When I wake up each morning, I get the opportunity to witness the power of God and to be in His holy presence. This is not commonplace. Do I eagerly set myself aside for this undeserved gift...or do I roll over and catch a few more zzzzzz's? Growing 'too close' to God, holding a light view of His holiness and power, will result in sin...and sin that is full-grown will result in death (James 1:15).Read More
Have you ever felt like you just never measure up to others? Maybe there's a sense that you should be like 'this' or 'that' and, hard as you may try, you seem to fall short every time. I really don't believe this kind of thinking is unique to women in the church. You can find this at your average mom/child playgroup, elementary school, neighborhood gathering, homeschool co-op. Women compare and women demand. Nothing lovely develops out of this system, though. When I'm struggling with a busy week and I look around at my messy house, I imagine a friend stopping by unexpectedly and judging me. This thinking makes me angry at her, at my messy family and at my inability to keep up with life. Whether the expectations from others are real or not isn't what matters. Our minds can create a pretty play and attribute all sorts of motives to women who make us feel like we're failing. They have standards, we have standards and the question is, "Who is meeting all these standards?!?" I wonder how many women in the church are faking it so they can appear like they have it all together. Lies flow easily so no one suspects we sin. We put on the smiley-face while we seethe inside. Our days are consumed by doing, doing, doing and yet we feel further and further from God all the while.
Enough is enough, ladies! I'm not here to tell you to lower your expectations or to embrace your messy lives as some are prone to do. No, here's the truth--God's truth:
Be holy, for I am holy. 1 Peter 1: 16
Um...you might wonder how that's supposed to help.
And yet this is our expectation from God, and it's a great one.
So, what do we do? Work harder? Just give me the checklist, I'll complete it and earn favor with God and man. While I know it's ludicrous to say it that way, how many times do I find myself doing this very thing? How often do I hide what I do or proclaim those things that I don't really do? This isn't authentic. It's not genuine and we will never have peace living this kind of life.
There is an answer to dealing with all these great expectations, though: Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfectly obedient life on earth, something we will never be able to achieve. He gave up His life to die on a cross for our sins. His sacrifice was given as an exchange--His perfect obedience for our sins. How unfair is this?!? He takes my sins; He gives me His righteousness, His holiness, His perfection? In my place, Jesus incurred all of God's wrath upon my sins. Instead of consuming me, God now looks upon me, because of Jesus, and accepts me. He accepts me! All of my filthy sins have been cleansed so that God now sees me without blemish.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1: 21-23a
When we are tempted to pretend, to compare ourselves to others and set up ungodly standards, may we be reminded of the One whose great expectations have been met through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through Him that our works can have value and be received by God.
It's not about striving and proving to others that we've got it all together. Rather, it's about pointing to Him, Jesus Christ, because He is holy and He has given us all that we need to be called holy by God. We're called holy and we are being made holy. This is all done through Christ's work on the cross. If you feel inadequate or like you'll never meet others' expectations, then you have taken your eyes off of the Cross. You have taken your eyes off of Jesus.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2
During the past few decades, it has become very common within the 'Christian world' to bring Jesus down to our level and make Him accessible, like a buddy. I'm sure this was a reaction to the stuffy churches of old that viewed God more as a cosmic grandfather who was unreachable. People began crying out for more...for a relationship with the God who had changed their lives. The Bible speaks of Jesus as a Friend and a Brother, so I can see how this view would have gotten its roots. The thing is, though, as with anything, when we stand too far in one direction or the other, we typically miss the mark. God is transcendent--He is not like us, yet He is also immanent--we can know Him in a personal way. God is with us, yet He is not just like us. This is where the "buddy system" with God falls short. Because if we play out this casual reflection of Jesus our Creator, King and Messiah, eventually we will take His commands and word casually too. However, one look at Isaiah 6 makes my perspective change.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I (Isaiah) saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.
The Lord is King. He is majestic and exalted above us, above all things. All things have been put under Jesus' feet and it has been given to Him to be head over all things. He is before all things and in Him all things consist. He is not like us.
Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
This picture of worship is a far cry from our attitudes when we view Jesus too lightly. What was Isaiah's response to this heavenly worship?
Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah knew immediately, as He was in the presence of the Holy One, that he was a sinner. He was not perfect. He was not holy. Yet, for Isaiah, and for us!, Jesus does not leave us in this devastating state:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips, your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged."
This is the work of Jesus, the Holy One! As Jesus reveals to us our sins, He doesn't leave us there, but He transforms us through His powerful work on the Cross. This is what we celebrate on Easter, on every single Sunday! (Well, as Believers, we celebrate this every single day!)
If we view Jesus too lightly, though, then we end up stripping him (in our minds) of His holiness. And, if we aren't focusing on His holiness, then eventually sin isn't a big deal. And, if sin isn't a big deal, then who needs saving? And from what?
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!
Revelation 4: 8, 11; 5: 12