Monday, July 06, 2009

Focusing On Things Of Ultimate Importance

Most people struggle with the fundamental questions of life: "Why am I here? What is my purpose?" But too often we leave those questions unanswered (or merely assent to certain answers without deeper consideration) for more immediate, temporal concerns. We are so easily distracted by the cares of this life, and the decisions that WE need to make, that we take our eyes off God and the salvation He provided through His Son, and begin to wander without purpose, taking it one day at a time. But ultimately, life isn’t about what car we purchase, or the recognition we gain - our lives are not our own. Why? Because we have been bought with a price, a sacrifice so costly that we can’t fully comprehend it. And yet, we like sheep are led astray, and live lives that proclaim how little we value the Gospel, how cheaply we hold Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and how infrequently we reflect on whom we are to serve.

Ultimately, this life isn’t about us. It is God who created us, "not we ourselves. We are the sheep of His pasture." Did He create man to simply be happy and enjoy himself? No. The chief end of man is love God and enjoy HIM forever (not to love and enjoy ourselves). Were we capable of pulling ourselves out the mire of sin by our own will and power? Absolutely not. We contributed nothing to our creation or redemption, except resistance to God’s overwhelming grace. Isn’t it amazing that, "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life?" Or is it simply taken for granted today? Is the Gospel something you need to "get saved" but can afterward put on the shelf when you get to living the Christian life? This is how many Christians see it today. God saved me and now I can move on to the rest of my life. Sad.

Paul and the other apostles maintained a constant focus on the cross of Christ. It was their life, their strength, and their driving motivation, whereas we like to ascribe to "Christianity" and then keep living for ourselves. Modern Christians don’t seem to be "cut to the heart" when they hear the Gospel (perhaps because the Gospel is not often preached in it’s full glory and depth, especially not to the saved) It’s the mechanism of salvation but not the heart and soul of the Christian life. These are the people that so quickly take their eye off the eternal and fix it on the temporal.

Mankind is afflicted with the sin of ungratefulness, and we see this fact illustrated in it’s ugliest form when Christians don’t have a profound thankfulness and gratitude to God for the salvation He has provided in Christ. Thanksgiving isn’t just something we celebrate once a year - it’s a lifestyle. The Christian must keep his eyes fixed on the cross to understand just how sinful he is and how merciful God is. A superficial Christian thinks he has it all together, while a true believer is broken and humble.

The cross isn’t merely a catchword or some pendant that we hang around our neck. It is the shining symbol of who we were as sinners, who God is and what He requires of us, and who we now are in Christ because He fulfilled those demands for us. A line in the hymn "Ah, Holy Jesus" passionately sums it up. It says, "Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. 'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee!" The Christian who lives his life in the shadow of the cross, with a heart tender toward God has the right focus. He won’t get bogged down in the concerns of here and now. He will live confidently and thankfully, trusting in the Providence and love of Almighty God to direct his ways. Musically, it might be expressed this way: the Christian life isn't primarily about each note, sequence or phrase - it is a broad composition designed to bring God the glory as it is played out. He composed it, He knows it’s intricacies and difficulties, but He will resolve everything for His own honor and glory.

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