Friday, April 4, 2008

Naked??

So the song I want everyone who reads this post to listen to is "American Dream" by Casting Crowns (I've made it easy, see my play list at the bottom)... this song is a little old school.... unless you're not into the contemporary Christian music thing (I realize I'm a minority in this aspect) and then you won't know it's old school :)... but none the less.... I think the lesson is applicable. But wait until you're done with the post to do so... it'll make more sense that way.

So several weeks ago at church our pastor spoke on something amazing that I'd never heard. First of all, I've been raised in church, my dad's a pastor, I've attended more "revival" meetings, camps, etc. in my life than most people have regular church. I spent 4 years in a Christian college hearing some of the most prominent evangelical speakers in the country... So I'm not exactly a novice. This obviously doesn't mean I know even a fraction of what is to be known of the Bible, God, Jesus, theology, doctrine, etc... but I'm not usually completely surprised by what I hear. There have been very few times in my life where God has literally snuck up on me and slapped in the face with a truth that I've never even considered. These are defining moments in my walk with Jesus... moments where I feel I am looking into the face of my Savior.

The first of these moments was obviously when I accepted Christ as my Savior. To be honest.... the older I've gotten, the more I've grown in my faith, the less I understand what exactly that means. Most people associate this moment in their life with a prayer. However, is counting a prayer as a "conversion" any less a works salvation than say getting baptised, or going forward in church after an emotional message? Obviously it's not the words, or the act of saying a prayer that "saves" a person. It's the change in a person's heart. It's the realization of who God is, who Jesus is, and what that means for you, for life and for the world. As much as it is those things, it's also the realization of who you are NOT. Throughout the Bible it talks about this, so it's not an original thought on my part.... but it is impossible to begin a relationship with God through Jesus without coming to the end of yourself. I said "the prayer" when I was 5 or 6. I don't remember a lot about it, except my intentions. Although I believed deeply in Christ.... the reason I wanted to be saved was to avoid hell if I died. Although this is a reality of salvation, as I've grown I've realized it to be one of the least important parts of what it means to be a Christian. Ask me if I still feel that way when I'm on my death bed. I'm sure my opinion will change then. However, a relationship with Christ is SO much more than that.... but that's for another post. I'd say I really started following Christ around the age of 9 or 10. I went forward at camp to "rededicate" my life to the Lord. To be honest though, I think it was the first time I ever embraced that fact that a life following Christ wasn't just about what happens after death, but what happens everyday in your heart and life.

The second of these defining moments was my sophomore year at Liberty University. It was spiritual emphasis week and David Nasser was the speaker. By this point in my life I had fallen deeply in love with Jesus. This was one of the greatest times of spiritual growth in my life... a growth that I hunger for now. I was "serving God" in several capacities at the time. I was in spiritual leadership at LU as a prayer/small group leader for girls on my hall, I was teaching a small group for high schoolers at TRBC, among other things. The message David Nasser spoke that night was about the conceit of Christians thinking they were doing a service for God. The message was about how God doesn't "need" anyone. He didn't need to provide a Savior, He didn't need to choose men to be the preferred method of spreading the Gospel. After all, Romans 1 says that men are without excuse because nature itself proclaims the glory and reality of God. The truth is.... it's all about His own glory. The Gospel, the salvation of man, the liberty provided through salvation, and the service of men for God... is all merely part of God's plan for Himself to be glorified by whatever means necessary. Now this might sound strange at first.... but in reality, it makes the whole message of God's love more powerful and amazing. It's incredibly humbling to know that the Creator of the Universe has chosen me.... has chosen YOU.... as a tool to proclaim His grace and forgiveness to the world. (Paul knew this all along by the way... maybe if I'd payed more attention to everything he wrote I would've seen it before that evening at LU).That message brought me to my knees, literally, in the greatest act of submission to my God that I've ever experienced. I remind myself of that message every time I do an act of service, step into a patient's room, pray, or worship.

The third, and most recent, was a few weeks ago in the Easter service of our church here in Durham, (hence, what I was talking about at the beginning of this post), The Summit. This message had a huge impact on the way I think about why people do the things they do and sometimes live what seems to be self destructive lifestyles despite being incredibly intelligent people. The message was about Peter's life before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus and how it changed him. However, the part that struck me was actually what was meant to be a side note of sorts. We were reading from Mark 14 and the applicable verses to what I'm going to write about were in verses 51-52. "A young man was following Him (Jesus), wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked." It seems like an odd insert. Why would we care about some nameless Christ follower running away in what we all would rank in our top 5 of potentially most embarrassing life moments. (Seriously, I know everyone has had the "naked in a crowd" dream at some point in your life.) There's only one other similar situation in scripture and that's in Genesis 3:10 where Adam and Eve ran and hid from God because they were naked. So what's up with naked people running from God?? The truth is that as humans nakedness = shame, except in the setting of a loving relationship. Our culture has skewed this.... However, we still all know it to be true. If it weren't the windows in strip clubs wouldn't be covered, we wouldn't have age requirements for certain types of movies or magazines. With Adam and Eve, it wasn't until their relationship with God was severed through disobedience that they felt shame. No one would argue nakedness between people is OK in a marriage relationship. However, I think if any of us were honest, and we were stripped naked in public.... in front of our family, friends, coworkers.... we would do whatever it took to cover ourselves. This doesn't have to just be talking about physical nakedness. What if you were stripped spiritually and mentally naked. What if all your family, friends, coworkers knew about all of your thoughts, knew about what you did behind closed doors.... would there be shame with that? I think if most people answered honestly... we'd say yes. This is the human being without God... naked. You see, we were created to have communion with God, to have a relationship with Him. We all have heard that Adam and Eve eating of the fruit = separation from God speech... so I won't go into it. However, the depth of that fall can be seen all around us and inside of us. Every person knows that there is more to life than what we can see. This is why we hear so much about people "seeking fulfillment," "finding themselves," and so on... Some people try to cover their nakedness, find fulfillment, replace what is missing with SO many different things. Work, Money, Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, Partying, Materialism, Education, Popularity, Recognition, good works and even... yes, I'm going to say it.... Religion. I think that once again... the honest among us would admit that eventually these things prove to disappoint. Do I really have to use the examples we all know all too well but hate to bring up?? Britney Spears, Eminem, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, Owen Wilson, Lindsey Lohan, Marilyn Monroe (I could go on and on....)?? We hate to compare ourselves to those people. But even worse than that are the ones you know. I'm not talking about movie stars or musicians. I'm talking about the ones you love the most. Family members (moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc....) who have spent their lives seeking some type of satisfaction from those above listed vices.... and who are probably some of the unhappiest people we know. Well, it seems a little weird. If we have this "God shaped hole" inside of us, why does God allow people to go through all this trouble and pain trying to fill it. The truth is.... God will allow you to come to a breaking point....He WANTS you to be stripped, disappointed, hurt, broken.... because when you have exausted all your options... He's all that's left. Adam and Eve figured it out... so did Peter.... and Paul.... and millions of Christ followers throughout the centuries. My vice, has and always will be, recognition and approval from others. This was the catalyst behind everything I did for my entire life up to the point of the aforementioned Life Defining Moment #2, and is still something I struggle with constantly. The truth is though... my identity and my purpose is in Christ alone.... who I am to Him (a daughter of the King, one who is perfect and flawless because the cleansing of Jesus's sacrifice) and what HIS purpose is for my life (to bring Him honor and glory in anything large or small I do). Everything I do... I have to seriously question myself as to whether or not my motivator is to make myself look good, or to glorify God. And believe, me.... God has no problem sending me home crying with frequent HUGE checks to my ego to remind me of my own weaknesses. I'm guessing that this will be a daily struggle with me for the rest of my life. I'm going to end this post by copying and pasting from the transcript of the message itself because I know I can't say it better than our Pastor JD did: "God lets your health deteriorate, lets you go through diffucult financial times... When that happens, you'll have one of a few reactions. Blame the thing itself and try a new idol. Sex didn't work, so I'll turn to money. Blame yourself: I'm not good enough. If I were smarter I'd be more successful... If I were prettier. Blame the world: become a cynic. Or you'll realize that what you are missing is something the world can't supply,it's found in God.....For Peter, he thinks that if he can be good enough to cover himself he can earn God's acceptance. Jesus lets him stumble, and fall, so He can learn that the love of God is not something you can earn. Peter will learn to trust in Jesus and not himself, and count on Jesus' love rather than his own goodness as his source of worth. That saved his life. And so, his failure saved his life, because when you're flat on your back, you're looking the right direction."

Don't forget to listen to the song I talked about at the beginning of the post... and if you have some time and feel like growing read/listen to JD's entire message here. Maybe it'll be one of your defining moments too.....

1 comment:

Michael and Heather Good said...

You are soooo sweet and funny! You really had me going, and then you STOP! right in the middle. How funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!