Dear Friends, those who choose to read these items come from various backgrounds. Some were raised outside of the church and many were raised in the church. For those raised outside the church some believe that God exists and others have no reason to believe. For those raised in the Church some developed a relationship with God and for others it was important to perform certain rituals and make sure they did not miss church on the weekend. Some raised outside the church have made wonderful friends to some of us while others are consumed with the pursuit of what this world has to offer. Some raised in the church take great pride in telling folks the denomination to which they belong. Others are quite indistinguishable from those raised outside of the church in terms of their behavior. Many raised outside of the church believe all that is really important is for people to be good to one another. Doing more good things than bad things is what is really important. This is often true for many raised in the church, too. To some the greatest blessing that we can receive is our health, to others wealth, the right partner, a good job, getting our way most of the time, and attaining what we value most. So that is it right?
For a moment take a look at the world. Family dysfunction, inner city unrest, racial tension, class envy, persecution, genocide, insurrection, war, poverty…I’m sure we could add more dis-harmony to the list. What it comes down to it is either ones needs are not being met or they are not “getting their way.” If one looked at any of the individual viewpoints described above most undoubtedly would see themselves as good or the side with the noble cause. In conflict if one side sees themselves as good or noble then the other side cannot be good. Usually this can be enough to wage conflict against the other since the other cannot be good. How does any of this lead us to the greatest gift God can give to us?
What God believes is best for us is usually not what we would recommend for ourselves. We live in this world where we become worldly and practice the world’s wisdom. We are encased in a body that cannot be satisfied. We get dirty, we can smell, we get hungry, thirsty and desire pleasure. The body continually lets us know that it is in a permanent state of need. We often suffer from insecurity, fear, and alienation, which seem to lead to radicalization and/or violence and/or self-destructive behaviors even more than our “biological” needs. The love and comfort of Christ can very directly and immediately overcome insecurity, fear, and alienation, both through the working of the Holy Spirit “internally” and the embrace of believing Christians — a local church — “externally.” This is the message from Christ in the Gospels, and from the Apostles in many of the epistles, especially those of John and Peter.
Then there is temptation. All have given in to it some more than others. No one in this age has resisted it every time it comes. These factors make all of us less than perfect. Despite the best of intentions many of us often do not get it right. People often have no interest in confronting these issues or are too weak to master them at least most of the time. Obviously there are some things we need to do in order to care for the body and continue to live but we have no need to continue to do the wrong things.
Given these truths what gift can God give us that the world is incapable of giving us? That gift is the ability to see ourselves as sinners capable of doing and thinking evil deeds. By sinners I mean “self-centered” or “pre-occupied with self” or even “selfish” – even infants are selfish along with rebellious – we try to wriggle free from or avoid or negotiate with authority, even that which we recognize as legitimate… even that of our Creator.
That’s right the greatest gift God can give us is the ability to see ourselves as evil. It is not possible to do this apart from Him since this is God’s wisdom not the wisdom of the world. The world view dictates that we see ourselves as good. This often justifies our actions towards others. Reaching God’s point of view is not something we can do by ourselves. We must first allow the risen Jesus into our hearts and allow him Lordship in our lives. Why would any of us want to do this? Perhaps because of the reasons stated above. As we allow Jesus Lordship He begins to reveal in us all of our ungodliness. What we’ve done to others, what we fail to do and the things we think about that we’d like to keep hidden from others. Jesus‘way is not the way of this world. When we are self critical and repent for what we’ve done we become less critical and more loving towards other people. It is the beginning of developing the heart that God wants us to have. If you were raised in the church but have not or will not see yourself in this light then perhaps you are not as righteous as you think. No one attains this by belonging to the right denomination. This is attained by humbling oneself to God and accepting that there is no other way to eternal life except by what Jesus did for us on the cross. For those who are not practicing any religion may I invite you to meet and accept Jesus? Come as you are. No one will ask you to perform any rituals. If you know deep down that something is wrong then be assured that God is already at work in your life. God loves us despite our faults but we cannot spend eternity with him until we repent, place Jesus as captain of our ship and then spread His message of forgiveness and hope to all we encounter as he changes our heart so that we can see ourselves as He sees us. God bless you.