Everyone has a past. Each of us can recall aspects of our life experiences that have taught us lessons, brought us pain, or caused us to feel embarrassed. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were given the opportunity to go back in time and live your life over?
The good news is that in Christ, we have been made a new creation and a line has been drawn with our past. Through Him, we aren't who we used to be. We have been granted a new name and an identity that isn't anchored in our mistakes, failures, embarrassments, or old nature. Still, sometimes we struggle with issues from our past that resurface again in our present. What kind of line is Christ inviting us to draw with our past? How is the Holy Spirit empowering us to live, no longer for ourselves, but for Christ in the present?
How good is your memory? Sometimes my family teases me because of the random information or dates that stick in my mind, (so I try to use that information against them when we're playing Jeopardy.) But does it ever amaze you to consider the depth of the information God is capable of retaining? He knows every detail about everything that has ever happened. And in addition to that, He knows every detail about everything that ever will happen in the future. It's impossible for me to wrap my mind around that.
At the same time, He's been gradually working out the details of His plan to bring His gift of salvation to all who will trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has the seasons under His control, does everything He does on purpose, and is working all things together for good, for those who love Him.
At present, He knows every single detail about your life. He knows the exact number of breaths you'll take on this earth. He knows how many molecules are in your body. He knows the people you'll be meeting, the trials you'll be enduring, the joy you'll be experiencing, and the ways in which He will make great use of your life. Nothing escapes His sight.
He's up to all of this, and more, right now. Does His activity arouse our curiosity? Do we want to know more about what He's doing? Are we interested in looking into what He plans to do next?
Scripture tells us about people who were intensely curious about what God is doing. What do you suppose He might want us to learn from their example and experience?
One of the biggest mistakes we can make during the course of our earthly lives is to allow ourselves to become convinced that our lives are meant to be free from adversity or trials. When we mistakenly allow ourselves to believe that, we can become bitter and disillusioned. That perspective influences us to forget about the joy we're invited to enjoy in Christ, regardless of our circumstances. It also has the effect of making us critical, unhappy, and generally unpleasant to be around.
Years ago I attempted to befriend a man who had experienced some major trials in his life. We would grab lunch once a month, or so, and inevitably we would chat. Unfortunately, it became clear to me that the only thing he ever seemed to think about or talk about was an unexpected trial he had endured. Sadly, he was also unwilling to move beyond it. He was mad at God, mad at people, and couldn't see any potential benefit that could ever possibly come from his trial.
What about us? What is the dominant perspective that governs our lives? Do we trust in Christ and believe that He is ultimately in control? In the midst of our adversity are we able to look forward or are our eyes stuck looking downward? What counsel does God's word give us as we seek to navigate these things?
One of our greatest desires as people is to be valued. We want our opinions to be considered, our ideas to be applauded, and our presence to be noticed. Certainly that's not all bad, but when those desires become extreme in nature, they can quickly find themselves in conflict with the greater purpose Christ has outlined for our lives.
The danger of taking this to an extreme can result in us over-valuing ourselves and under-valuing Christ. That certainly seems to be an issue that was at play in Christ's interaction with the scribes and other prominent local leaders.
Jesus was being tested by people who thought rather highly of themselves and rather poorly of Him. They questioned His motives. They questioned His teaching. At the same time, they elevated their ideas, thoughts, and preferences as if their mental capacity was of a higher order than the God who created them.
When a person minimizes Christ, they forsake His wisdom, and they begin to idolize themselves. How can we avoid doing that? What does Scripture reveal to help keep us from drifting in that direction?
What's your perspective on life? That would probably be an interesting question to ask a large group of people. I'm certain that you would get many different answers, and if you listened closely, you'd most likely be able to discern quite a few world views present in those answers.
Some people think of life as being brief. Some consider life to be more about the pursuit of comfort than anything else. Others look at their lives and would probably say that the running theme of their life has been one of suffering.
Many people look at earthly life through the lens of believing it is all we're really given. Their world view contributes to the belief that there is nothing beyond the few short decades our bodies successfully function on this earth. But what do you think? Is life something that comes to an abrupt end, or is there more in store? And how does our answer to this question impact the quality of our lives in the present?
Is God for us or against us? Have you ever wrestled with that question? Have you ever walked through a season of your life when it felt to you like you weren't really on God's radar? Maybe you felt overlooked, or possibly even worked against.
As a whole, the message of Scripture clearly reveals that God is for us. We're reminded that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. We're shown that He continually pursues people and invites us to have restored fellowship with Him. Scripture explains to us that the debt of our sin was so deep and offensive it could only be paid for by God Himself, so Jesus came to this earth and bore our sin so our debt could ultimately be cancelled.
But we're also told multiple times in Scripture that God opposes the proud and that He gives grace to the humble. Pride is a form of self-worship and self-glory. Pride reflects the heart and the intent of Satan, not the heart of Christ. Pride leads to stumbling and ultimately destruction.
Jesus frequently encountered proud people who thought more of themselves than they thought of Him. How did He deal with them? What can we learn from His encounters with them? Is Jesus for us or is He against us?
Several months ago, a good friend sent me a message that was meant to be helpful. He offered me an unsolicited suggestion related to a hobby of mine that I wasn't really looking for outside input on. I politely thanked him, but also felt a little annoyed with his suggestion. A few hours later, after I had time to digest his message and research his suggestion, I realized he was right. I sent him a second message with a more genuine thank you than the first.
Why is it so difficult for us to receive outside help and recommendations? Could it be that once we make up our mind about something we find the task of remaining teachable too tiresome? Could it be that we sometimes idolize our own opinions and preferences? Could it be that we've developed a hardened heart?
What do we do when we receive instruction, opinion, or correction? Do we hear the messenger or do we "kill" the messenger? What does Scripture teach about this dilemma?
We all have people that are speaking into our lives and influencing us. We all have voices that we're willingly listening to and voices we're intentionally filtering out. Who are those voices for you? Who do you allow to play key roles in your decision making?
For the believer in Jesus Christ, His voice is supposed to be the dominant influence in our lives. The direction He points us in is to be the direction our lives take. But, because of our independent streak or because we might rather listen to our own voice, at times, His voice can be the one we start filtering out instead of being the one we allow to call the shots.
There are multiple places in Scripture where this is demonstrated, but one particular chapter is Luke 20. As we look at this chapter, it might be healthy to ask the question, "Who am I really calling Lord?"
Right when I reached age 13, I started to develop a concern that I carried with me for quite a while. I didn't want to live and think like a child anymore. I wanted to be considered mature, and I started to wrestle with what maturity really looked like for someone at my particular season of life.
Following college, I began pastoring a church, full-time, at the very old age of 21. I kept my age a secret from as many people as I could because I was concerned that if people knew how old I was, they may be less inclined to cooperate with my attempts to lead in the context of the local church.
During my early years of pastoral ministry, I started to notice something fascinating about human nature. As I continued to lead, I was forced to work with all kinds of people, from all different age brackets. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that "age" and "maturity" were not synonyms. I observed that, over time, some people grow old, but not every person becomes mature. I also observed that some people who were rather young displayed a maturity that most would say was beyond their years.
1 Timothy 4 speaks to issues like that. It reveals to us that our social, relational, and spiritual maturity aren't limited by our age. Jesus delights to foster true maturity in His followers regardless of the particular season of life they may currently be in. What are some of the marks of maturity that are demonstrated for us in this passage?
Depending on your personality, you may see your life in this world from a generally positive perspective or possibly a perspective that's somewhat negative or fatalistic. If you tend to buy into the narrative that many voices in our culture have been crafting, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some of us hold to a view that teaches that we're being intentionally held back, disadvantaged, and prevented from reaching our full potential. But from what I see in God's word, that is not the case when it comes to what matters most.
In our walk with Christ, we have been blessed with great advantages. There are blessings we have been granted that testify to God's desire to intervene in our lives. We have been intentionally created, placed where we're located, and granted the privilege of living during this specific era of history. There are people we have been blessed to know and learn from. There are ways in which God has made us strong. And we have been granted access to His throne through faith in Jesus Christ.
What else does His word tell us about the advantages we've been given and how we can make the most of them?