I know that I have so far been using controversial titles to grab the attention of those who would hear me out, but for this particular topic, I feel that it is too sacred to discuss with anything but the utmost reverence.
But first, it has been over 2 weeks since my last post, which is longer than I had hoped. This is not due to having nothing to write about, but rather it is because God has been doing so much in me that I have not been able to finish a complete thought, before the next one surges over me like a waterfall of God’s grace. So I don’t write because of lack of something to say, but rather having too much! So back to it…
There is a verse that terrifies every lukewarm, fence-sitting Christian out there, who professes to have chosen Christ as their Lord:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” – Matt 7:21-23
If this scares you read on, if it doesn’t, then praise God! You can rest assured in your salvation. I can tell you this used to terrify me, but now it doesn’t. Interested? Read on:
In the post, 25 years in Church and Not a Christian, I made reference to the fact that I felt that I only became a Christian just recently. This thought has been met with some surprise, and even raised tension from those around me, as they pointed to and inquired about what they thought were fruits of the Spirit in me.
I don’t blame them… growing up in church can cause one to become very adept at the appearance of holiness, for the sake of fitting in. And this I knew was the deeper, truer picture of who I really was. Someone pretending to fit in. Very well.
So this brings us to ask the question, what is a Christian?
For a compelling answer to this, I have to turn to an idea I have only really discovered in the past week, to give words to my deeper perspective of what it means to be a Christian… it comes from the Reformed Baptist pastor John Piper:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
To paraphrase, a Christian is someone who discovers that we are to seek God not despite our desires, but because He has become our greatest desire.
In short, a Christian is someone who desires God.
If you have read my post on not being a Christian then you will see this that this language of Piper’s that I have discovered after my experience of conversion, perfectly mirrors what God was doing in my heart during this time of Gospel renewal in my life. What was God doing? Well through Timothy Keller’s relentless gospel pummelling, God was working to enlarge my view of sin.
The dictionary definition of the word “sin” is “to miss the mark”, and so we often use the analogy of bow and arrow to describe what sin is. Let me pull on this string here as well.
God was showing me that there was two ways that you can miss the mark, first by not having the skills and abilities to wield the bow well, so that you try to hit a mark but fail.
But there is another way to miss the mark, and that is simply to not be aiming at the right thing.
What are we to aim for?
So now we must turn to Paul’s declaration and definition of the depravity of sin: Romans 3:23, which was actually the very first piece of scripture I ever memorized. It’s amazing that with this memorized since the age of 5, its full weight and glory has not been revealed to me until now.
“A – All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God”.
(The A is there because we were learning scripture verses in Kindergarten according the alphabet, so this was the verse passage of Scripture I memorized.)
Sin is when our arrows fall short of the glory of God. If to glorify God is not our chief aim in life, then we are aiming in the wrong place. And even if we were aiming there, the only way we can even dream of hitting the target of glorifying God is by abiding in Christ. The Grace of God in our lives through Christ, is the only way we will ever be able to hit the target.
As the puritans have said, “The chief end of man is to glorify God.”
This was a revelation to me, but I still can’t believe I found it so surprising! It is no less than entering into what the Trinity has been doing for all of eternity:
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. – John 17:1-5
And thus again there is the picture of Christ as Beginning and End, that I have alluded to before. It is joining into the dance, and not asking God to dance to our dismal tune.
So I was trapped in my sin, both the sin of making my aim everything but the glory of God. I aimed for the glorification of myself in my own good works; I glorified the feminine body in a pervasive addiction to pornography, I glorified academics as a means of excellence, I glorified having a good marriage and raising a good family. My aim was anything but the Glory of God.
So how now have I come to see this, and to make Christ and his Glory my aim?
The answer is not a formula. I didn’t do anything in and of myself. My salvation has been a process, a slow fire that was kindled in me that is starting to grow stronger, and richer, and brighter, but if I had to pick a moment where the love of God truly captured my heart, by revealing to me the helplessness of my sin, it was listening to the book, “The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism.” by Timothy Keller. I was expecting another good apologetics pat on the back, but what I got was a slap across the face with the Gospel. (Or a kick in the head with a frozen boot as my favourite socials teacher used to put it)
It happened as I was mowing the super thick grass in the walkway behind my house this summer, listening to Keller summarize the story of Dr. Jeckel and Hyde. It goes like this:
Basically Dr. Jeckel didn’t like the evil desires that he had, so he created a potion to turn him into Hyde. His aim was that as this creature he get all the bad desires out of his system, so he can be good when he reverts to Dr. Jeckel. But he is horrified to discover just how evil his desires are, and out of lust he kills a man when in the form of Hyde. Resolved to never let the evil out again, he pens it up inside, and goes on a spree of good works: Charity balls, donated time, reckless generosity. However in the height of months of good works and effort, he falls asleep from the exhaustion of his noble exertion, and to his horror, he awakes in the form of Hyde, for the first time making the transformation without the potion.
I could hear Keller’s definition of the sin portion of his Gospel summary cutting through to my very heart, “Your more wicked than you ever dared believe…” I started to realize that there was absolutely no way to change my evil desires on my own.
At that point, the best way I can describe it, is that my heart broke, and I found myself wiping tears from my grass stained face.
But yet, there was hope, because in that moment the second half of how Keller describes the Gospel finally became real to me: “… But, your more loved and accepted than you ever dared dream.”
And I started to realize in that moment what Piper refers to as “Desiring God” and CS Lewis refers to as being “Surprised by Joy”… namely that it wasn’t wrong for me to desire happiness, but that I was settling for a happiness that was so small and insignificant, compared to the Joy Unspeakable and full of Glory. I began…
“to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” – Eph 3:18-19
Somewhere along the line, most likely mowing the orchard behind my house, something happened to me that I can really only describe as a new birth… a light entered me… and I started to desire this amazing love that surpasses knowledge. I had to have it. I had found a treasure, and compelled by my joy in finding it, I had to get it.
Suddenly I had a new end, a new target or goal in life. The treasure that is Christ had been revealed to me, and I desired it with a true heartfelt desire. My eyes were fixed on Christ, and the weight of his Glory, and suddenly the things of earth that had been so appealing before, were growing strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace.
I want to keep writing, but this is already too long, so I will have to save the rest for Part 2…