Saturday, March 25, 2000

Fear of the Lord

Should you not fear me? declares the Lord. Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, 'Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'
(Jeremiah 5:22-24)

Do I fear the Lord? Do I tremble in His presence? I love, praise, and respect Him, but do I fear Him? There are times in my life when I take the Lord's goodness for granted: "Oh He'll forgive me!" There are other times when I defiantly disobey Him.

Fortunately for me, the Lord and I have come to an understanding. When I take Him for granted or I defiantly disobey Him, He punishes me - swiftly. For example, back in college I was at a club and I made a joke in very poor taste about a person's appearance. I knew I shouldn't have said it (let alone thought it) and I knew I was going to pay. After a couple hours of dancing and partying, I rushed home to change for our senior night cruise. I took a quick shower, threw on a t-shirt, placed a University of Miami hat on my head, and headed for the college to catch the bus. As I approached it, I couldn't believe my eyes. People were dressed as if they were going to the prom (tuxedos, suits, dresses, gowns, etc) and there I was looking like I was heading to the gym.

It was without a doubt one of the longest nights of my life, but also a very important night, as I earned a healthy amount of respect for the Lord. As the years have gone by, I've come to welcome the Lord's punishments - not because I enjoy them, but because I want to fear Him.

The University of Miami hat still sits in my closet. It hasn't been worn since that night 7 years ago, and probably will never be worn again. But it never fails to remind me of the man I was then and the man I long to be.

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Communicating with God

What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.
(Ezra 9:13)

This verse provides a wonderful example of how I should be communicating with God. Countless times in my life I've come before Him with a shopping list of needs and desires I fully expect Him to fulfill, whether it be for good grades, a good performance on the baseball field, a good job, a wife, etc. Other times I've come before God questioning His goodness: "How could you do this to me? How could you abandon me? Will you ever answer my prayer?"

On the contrary, I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times I've come before God acknowledging a well-deserved punishment. I can't remember the last time I got down on my knees and said "Lord, thanks for the whipping you gave me! I was clearly disobedient and yet you were just in your punishment."

I don't know if I'll ever be thankful enough, humble enough, or obedient enough. Fortunately, I serve a God that punishes me less and blesses me more than my sins deserve.

Sunday, March 5, 2000

Salvation by Grace or Works?

If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11)

Is salvation by grace or is salvation by works? Most religions profess salvation by works: How did you treat others? What did you do in your walk on earth? Did you follow all the commands of the faith? Were you a good person?

Christianity offers a unique view of salvation - salvation by the grace of God: Did you confess Jesus as Lord? Did you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? Did you accept the one means of salvation that God graciously provided?

There was a time in my life when I believed in salvation by works. It encouraged me to serve others and to live an honest life, but I lived in constant doubt as to whether or not I had done enough to enter heaven: I served at soup kitchens and nursing homes, but I didn't contribute to the poor. I cared about others, but I certainly wasn't devoting my life to serving them.

I began to question my belief that I was going to heaven because I was a genuinely good person. Whose measure of goodness was I using - mine or God's? By my scale, I was an exceptionally good person, but how did I rate in God's eyes?

As I began to humble myself before God, I came to acknowledge my sinfulness and came to realize that I would never be accepted by a perfect God based on my own individual merit. I needed someone who was perfect before God. I needed someone who was willing to sacrifice himself to atone for my sins. I needed a Savior. Fortunately for me, Jesus Christ was willing to be just that.