sovereignty, having full knowledge that the lover of your soul is being glorified and is master of all.

Anyways. I've been working on this blog entry for over a week. I'll write a sentence or two, and then close it, hoping to find a way to finish this entry. I've let my busy, crowded schedule block out the joy and privileges experienced with being an adopted bond servant of the Most High God. It's like going to Disneyland and being so wrapped up in the crowds and standing in line that you forget that you are in line for freaking Space Mountain!

I think it's about time that I finally let this blog hit the web. Thanks for reading, guys! And thanks for bugging me to blog more. It really does help me write more of these!

Nate T B