WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – INTRO
Mostly, I want to start a series of post on what I think is important to believe and live before life is over. This is mostly due to what I didn’t hear at a funeral recently. I have noticed that there are key times in a person’s life when they are more open to spiritual things. Children absorb a lot, but their childhood experiences to continue must past the test of jobs, high school and college / leaving home. Another key time is at the birth and raising of a child. Finally a time of crisis later in life whether it is job, tragedy, health, or just seeing the end of life drawing nearer.
I grew up going church, but rebelled in late grade school. I had a profound spiritual experience on Labor Day night 1978 the day before my senior year, that started me on a much better path. I went through a difficult time in the navy in in my early to mid 20’s. I questioned everything and read broadly searching for what was real. But since then I have tried to trust and obey God as best as my weak human will could. Now as I think about things, I want to boil things down to what is really important to know and do.
WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – Getting started with something solid.
It is hard to start something brief without first setting a structure, so here is the structure that my beliefs fit within. I believe there is a God who created all, and that He has been revealed to us in multiple ways. He is revealed through the extremely complex design of creation. He is revealed in the Bible in the stories, histories, accounts, songs, poems, and predictions. Also he has made us spiritual beings that can communicate with the invisible spirit world including both hearing God and talking to God through silence, verbal prayer, meditation, and also by a word we have mostly forgotten, providence. Next, the accounts in the New Testament about Jesus are true, his virgin birth, miracles, death and resurrection. Finally, that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to provide the only way to heaven for all who would believe and trust. If stuff you believe contradicts this, ask yourself will it help me after I die? Then wrestle through what is really eternally solid and what is merely important in this life.
One of Jesus’ famous teachings is in Matthew 5, 6 & 7 commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”. The last paragraph contrasts two men who symbolically build their houses. One build’s on a solid foundation and the other on sand. Jesus said “whoever hears these sayings of my and does them I will, I will liken to a man who built his house upon a rock…” If you have never read the words of Jesus, find a Bible with the words of Jesus in red. Read the red a little at a time and then pray to the one who spoke them honestly and openly. Ask him to speak to you and help build or rebuild a solid starting place to make sure you find have an amazing afterlife and new depth of communication with God in this one. It may be the most challenging and rewarding thing you do in your whole life.
WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – Part 2 – GRACE
Grace is one the most important words to me, it is often defined as unmerited or undeserved favor, but the word is higher, deeper, wider and more powerful than that. The famous hymn, “Amazing Grace”, written by a former slave trader, captures a good understanding of grace. First, it can save a wretch like me. Nothing any of us have done can disqualify us from His ability to pull us out of the pits we are in. The darker that place is the brighter grace shines, like a rescue on a dark night at sea. Once we see that grace is greater than all our darkness, selfishness, fears, and bitterness it can leads us to a place of guilt free peace. We must turn away from those things and forgive those that hurt us to truly find peace, but a deep, real peace is fully available. Many books of the New Testament link grace and peace into the start of the book. Grace frees us from the things that steal peace.
Next, grace isn’t just the favor of God for salvation, but the starting place daily to live a Christian life. It is easy to slip back into self-effort, trying to live up to expectations, hearing someone tell you what you ought to do and then slipping back into guilt when we can’t do it. If we understand and keep ourselves free by grace, we won’t keep asking for forgiveness, but live always forgiven from our past and present failures, and on into eternity. We know it is not our goodness but his grace that give us confidence. Out of that, peace is renewed and love can flows from our hearts to obey, because we want to live for someone who gave us so much. You don’t have to pray, read your Bible, give your money to the church, and on and on with rules of what you ought to do. Instead the grace and peace overflow out your life and doing what is right, being with God, giving and loving is a natural outflow.
Jesus told Paul His grace was sufficient in a difficult season of unanswered prayer and infirmity, because power is perfected in weakness. Grace is powerful enough to help us through difficult time as we realize it is not our health and strength that are eternal but His work in us sometimes requires our suffering. Finally, grace changes our perspective from the temporal, earthly life to seeing things more and more from an eternal perspective. Having found salvation by grace through faith we become heirs and will inherit eternal life. An eternal perspective like this is described in Hebrews 11:16. “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” I think it is very important for Christians to more and more have a perspective that this world is not our home and to become “strangers and wanders on the earth”
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11–14).