We are all of us gospel amnesiacs, in need of preaching the gospel to ourselves again and again, as long as it's called "Today," until the Lord returns. In the next several posts, here are half a hundred things I need to remind myself of, things I would want to tell my younger friends and family when they are old enough to have ears to hear. May the Lord bless them to your encouragement as well.
1. A. W. Tozer was right: what we think about God really is the most important thing about us. We are what we worship. We become what we behold. We go where we gaze. We steer where we stare. (See Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.)
2. The infinite-personal God who exists has revealed Himself to us in the world He created, in His written Word (the Bible), and in the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. When asked His name, i.e., His character, He told Moses this:
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV).
4. Eternal life, salvation, is not to check all the religious boxes, to perfect oneself, to give alms and go to church every time the doors are open. It is not to earn the approval of a begrudging, curmudgeonly deity. To know God is eternal life. To know Him better than we know any human being or even ourselves. To be transformed by His grace from enemies into sons and daughters of the Most High God. Jesus said this in His prayer on the night before His crucifixion: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3, ESV).
Jesus' follower Paul summed up the goal of his life this way: "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:8–11, ESV).
5. The only way to know God is to come to Him through Christ, trusting in His life, death, and resurrection to atone for my sin and make me a new creature, reconciled to God. Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life, and no one could come to the Father except through Himself (John 14:6).
6. "The gospel is: you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you can be more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope, at the same time, because Jesus Christ died in your place" (Tim Keller).
7. Nothing I can do can make God love me more; nothing I can do can make Him love me less.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:4–10, ESV).
8. The core habits (and blessings) of a personal devotional life are time daily in the Word of God and prayer, the inhalation and exhalation of a walk with God. These aren't boxes on a list to check or good deeds to earn God's smiley face and gold star, but trysting times with our Beloved and Friend, our Father and our Lord. If all you have is five minutes of dedicated time (as with a mother of young children), savor one verse or paragraph with a quiet heart and respond back to the Lord in prayer. "Hem it with quietness," as Amy Carmichael said.
“The mere reading of the Word of God has power to communicate the life of God to us mentally, morallly, and spiritually. God makes the words of the Bible a sacrament, i.e., the means whereby we partake of His life” (Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God, p.9).
9. Effort to learn Scripture by heart is never wasted, with the possible exception of doing so to show off to others. Even if you can't retain what you attempt to learn, even if the effort feels futile, the practice is creating new neural pathways. What's more, every minute spent trying to learn God's Word is a minute I'm not thinking rubbish thoughts or let my mind get stuck in its old, unhelpful, habitual grooves. If you can remember what you practice, so much the better! That can transform much of one's day into a trysting place as one ruminates on the familiar texts while folding laundry, doing dishes, stirring pasta sauce, sweeping the floors, waiting for computer code to run, sitting in the car while baseball practice finishes, between students or clients... Scripture in my heart means it is readily accessible to fill all the nooks and crannies of the day and tune the soundtrack of my thoughts. Scripture in my heart is also the Scripture at hand in MRI machines, pre-op areas without any other diversions, and the prison cells of my persecuted brothers and sisters throughout Christian history.
10. "Garbage in, garbage out" applies to people as well as computers. Whether food or drink we put in our physical bodies, media and artistic expressions we put into our souls, or philosophies and thought patterns we put into our minds and spirits, what comes out correlates directly to what goes in. If I don't like what I see in my body, in my reactions, in the direction of my emotional and spiritual growth, let me examine, in the presence of the Lord and His Word and perhaps a trusted Christian friend or counselor, the root that is producing that fruit.
So often when something "triggers" us or "pushes our buttons" and we react in a way unlike Christ, we say, "I'm so sorry. That wasn't me. I don't know what came over me." Amy Carmichael's alternate explanation is this:
If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word,then I know nothing of Calvary love*
*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted (If, 46).
Instead, when something decidedly unsweet spills out from me, may I confess it immediately to the Lord as ungodliness, let Him cleanse it, and ask Him for the opposite virtue.
(To be continued... Book links are affiliate links and may yield this writer a small commission from Amazon at no additional cost to you.)