More of my rambling thoughts...

I didn't know what to call this post. It's not focused on one certain book or book chapter. But it connects with a lot of what I wrote in my last post.

I went to church this weekend fully expecting my pastor to touch on the same theme (self-love) that I wrote about in my last post. And he did. I remember, not long ago, when it seemed like everything I was reading and listening to was drawing my attention to Esther. Then my pastor talked about Esther that same weekend. So I was not surprised when my pastor called our attention to the following passage Sunday night:

2 Timothy 3:1-5
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

He went on to talk about the age we live in and the growing apostacy that we must beware of. He talked about how we live in a time when even Christians want to de-emphasize Christ's crucifixion and what He accomplished for us through His death on the cross, while focusing primarily, instead, on the life He lived and the principles He taught about living in this world. He talked about the increase in those who would deny Christ's divinity, making Him a good man and example, but not our God and Savior. And as he has many times, he linked 2 Tim 3:5 with I Cor 1:18.

1 Corinthians 1:18

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I will never forget the first time I heard my present pastor use these two scriptures together on this subject. Those two passages hit me between the eyes and I realized, sitting in church that day, that I had been guilty of believing a message that denied the power of the cross. In the church I grew up in, I was not taught that the cross was the power of God. I was taught that Jesus had done HIS part and now I had to do MINE; not that Jesus' blood had accomplished my salvation. His blood had only given me "a chance" to have eternal life and provided forgiveness for my "past sins." But at no time did I ever hear that Jesus had accomplished or secured my eternal salvation if I had made Him Lord of my life and put my faith in Him, His death and resurrection. I had to do it for myself (with His help) with my own perfect, sinless life.

"Have nothing to do with them" is serious instruction. I now believe with all my heart that we are to have nothing to do with any message that does not keep the cross at the center of the Gospel. It doesn't mean we don't love people. But we must be vigilant in proclaiming the truth of salvation through Christ alone. Just as I believe God wanted me to repent for and renounce what I once believed that was false, I know He does not want me to embrace any current or future message/movement that promotes another central focus other than Christ crucified.

Our pastor also talked about suffering this weekend and how to recognize what we've set our hearts on. One of the ways we can recognize what our heart is set on is the way in which we respond to suffering. We can so easily fool ourselves into believing that our hearts are set on things above, while the central focus of our lives remains our own self-interests. And we are often completely blind to this. He posed the question, "How much do you long for Christ's return?" He followed this question by asking, "Do you think the Christians in Darfur are longing for Christ's return and for His Kingdom to come in its fullness?"

I have to admit that for most of my life I only felt fear and dread when I thought about Jesus returning. My longing was non-existent. But today I do long for the day when He comes back for His people. I know He will be coming for me and not to destroy me. I am growing daily in my anticipation of His return.

I'm so thankful for the transformation God has brought to my heart and my life through the revelation and the power of the cross. I want nothing to do with any message that makes people bigger and God smaller. I want nothing to do with a message that suggests faith in myself. And I want nothing to do with a message that focuses on how God will enhance my life here (on earth) if I'll choose Him. I know there are blessings and rewards for honoring God. I'm thankful for His blessings. But I don't want Him to serve me. I want to serve Him. And I want to serve God to have God; not just to have His benefits. If I choose Him to get the blessings, I will probably not choose Him when I have to suffer.

I'm so thankful to know with certainty that God has already done everything for me. Nothing He could ever do could demonstrate His love for me more convincingly than what He has already done through Christ.

I finished the book "When People are Big and God is Small." There were so many things I wanted to share, but I couldn't stop reading. So I will have to go back and give some highlights. I needed to read this book and I look forward to rereading portions of it and sharing them on my blog.

I'm doing an online group read (Challies Dot Com) for the first time right now. The current book is "Religious Affections" by Jonathan Edwards. It's funny how I felt about reading the writings of Puritans in Early American Literature and what I'm getting out of reading this now. One's perspective and filters have everything to do with blocking or receiving information.