“I Will Give You A New Self Instead”

This quote is shaking up my view of redemption. In his essay, “is Christianity Hard or Easy?,” C.S. Lewis really turns the tables on American cultural Christianity and shows us what’s keeping is rooted in sin.

“The ordinary idea which we all have is that…we have a natural self with various desires and interests…and we know something called “morality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self…. We are all hoping that when all the demands of morality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on…

The Christian way is different—both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work—so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self…I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self—ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead…

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”—our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field—all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.”

Dang. That makes a lot of sense. Why are we letting our old selves be “tortured” when we can be plowed up and be created wholly new?

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A glorious mess

You know that feeling when there’s stuff everywhere and the dishes are in the sink and you’ve got three people texting you about “urgent” matters and you can’t find matching socks? Those days when you have so much on your mind that you can’t concentrate on what’s right in front of you, when you are up all night trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life, when you randomly start crying because you burned the toast again- or maybe because you’re simply exhausted? That’s my entire life right now. I’m kind of a mess.

I’ve always identified myself with what I do. When I’m getting to know a person, it’s all about what I do. “I’m an intern with Cru, I lead Bible studies, I attend a community group, I play guitar, I live with an international students, ect.” Which sounds like a natural thing until I realized this week that there’s more to me than what I do. ShockingSeriously though, I’ve never considered that before. My life is so performance-focused, all about doing the right things, pleasing the right people, excelling and succeeding. But having an identity rooted in performance is becoming extremely problematic.

I had FINALLY found something that I could do well- agriculture. But this year, God directed me to intern with Cru. Leadership and ministry do NOT come naturally to me. It is a struggle every single day, and it’s not getting any easier. The learning curve is huge and most of it is “learn as you go.” Which is synonymous to “learn by making mistakes.” So as a performance-based person, every time something doesn’t go well CRASH goes my identity. I am “good” and “acceptable” when I am on time, prepared, and confident. I am “bad” and “worthless” when things don’t go as planned. And I don’t think I’ve had a single day this quarter where things went as planned.

But guess what? God doesn’t value or love me because of my performance. He loves me because He CHOOSES to love me. His very NATURE is love. It would go against His nature to stop loving me. How awesome is that?! And if God loves me, nothing else really matters.  Read Ephesians 1:3-12 (The Message version really brings it home for me. Sometimes I need it in my language; emphases are mine).

3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

God has designed me for glorious living. That means living in a way that gives glory to God, not necessarily in a perfect way. In fact, my failures force me to remind myself of the Gospel and of God’s surpassing grace. I think that gives God a LOT of glory!

So, identity. My identity is in Christ. It’s okay that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. It’s okay if I am late to the Bible study I’m leading because I forgot to eat dinner. It’s okay if I am horribly confused by what an identity outside of performance is. Because I know who I am in Christ. I am beloved and valued, worth more than any amount of money. I can’t disappoint Him- Christ’s already paid for my failures. I can’t do anything to make Him love me any less.

And I’m going on a personality hunt 🙂 a friend pointed out that after work each day, I get a chance to  start to live my life. I get to discover who I am and what I enjoy. Anyone want to come along on the ride? It’s gonna be a mess- but  a glorious mess!

What a One-Legged Skeleton Taught Me About Worship

What a One-Legged Skeleton Taught Me About Worship

Meet my friend the dead saint. Somewhere along the road he lost a leg, but then he got bedazzled and placed in his own little altar in a church in Germany, where people pray to him hoping he’ll talk God into letting them go to heaven.

WHAT?!!  Crazy but true. People are worshiping this dude. In a cathedral. I started digging through the Bible to figure out what kind of temple God really desires. Surely it’s not this!

Originally, God told Moses to build a tabernacle, or a portable tent temple, for Him to dwell in while the Israelites did circles in the desert. His instructions were clear that it should be made of only the best material (Exodus 26). This was to reflect his power and holiness, and He wanted all the nations to know of His glory.

Solomon builds God a permanent temple in Jerusalem. This was their only access to the presence of God at that time. The beauty of the temple was like that of the tabernacle. But it didn’t take long to mess things up. In 1&2 Kings, we see that within one generation idols pull people out of the temple. Then Egypt raids the temple, kings build it back up to make it “better” than other cities’ temples, attacker are paid off with temple riches, false idols are brought into the temple itself, and finally Babylon conquers Israel and destroys it. Whew.

Despite the efforts of multiple kings to rebuild the temple and bring it back to its original purpose and condition, the temple was defiled FAST. You can see this trend has continued throughout time in the histories of Europe’s cathedrals. I had the privilege of walking around a number of them this summer and was appalled at what I heard.

The cathedral above in Ulm was originally started to glorify God; the people put their own money into building it. But it turned into an idol as they thought to seek fame by building the tower to be the highest in the world. Others on the Romantic Road in Germany are gilded and gorgeous but people in that time were poor and hungry, and the priests took from them to build their own glory.

Then there’s the relics. We went to one museum that talked about how relics were treasures of more worth than gold because possession and worship of them were seen as a source of salvation. I hit a point this week where I could not stand to see a single relic more. I love this clip from the movie Luther (if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it is FANTASTIC)

1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

What are you worshiping in the temple of your heart? Are you worshiping something created- your house, success at your job, your group of friends, actors, politicians? Where is your church directing your worship- the worship band’s abilities or the snazzy programs? What consumes your thoughts, recieves your money, takes your breath away?

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve got a lot of relics and idols in the temple of my heart. It’s a little overwhelming until I realize that I can’t fix it by myself. But with the Holy Spirit working in me,I can start to focus my eyes more on God and less on my idols. I’ve been  studying the attributes of God and keep finding that He is much more able to truly satisfy my desires than my idols.  My friends can’t fill my desire to be fully known and fully loves. My job won’t fill my desire for purpose. And no matter how much I study, I won’t fill my desire for truth until I seek God.

Today I stepped foot in a cathedral that was drastically different. Every sign I read pointed to the gospel. There were no relics, and the stained glass depicted bible stories rather than legend. Strasbourg gets it. It’s not about the art or the famous dead dudes. It’s not about us. It’s about Christ.

the Lord’s last walk through Eden

I’m going through this thing called Cru Doctrine in my preparation for interning with Cru. It goes through basic Christian doctrine, and I am learning A TON. I just did a module on the state of humanity- how we were created to be in the image of God but that we are just broken mirrors of his glory now. This clip was included, and it gave me a whole new perspective on the fall of humanity.

I never thought about what God was thinking during His last walk through Eden. But He KNEW it was the end of Eden. The end of his perfect, beautiful creation. The beginning of sin and the struggle to bring people back into a relationship with him. No more long walks with his children in the peaceful splendor of the garden. Now His rivers would flood and destroy. His creatures would destroy each other. His plants would no longer thrive but battle diseases and humans. And His most precious creations, humans, the climax of his creativity and desire, would step away from him. Some forever.

But what I think this clip is missing, is God’s plan of redemption. God already KNEW Eden would end. Before Eden started, His plan to send Christ to save us was already in motion. How hard must it be for Him to watch His children walk away. But how WONDERFUL must it be to see the joy on their faces when they realize that, yes, they can return.