Monday, March 22, 2010

He died for ME

Lately, I've been reading through my old journals. Unlike some people I could mention, I don't happen to think keeping a journal is wimpy. =P Actually, it's been really helpful to go back and see where I was at spiritually at different times in my life (I've been journaling somewhat consistently for four years) and be able to recognize which areas I've grown in and which areas still need a lot of work.
One of the biggest, frequently recurring issues was pride. I know I'm not alone in this particular struggle, but it was still difficult to read my own words and realize just how full of myself I truly was. And am. Not much has changed in that regard, unfortunately.
I can't make excuses for it, and I know that. Very well. But it is true that in today's culture, it's extremely easy to get lost in yourself. We're bombarded from every direction with messages that tell us we're special, we're unique, we deserve to be noticed and loved and appreciated and so on and so forth.
And when I say every direction, I do mean every direction. Even in the Christian world.
Take, for instance, the popular song "Above All."
"Like a rose, trampled on the ground,
You took the fall,
And thought of ME
Above all"
So...I was so special that Jesus thought of me above everything else when He died? That's what it sounds like. (The funny thing is that anyone who hears or sings this would get the same message, which means that He thought of everyone above everyone else and that just gets confusing. Anyway.)
Then you hear people say that if there were only one person who would be saved as a result of Jesus' death, He still would have died. So, even if I was that one person, Jesus would have died just for me! Wow, I feel special. I must be something great.
But no.
Jesus died for the sins of the world. Because we couldn't save ourselves He did it for us. We were poor and helpless, trapped in our sinful human nature. We were hopeless. He didn't die for us because we did anything to deserve it. He died for us because He loved us. Because He was (and is) so great that He cared about us little vapors, us blades of grass that are here today and gone before tomorrow, and He wanted to call us His own.
Jesus died because the magnitude of the sins of the world demanded sacrifice. A pure, holy sacrifice unlike any a human could possibly ever produce.
If I was the only person who would have been saved as a result of His sacrifice, and He still died for me, that means my sins - just mine - were enough to crack that whip across His back, put that crown of thorns upon His head, mock Him, scorn Him, beat Him, and ultimately nail Him to the cross. That means my sins alone are too great for me to ever make up for. So great that NOTHING I could do EVER could possibly make me any better, any closer to being holy and saving myself. That means my sins are enough to kill Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God.
Suddenly, I don't feel so prideful anymore.

Friday, March 5, 2010

How Great is Our God

Today at lunch, some friends, my English teacher, and I were talking about vegetables. Yes, vegetables. Or, more specifically, how they don't ripen once they've been picked. "But tomatoes do," someone said, and someone replied that tomatoes are really classified as fruits. And fruits ripen after they've been picked. Someone mentioned cucumbers as an example of vegetables that ripen. But cucumbers are in the melon family, which means they're really fruits. (No wonder I like them so much.) Then what is a pumpkin? Are squash classified as fruits? What about beans? And peas?
Bear with me, there is a point in all of this.
If biologists had to create such a complex system for classifying fruits and vegetables, one that still isn't perfect and doesn't neatly sort everything into tidy little categories - if we can't even fit "edible vegetation" into a nice little box that makes total sense to any average Joe, what does that tell us about God? If we can't sort animals into an organized, structured, faultless system, because some mammals lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young, and some animals live where it isn't supposed to be possible for their phylum or class to live, and some recently discovered animals don't seem to fit anywhere, how much more creative must God be than we can imagine?
I mean, we're still discovering animals on the bottom of the ocean, and in remote corners of the world, that don't seem to us to serve any purpose whatsoever. I'd venture to guess, though, that they have a very unique purpose that it'll take us ages to come up with. That or God just enjoys keeping us guessing. We'll probably be discovering new animal species until the day the world ends, and since we never knew about them, who knows? Maybe God just created those animals for His own pleasure. That's certainly purpose enough.
We were given dominion over animals and plant life, and we still don't completely understand them. How, then, can we ever hope to wrap our minds completely around things like the mystery of the cross and predestination and free will and grace and imminence and transcendence and God in three persons?
I have nothing against those who search out answers to these questions in the Bible, because they're so much wiser than I am. But for my part, it seems the greater my factual biblical knowledge gets, the smaller God seems. When all I'm looking for is head knowledge, I stop focusing so much on the personal relationship side. And for that reason, I prefer to leave the debating to those who know so much more than I ever will and just marvel. Our God is so much bigger than anything I could ever imagine and even though I love having all the answers, I am learning to be content in knowing that He knows and I don't. Besides, if I could fit Him in a box, what kind of God would that make Him? Not one worth worshipping forever, that's for sure. Not one who could hold the universe in the palm of His hand and yet care enough about the inhabitants of earth to send His only Son to die for them. That He is so big, so great, so loving, is truly a mystery and I hope I will never lose the wonder, and never cease to glory in who He is, as revealed to us in the Bible, and what He has done for us - neither of which I will fully understand while I remain on this earth. And maybe not even in heaven - who knows?

*It's not like I'm anywhere near perfect, or like I have all the answers. Anyone who's so much as met me knows that. I'm not judging anyone for delving deep into incomprehensible mysteries. I imagine it's really edifying and spiritually strengthening to do so. It's just that personally I would struggle with gaining a lot of head knowledge in areas like that because I like having all the answers, so to step back and be content to let God know everything and me know...well, nothing really, is hard for me. But it's really reassuring that He is so much bigger than me. I love that - that no one ever truly will understand the mysteries of God in this lifetime. It reminds me that He is more than capable of taking care of me and all my worries. That's all. :)