Yesterday God moved mightily through the sermon at church, and in reflection of that message I began writing, as I often do. For some reason, when I want to process something more deeply, writing just works. If I take a few moments to put down on paper what I’m thinking in that moment the message will stick with me longer. (It’s why I’m a firm believer in the power of writing and journaling.)
I don’t often share things I write straight from my journal, but I’m making an exception and thought you might like to read what I wrote. I pray it will be as beautifully convicting for you as it was for me. It is vital we ask ourselves these difficult questions and are willing to sit with the difficult answers lest we forget how desperately we need our Jesus.
The message preached was from Mark 12:28-34. This is the story where Jesus tells the teachers of the law about the greatest commandment. He gives them an answer from the old testament with which no one would disagree. And when one of the teachers commends him for his answer and agrees with him, Jesus tells him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” In other words, you are so close…but you still don’t get it.
This religious leader understood so much about the heart of God, but he still didn’t get it because he didn’t believe in who Jesus was. He was missing the key component of salvation. Our pastor challenged us for the next thirty minutes about whether or not America’s church is full of people who think they’re “in” when in reality they’re just close. And close doesn’t count in the kingdom of God because the requirement is perfection.
Naturally, after hearing this I’m left processing what my own life looks like. Am I in or am I clinging to the idea of being a Christian without truly understanding who Jesus is? So I found myself writing and asking myself these hard questions:
- Is my life really all that different from a non believers?
- What sacrifices am I actually making?
- What will of God’s am I pursuing?
- Does how I spend my time and money look different?
- Do people know I got to church, or do they know my life is radically changed and impacted by who Jesus is and what he’s done for me?
- Am I actually loving people like I love myself?
Hear me please. You will not find salvation in answering these questions “better.”
If I work hard to answer these questions in a way that will please God, I could spend the rest of my life chasing after an idea and be nowhere near true salvation.
The difference is this. Once I understand my salvation, the gift God has given me of eternal life through his son Jesus, wouldn’t those questions answer themselves?
And if they’re not answering themselves, where in my life am I not believing the gospel to be true? Where am I giving in to my own desires and not giving God my total surrender and submission?
When the standard is perfection, we must understand we cannot live our lives well on our own. We cannot work harder to answer these questions. We instead must whole heartedly, unashamedly and solely lean on our savior Jesus.