Candid Reflections

March 23, 2008

What am I celebrating today?

Filed under: Mindful Reflections — candid reflections @ 3:19 pm

Sometimes I get caught up in the happenings of the day and become distracted from the things that truly matter. 

Take today for instance…Is it really about the goodies and baskets…traditions created by man – or about the One who created all things for a purpose?    Should my focus of this day be the Easter attire and our “Sunday best” – or should it be to the One who looks past the outer appearance and into the heart?  Should the majority of my time be spent preparing feasts and filling my mouth, or preparing my heart to be filled with His unconditional and undying love? 

Something about understanding what Jesus did for me helps put everything into perspective.  His voluntary suffering and death on a cross provided the sacrifice that covered my sin, something I couldn’t do for myself no matter how good I tried to be.  He made a way for me to live eternally with Him.  Knowing that I am loved in this way brings such enjoyment to a day like today.  Remembering the gift that God gave in the sacrifice of His only son Jesus, and then His triumph over death make this a day of celebration.  I look forward to the day when I will be with Him forever! 

Examining my heart and motives isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it results as the most liberating thing to do.  The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, and putting my trust in Him brings the freedom that I can find nowhere else. 

There’s nothing like a little perspective eye opener.  I love this summary written by Carole over at Thoughts of Home, of a lecture given by a New York pastor named Tim Keller.

Here’s what she wrote:

The following are notes that I took while listening to a lecture on “Reaching the 21st Century For Christ.” Some of it is word for word and some is paraphrased:

We all know the difference between the Gospel and irreligion (where you just go off and do your own thing), but most of us don’t see a difference between the Gospel and religion. This is critical to understand. Unless you distinguish the Gospel from both religion and relativism in your church, from both traditional moralism and liberal relativism, newcomers in your services will automatically think when you are telling them to come to Christ that you are calling them to be religious.

Religion: I obey therefore I’m accepted.

The Gospel: I’m accepted therefore I obey.
That means the motivation of a religious person is based on fear and insecurity, whereas in the Gospel motivation is based on grateful joy.

Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.

The Gospel: I obey God in order to get God. I want to delight in Him, I want to resemble Him, I want to be close to Him…

Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong I am angry at God or I am angry at myself since I believe that anyone who’s good deserves a comfortable life. “If I live a good life then I deserve a good life.” When suffering comes it’s either “I hate Thee or I hate me.” I either beat God up or beat myself up.

The Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while He may allow suffering for my training He will exercise His Fatherly love within my trial. I am deeply aware that Jesus lived a perfect life and He didn’t get a good life. What makes me think I deserve a better life than Jesus?

Religion: When I am criticized I am devastated because my whole self image is based on the idea of being a good person. When criticism comes either I am incredibly furious or I am devastated.

The Gospel: When I am criticized I struggle but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a good person. Ultimately my identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me. So not only can I take criticism – it’s how I became a Christian! What does it mean to be “born again”? It’s to take criticism. However, a lot of people don’t see it that way. A lot of people think “I gave my life to Christ” means, “I’m going to try really hard to live according to Christian principles.” They don’t see that it’s a complete change in the way that I build my identity not on performance but on Grace.

Religion: Prayer consists largely of petition and only heats up when I’m in trouble because my main purpose in prayer is controlling the environment.

The Gospel: Prayer consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration because my main purpose is Him, getting God.

Religion: My self view swings back and forth between two poles. When I am living up to my standards I feel confident, but I am prone to be unsympathetic to failing people. When I am not living up to standards I feel humble and I’m very sympathetic to other people but then I feel like a failure. I can be bold but not humble or humble but not bold.

The Gospel: My self view is not based on myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simultaneously sinful and lost and yet completely loved by Christ. I’m so bad He had to die for me, I’m so loved He was glad to die for me – at the same time! This leads to deeper humility and deeper confidence at the same time.

Religion: My identity and self worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am and therefore I have to look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.

The Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the One who died for His enemies who was excluded from the city for me. I’m saved by sheer grace so how can I look down on those who believe or practice something different from me? I have no inner need to win the arguments.

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