Weather report from heaven: Sunny and bright with an abundance of light, and lots of singing and rejoicing.
Scripture: “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.”- Romans 3:23-25
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”- Romans 6:23
Insight: The Bible is a road map for our life and the only firm foundation of truth on which we can build our lives. However, one of the things I learned early in my 20 + years of reading the Bible and trying as best as I know how ever since to incorporate its life changing message into my life in a way that can be a blessing to others, is that there are many verses in the Bible that challenge every ounce of our being. They are the ones that if taken in proper context make us realize how far apart we are from where God calls us to be, which should in turn lead to humility, a humble heart, and a further surrender of our lives over to the only One who is fit to be King in our life, Jesus. There are hard teachings in the Bible that frankly many people don’t like, and try their best to avoid. It is what has allowed a huge following to emerge of the so called Prosperity Gospel which is no Gospel at all, but in a nutshell teaches only about the blessings of Christ gained from following Him, almost like Christ is our Cosmic Bellhop who is there at our whim to serve us, with a shake of a bell, and not at all about the tough lessons of Christ that cause us to push back or rebel, such as the very nature of abdicating the throne of our life over to Him.
The Bible must be taken and understood in its entirety to be the leading cause of positive transformation in our lives. We can’t just pick and choose the parts we like and discard the rest. So, for the next week, we will consider some of the toughest teachings of the Bible that cause so many to stumble such as: Learning to die yourself and pick up your cross daily ( Luke 9:23-25 ), Heaven is for saved people, not good people, which Jesus says in itself leaves everyone who is not saved automatically out, because none of us are truly good except God Himself ( Romans 10:9-10, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19 ), Only what is done in Jesus name and for His glory will last and be rewarded in eternity ( 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 ), Jesus’ teaching in The Sermon on the Mount, which takes the laws of the Old Testament to a whole new level which exposes a need for a whole new understanding of our sinful nature and rebellion against the the heart of God ( Matthew 5:21-48 ) and finally that we cannot effectively serve God and Money ( 1 Timothy 6:6-10 ).
These are tough lessons and require us to be honest with ourselves and admit how much we struggle in these areas so we can grow in our faith and allow God to use His scalpel to remove the strongholds in our lives ( 2 Corinthians 10:4 ) that keep us from truly understanding all aspects of the Gospel and truly following the crucified Christ. All of these test our faith each and every day, and in so many ways. This first one is, I believe, the toughest for me. It simply requires total surrender and absolute abandonment to self in order to enact it. I believe this happens over the course of a lifetime, not in a moment. There is too much of “us” in us to simply be able to lay it all down in a moment, never to pick it back up again. The scripture is Luke 9:23-25 and it says “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” This challenges us to the core and it asks the very toughest question of all: Who is really the boss of your life? Is it Jesus or is it you? We must realize that we can never accomplish what this scripture is calling us to in our own strength. We need to call on the Holy Spirit and ask Him repeatedly to help us loosen the chains of the vice grip we have on wanting to control every aspect of our lives. Just writing that elicits a response. It makes me tense. It challenges me on so many levels. But over time, it can also help me to become more humble and trust Jesus more than myself, and because God is good always and His ways are so much better and higher than mine ( Isaiah 55:8-9 ) then over time this will be a very good trade indeed. Learning to let go is never easy, but we must get to a place like where Carrie Underwood famously sang in the song of the same title “Jesus, Take The Wheel.” While it sounds and feels like this is a position of weakness, this surrender actually leads to a strengthening in our lives. It will never be easy, but it will always be worth it.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to surrender our ways to your ways and please take the wheel. We are not able to do this on our own, so release the strength of the Holy Spirit in us to set us free from the grip we have on futilely trying to control our lives. Amen!