Monday, October 20, 2014

Building on Christ Isn't Easy

Christ tells us that wise people build their lives on Him.

That makes sense. Christ is, after all, God in the flesh. God alone can give life. And God designed us in His image, meaning that He clearly has a better idea about how to live optimally than we do.

He also went to a cross and rose from the dead to eliminate the power of sin over our lives. When we trust in Christ, building our lives on Him, He gives us life with God that lasts for eternity. We can also enjoy His presence with us in the midst of the pain of this imperfect world.

But as deeply as I believe these truths, they aren't easy to live out. Not. At. All.

The world says, "Follow your heart," "Trust your instincts," or "Think it through." Sometimes, I believe those messages myself. And there are places for our hearts, instincts, and brains, of course. The God we know in Christ gave these gifts to us too.

Yet, we need to be wary of our hearts, instincts, and thoughts. The reason is simple: The Bible insists that our whole beings are born captive to sin and death. Left to our own devices, sin darkens and distorts everything we think and feel and sense. "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death," Proverbs 14:2 says.

This is why Jesus tells us to build our lives on Him, to follow Him, to trust in Him. Our Creator and Savior needs to be our true north, the One Who can lead us into life with God, away from death and separation from God.

Life is hard.

And often it seems that we could make our lives a little easier by using other foundations--our own impulses, the standards of the world, the stuff of the world. Maybe our lives would be easier if we built our lives on those things. In fact, it almost certainly would. "To get along," my cynical grandfather used to advise me, "you have to go along." "Eat, drink, and be merry," the unimaginative lot who think the world must end with a ride in the hearse tell us.

But, given the witness that Jesus rose from the dead, how much good will our getting along and going along do us when we face the Lord Who called us to lives of significance when He said, "Follow Me"?

One of the reasons we crave easier lives in this world is that we know, deep in our psyches, that life lived under the shadows of sin, death, alienation, and darkness isn't what we were made for. We know that we're meant for more than simply slogging along in a world that can be "nasty, brutish, and short." We're meant for full, abundant, joyous life with God that never ends.

To get that kind of life in eternity and to gain those wonderful foretastes of it that God offers to those who believe in Christ through things like His Word, the sacraments, and the fellowship of the Church, means saying no to the things God says are harmful to our souls (you can find those in the ten commandments, among other places in the Bible) and say yes to His freeing love.

True confession: Sometimes I suspect that I know better than God. Many times. Lots of times. I struggle with God a lot. (In the Old Testament, Jacob wrestled with God. Compared to me though, Jacob is a nobody in the wrestling with God biz. I'm a WWF superstar.) The path God seems to have marked out for me isn't always my first choice. But God has called me to trust that He actually knows more than I do and that though His ways aren't my ways, His ways lead to real life. My ways, by contrast, lead to death.

In my heart of hearts, it's life with God that I want.

God, uncloud my heart. Clear away the garbage of self-will and of death and help me to build my life on You.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:10-12)

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