March 4, 2015

I built the Tower of Babel.

"You plead my cause.
You right my wrongs.
You break my chains.
You overcome.
You gave Your life to give me mine;
You say that I am free; how can it be?"
- Lauren Daigle, How Can It Be

Sometimes I don’t understand exactly what happened when I decided to follow Jesus.

When I first gave up my life to Him, I relished in the mercy He bestowed on me.  I had no questions about what would be required of me; He was in me and that was enough.  I trusted He was taking care of things and soon I saw evidence that He was working in me.  In those first days, I fully knew grace, even if I didn’t know the definition of it.

But eventually, doubts began to creep in.  After paying attention to various female Christian role models, I started to feel inadequate in comparison.  I wasn’t a missionary to a third-world country.  I didn’t wear skirts and let my hair grow long.  I didn’t pray long prayers filled with deep thoughts and intricate words.  I was just boring, quiet me; living in a comfortable home, wearing jeans, and praying simple prayers.

I thought to myself, “I can do better than this.”  I took notes on what made these girls so different.  I wanted to copy them.  I stopped thanking and praising God for His power and grace, and began praying that He would help me keep the rules.  I made lists of things I could do to be a better Christian.  Thus began my fling with legalism.

Here’s the thing: rules are easy.  It’s easy to memorize Ten Commandments.  It’s easy to reference the Bible as if it’s a rule book.  I looked to girls who lived under the "headship" of their father, wore long skirts, went on missions trips, and “courted” as the top tier of Christianity – they followed every rule I could find in the Bible.  God must love them, and in contrast He must really find me lacking!  I felt bad about having a ~faux hawk~ hairstyle and wearing shorts and listening to contemporary Christian music and going to a secular college and battling with crazy sins and not going on mission trips.

I was looking at all the rules and passing over all the warnings against getting caught up in laws and unattainable standards.  But in Ephesians 2:8 – 9, the Word says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  I mean, this is the best news there is.  If I had to rely on my own self to get me into heaven or even get anything done in my life, I would be so screwed because I am the most screwed up person I know haha.

But on the other hand, it’s also difficult to accept that Someone Else is responsible for my life.  I like to think I can do it on my own without having to trust anybody.  “I can be a good person and follow my dreams and do awesome things.  I can try my best and be myself and everything will go well!”  It’s hard to think that my relationship with God is all that is holding me together, because relationships are just that - so hard.
  • It’s hard to open up and spend time with Someone who knows me inside and out, especially Someone who already knows all my deepest fears and dirtiest secrets.
  • It’s hard to give up control of my life to Someone I don’t completely understand.
  • It’s hard to just trust God.
Thankfully, God works in me to give me the desire and power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13).  When I walk with the Spirit, I want what He wants and am free to live without fearing that I have broken a rule or let God down.  It says it all in Romans 6:15 – 23 (check it out - you can roll over these references to read the verses in a pop-up)  And Galatians 5:13 – 18 is an excellent passage to study if you are struggling to understand the freedom you now have:

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

The laws in the Old Testament show us that, without question, we are each a sinner.  My favorite analogy is one that I heard a pastor tell, sort of as a spin-off of James 1:23 (I'm not going to do it justice, but bear with me):  Think of us as covered in dirt, think of the law as a mirror, and think of Jesus as the water that can clean you.  You look into the mirror and see how dirty you are – seriously filthy!  But you can’t use the mirror to clean yourself.  You must go to the water to wash the dirt off.

In the same way, you can’t use the law to clean the sin out of your life.  As much as you follow the rules, you will never succeed in ridding yourself of sin.  That’s why you need to look only to Jesus for Living Water that will cover all your sin.

I have learned quite a lot in the last few months.  I realized that God doesn’t care about my hair or my clothes.  I know; pretty mind-blowing.  God literally does not look at my outward appearance.  He promises this in 1 Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’

The Lord hasn’t changed since then; He still doesn’t look at the outward appearance.  He looks at my heart.  So I'm learning to let the Holy Spirit work in my heart to change me from the inside out.

Something else I learned is this: if I am following God and cultivating a love relationship with Him, I need to trust that He has me where He wants me.  For me right now, He doesn’t have me in a third-world country being a missionary or anything noteworthy really, and that’s OK.  Maybe He will one day; maybe He won’t.  There is no Ultimate Tier of Christianity.  :)

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