Faith Column: What matters most as a Christian?
Live well with the hope of eternity, because it’s really the most important thing.
What matters most? It’s actually pretty simple: Relationships, and to know where you’re going after you die.
My unbreakable love and unshakeable confidence in the Lord is a megaphone to the world that announces, “He’s alive. He’s actively working in my life.” First and foremost, my relationship with Jesus is everything.
When we boil it all down, our lives are really most meaningful by the relationships we have with others -- with our kids, our parents, our close friends. That’s the gospel in a nutshell. What does God treasure? Why did Jesus come down to earth, then suffer and die on a cross? He did it to restore a broken relationship. Sin separates. It separates us from each other, and it separates us from God.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
There are so many important issues and there are so many people, yet God cares about every issue and loves each individual personally. He wants a relationship with you. Religion makes you self-righteous; a relationship does not. Religion is you “earning” your way to heaven, so why wouldn’t you compare how others measure against you? The thief who asked Jesus to remember him wasn’t seeking a religion.
Author Philip Yancey wrote in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace": “In one of his last acts before death, Jesus forgave a thief dangling on a cross, knowing full well the thief had converted out of plain fear. That thief would never study the Bible, never attend synagogue or church, and never make amends to all those he had wronged. He simply said ‘Jesus, remember me,’ and Jesus promised, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ It was another shocking reminder that grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us. Ask people what they must do to get to heaven and most reply, ‘Be good.’ Jesus’s stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry ‘HELP! ‘God welcomes home anyone who will have him and, in fact, has made the first move already.”
There’s also the wisdom from Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson), who makes it clear: “Jesus got angry. But what’s interesting about His anger was that it was almost never directed at the 'bad' people. It was, instead, almost always directed at the 'good' people, the religious people, the rule keepers, and those who believed they were morally superior.”
A big problem lies in the fact that a lot of people think Christianity is just a religion of judgment. But Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could have a religion. He died and rose again so we could be saved and have a real and intimate relationship with Him, one that leaves us filled and satisfied.
I think it’s safe to say that most sin stems from pride. It’s an independent spirit that wants to do its own thing without any authority or direction from anyone else. As stated in Proverbs 6:16–19, God lists seven things He hates — and one of those things is pride. The only way to uproot pride is humility — freedom from pride and arrogance, a modest estimation of your own worth. It doesn’t mean you think lowly of yourself, but it means you are very careful not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to.
I have certainly struggled with pride in thinking that I know better or more than another. There’s been my unwillingness to really listen and to harbor resentment while not leaving it to God to avenge me. All of this is pride, and pride stinks.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less,” C. S. Lewis wrote.
In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, “Learn of Me for I am humble.” He then goes on to describe Himself as gentle, meek, and lowly. Those character traits are beautiful. On the other hand, a spirit of pride is often harsh, hard, sharp and pressing. People like that are difficult to be around. You seem never able to please them, and enough is never enough.
I have fallen in the pride pit. Here’s how to stay out and walk in humility: Be quick to forgive; Don’t brag; Wait patiently for God to avenge and promote you.
I think about many of the big issues our country is dealing with and I ask myself, “What really is most important right now?” The answer I come up with is, “To know that God came down as Jesus to reconcile Himself to us.” My radio feature, Everyday Matters, explained what I mean in a feature called, “Justice Delayed,” and it read:
"Dr. Joad was the head of the philosophy department at the University of London. He was known for undermining Christianity in the college world. He believed that God was an impersonal part of the cosmos and that there was no such thing as sin. But before he died, Dr. Joad came to the understanding that there was sin as the Bible describes and the only solution for sin was the cross of Jesus Christ. He became passionate about following Jesus. God’s love delayed justice, giving this man time to recognize his own sin and receive life in Christ. In this instance, justice delayed is condemnation denied."
Living well is knowing and receiving God’s grace (which we all so desperately need) and then giving that same grace to others. Living well is walking in love. It’s holding a biblical worldview which gives us all truth to know mercy, love justice, and walk humbly with the Lord our God. We don’t need to borrow from secular theology to be more understanding or empathetic because the Bible is the source of God’s love for all whom He created.
The Lord God went to the cross for us and paid our debt. He rose again and lives so that we might live, too, eternally. Oh, this amazing grace He offers in forgiveness all depends on if we simply receive His gift to us. Receive the Good News of God’s grace. His grace doesn’t depend on what we have done for God, but rather what God has done for us.
Carry on, dear heart, and live well with the hope of eternity, because it’s really the most important thing.
This column is a regular feature of the Detroit Lakes Tribune's monthly Faith page. Debbie Griffith is a Detroit Lakes-born speaker, radio personality and writer who now resides in International Falls, Minn.