Dear Beloved Reader,
It’s been a few weeks since I last posted. Recently I got to journey back to my beloved old home of Santa Barbara to share with the graduating International Students. Without spending too much time going over other things, I just wanted to flesh to paper my sharing from that graduation retreat because I feel as though it is very pertinent to many different people in different places of their lives.
Before I proceed, I want to give some kudos/credit to a few people for teaching/helping me to flesh out these thoughts over the past 6 months in random books, talks, blogs and conversations: Jeff Louie, CJ Mahaney, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Acuff, … and those in my life that have continued to participate in my life experience “marinade”.
I was asked to share some parting advice to the graduating international students that I have had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with and getting to see them go from strangers, to friends, and now for many, to family as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I hope you as a reader would set aside time to reflect on my words and that it may be a blessing to you for the rest of your life. This has helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life recently whether it is heartbreak, discouragement, loneliness, or doubts about one’s life. My one word of advice that has come over the past few years of reflection and marinade of life is the absolute importance to daily and as often as necessary: preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to yourself.
It is important to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to oneself because it helps to have a healthy reset/reorientation/correction of one’s personal perspective of life, and also because it has an amazing ability to free you (the reader) from the world’s bindings of sin, guilt, and shame as you live unfettered to flesh out God’s redemptive purpose in your life and in the lives of others.
This mainly arises from many conversations that I have had over the past few months with people in relationships, trying to figure out which school/universities to attend, to decisions about career, and even about marriage. The common fear or issue that arises during these conversations is the fear of making the wrong choice. What if I make the wrong choice… what is the right choice? This stems from a concern about the irreversibility of life… and that because you only get one chance or shot at life… we want to make it right. We don’t want to make the wrong choices. This leads us to a LOT of worry, fear and guilt.
We feel these things because of a few competing factors: we do not want to let God down, we do not want to let our parents down, we don’t want to let ourselves down. What this does s this leads us to a guilt and fear in our decision making process. Note, now some guilt is healthy… because if it’s due to sin… then there is a need to repent and to come to God in those times to reconcile and reflect on the Good News of Jesus Christ. But more often than not, guilt is the steady drumbeat of feeling as though our actions and decisions are NOT good enough… and this slowly accumulates and drags us down.
But life is not meant to be lived in this binding chain, or weight of guilt, because it is meant to be lived in the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished. This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so essential! This is why we need to daily and as often as we can reflect on the Gospel that serves as a lighthouse shining a beacon of truth/light in the midst of our dark, stormy sea’d lives.
Three things to reflect upon when sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with yourself:
1) Sovereignty of God.
The first thing we acknowledge in our acceptance of the Gospel is that God is always in control. God transcends circumstance. We need to have a better understanding of the will of God… to remember that nothing we do is going to be a surprise to Him. Nothing is above His knowledge, because He knows all. Now I’m not discounting the fact that God may reveal an answer through prayer, confirmations, or even the Word, but sometimes we find that God does not give us a discernable answer… so what do we do? Maybe this lack of response scares or possibly creates even more doubt/guilt in our lives.
The point is that maybe you are going to make mistakes… you may make decisions that may lead to hardships, and perhaps you may even choose the less “popular” or “wise” choice because of whatever reasons.
2) Freedom in Christ
This is why you need to reflect on the Gospel daily… its to consider the freedom that comes by the blood of Jesus Christ. You are NEVER to feel that you have made a decision that can not be redeemed. He is always able to redeem. Whether you pick the right/wrong school/job, bf/gf, or husband/wife, everything is redeemable in Jesus Christ. It is amazing that whether good or bad, God’s grace through Jesus Christ will be manifested. If bad, maybe you’ll get he privilege to see more of God’s work at hand. You are free to make the wrong choice (NOTE: I’m not talking about drug dealer vs. teacher decisions that can be easily clarified in reflection to the Word of God and the laws of our gov’t).
You are free to make the wrong choice because Christ is so much bigger than that! You grow in faith, and you apply your faith in the grace of God to the most difficult circumstances and situations. In my own life as I have moved up to the Bay… there have been times of great duress in my heart as I struggle with the choice of walking away from everything I was happy with and comfortable with to pursue God… it has been a lonely journey in some parts, but now I am starting to notice how God has led and helped me through this whole process. Marriage, work, ministry, relationships, school, and life… everything is redeemable in Jesus Christ! We are free to make choices.
3) Radical Living through the Holy Spirit
The Gospel is NOT SIMPLY about salvation… and it does not just stop there, but it is the controlling theme and should encompass every aspect of our lives! Victory has been won, Christ will continue to intercede for you and I… even beyond the circumstances or the wrong choices. If you are free, you can live radically in Christ.
Life is not lived in guilt, or burden of not doing enough, or being good enough. As David Platt writes: “True change can NOT be built on guilt, but true radical life change is through trust in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.” Now I’m not talking about going to live a life of legalism, but one of love and grace. Freedom from low level of guilt… driven by grace! It is in that freedom to make a choice, whether to do more or you do less… it is a privilege and a blessing to participate in God’s redemptive plan! If you do NOT, you are still deeply loved by God! It is in this freedom that you can live radically by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to do amazing things.
You are liberated to live a life of freedom to truly do His Work, not burdened by guilt… and to do so great or not great. There is no guilt or doubt about being loved… in whatever context! So let me write again, that it is important to reflect on the Gospel because what you realize is that you have great power that is not simply reliant upon you, but upon and through the work of God through the Holy Spirit.
It is in ending that I again return to what I shared in the beginning that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ… and that it does not simply stop at your point of accepting Christ into your life. It is very important that you reflect on it daily and throughout your life. Today’s sharing I hope does not simply leave you feeling sad but liberated and free to be joyful/passionate/excited in the Lord! My hope is that you will embrace the grace and freedom in Christ and live life unburdened by guilt… and having to try so hard to be good enough in all your decisions… in whatever you do.
May you live with the absolute unbendable truth, and the flexible grace that comes only through Jesus Christ in whatever context you may find yourself in. May you constantly reflect upon God’s Word, seeking intimacy in prayer with Him, and seeing His constant physical example through the company and fellowship of the community family of His saints. May you continue to live a life always in reflection of the person and work of Jesus Christ… sharing the Gospel to yourself… and to others.
With His love,