The Gospel

I went into college thinking I knew more than most about Christianity. I knew I didn’t know everything, but I saw myself as “mature”, “knowledgeable”, “rooted”.

Then God began a series of humbling events and trials, revealing my sin and my superficial understanding of the gospel.

I had heard the gospel so many times. I learned to recite it as a kid. I was taught to preach the gospel to myself daily. I knew the facts.

I knew that I am a sinner and deserve hell, but a part of me still thought, “I am better than most.” “My sin is not that bad.”

Slowly, God changed my prideful heart. Over and over again this year, God revealed to me my sin, showing me how easily my heart wanders and seeks self instead of Him. I often felt helpless against my sin, as I seemed to have no ability or power to control my thoughts or actions. I felt disgusted at myself and thought in fear about how God must feel towards my sin.

But in these times of despair and helplessness, the gospel became so much greater and so much more necessary. In these times, I could do nothing but desperately turn to the cross, reminding myself of Ephesians 2:1-7

” 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

The more I saw my own failures, the more victorious Christ’s death and resurrection became. The more I felt helpless in my ability to overcome sin, the more I thanked Christ for his sacrifice that freed me from the bondage of sin. The more hopeless my condition seemed, the more I rejoiced in the undeserved gift I received through Christ’s suffering.

I then realized that the things I am told to do at church like worship, service, prayer, reading my Bible, are all natural responses to the gift of the gospel. Knowing I have been saved from sin and can now have fellowship with the Creator God who loves me more than I can imagine, what could I do but praise this God and follow Him joyfully and obediently?

O, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King
The triumphs of His grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears
That bids our sorrows cease
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears
‘Tis life and health and peace

He breaks the power of cancelled sin
He sets the prisoners free
His blood can make the foulest clean
His blood availed for me

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Boasting in the Lord

I think often Christians like to throw around the phrase, “Boast only in the Lord.” The message of this is pretty clear: be humble.

But as I was thinking about this the other day, I realized I did not really know what “boasting in the Lord” actually means and looks like.

As I thought about this idea more, an image came to my head. I think boasting in the Lord is similar to a little boy who loves and boasts in his dad. He wants all his friends to see his dad and how awesome he is. Whenever people compliment him about something, he genuinely responds, “I learned that from my dad.”

In the same way, boasting in God is showing God off to others because He is truly good, and perfect, and worthy of praise. Anything good that I do is a result of God, so the praise should not go to me, but to God. When God works in my life, in sanctifying me or using me to do His will, He is displaying how holy, loving, perfect, just, and sovereign He is and how sinful and hopeless I am without Him.

If I know that none of what I do can come from myself, how could I do anything but praise God and give Him glory?

When we take pride in ourselves, it reveals a wrongful heart that thinks that I did all the work, or at least most of the work, to get to where I am. We forget that everything we have is a gift from God and whatever successes we have are only a result of God’s grace. How can we, imperfect and sinful creatures, boast and try to take glory away from a holy and almighty God?

17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

When I read this, I was surprised and encouraged to read verse 18. When we boast in God, when we humble ourselves, God will commend us. Instead of storing for ourselves pride or human attention on earth, we are storing for ourselves eternal treasures in heaven that are worth much more than our pride.

Ultimately, the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ.

5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

This passage brightened my day.

Psalm 96:11-13

11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
12Let the field exult, and all that is in it
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
13Before the LORD, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.

The heavens and the earth are rejoicing and singing because they know God is returning, and we get to spend eternity with Him.

Unworthy

Looking back on my four years of high school, my biggest regret is the holier-than-thou attitude I tended to have. I didn’t want to talk to those “unholy” Non-Christians. I didn’t want to talk to anyone at school. I looked down upon any Christian who did anything I didn’t approve of.

I had forgotten the gospel. I was not preaching it to myself (in case you missed Helicon’s post on preaching the gospel to yourself, you can read it here).

God reminded me again and again this year that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23. He’s given me opportunities to talk to people at my school who I saw as “bad” and “beyond God’s grace” even and has reminded me that I am just as unworthy of God’s grace as they are.

I recently had a conversation with two girls from school. Both of them definitely led sinful lives, but just being willing to hang out with them gave me an opportunity to hear about their stories and their struggles and share about my own struggles. These girls became more than a statistic, but two lives that needed God, just as I need God.

Basically growing up in the church and always being a good Asian student, I had forgotten (or never realized) that without Christ, everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Nothing makes me better than the millions of people who don’t know Christ.

While every Christian would insist that we are saved through grace by faith and not by works, it is easy to forget that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” – Romans 5:8. I often forget that without Christ, I am a hopeless and unworthy sinner to God, not just a “good,” average person.

God struck down Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant as he was trying to save it from falling. Our natural reaction to this story is, “How unfair! Why would God kill someone from trying to save the ark?” We forget how dirty and despicable we are compared to God. As George Lim said at winter retreat, Uzzah’s greatest sin was thinking that he was cleaner than the dirt.

We are so unworthy of God and the wonderful gifts and blessings he gives us each day.

My Christmas

It’s not Christmas yet, but this has already been one of the greatest holiday seasons I’ve had.

But to most of my friends, I’m having the worst Christmas. I’m spending these next couple days home alone, with nothing to eat but applesauce, pudding, and yogurt. I spend each hour either trying to write college essays or watching TV.

But when all the things the world associates with Christmas is stripped away, I’m reminded more of Christ.

I spent a couple of days feeling sorry for myself and not looking forward to Christmas, but God woke me up and asked me, “How could you not be satisfied when I’ve given you the greatest gift I could. I gave you my son!”

Isn’t that all we need to rejoice during Christmas and everyday of our lives? That story of Jesus being born in a manger is told and retold so many times, but the miracle of God coming down to be with us never gets old.

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:13-14

It is the holidays. Take this time to stop, and mediate on God’s amazing gift.

The Creator of the universe has made us the humble recipients of the world’s greatest gift. May we never cease to praise Him.