Only Jesus Opens Blinded Eyes

I’ve been reading Charles C. Ryrie’s Basic Theology over the last year with my fellow McLean Bible Church Residents (second year Future Leaders). We meet monthly to discuss different theological topics and gain a solid understanding of where MBC stands doctrinally. I really appreciate that I have the opportunity to learn and grow in my understanding of Scripture – and it’s part of my job!

As this year has progressed, I’ve found myself always eager to dive into the next section of Ryrie’s book. I don’t always agree with him, but I’ve enjoyed skimming the surface of a lot of doctrinal topics this year and it’s built great anticipation in my heart for the coming three years I’ll spend in seminary.

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the meaning of life

I discovered the meaning of life on February 12, 1999.

I’ve resolved to remember and reflect on the Gospel constantly and some of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to remember who and what I was before I clearly understood the Gospel and to remember what it was like for the Gospel to come alive in my heart. I was only thirteen years old the day that the Gospel came alive to me and changed the entire direction of my life for over a decade.

I’ll never forget the weekend of February 12. I went to an Acquire the Fire youth conference in Houston, Texas, and I returned home that first night a totally different girl. It was then that I first understood that Christ’s purpose in coming to earth, living a sinless life, dying on the cross, and then being raised from the dead was not just to save me from hell, but to reconcile me to Himself.

The Gospel took on an entirely new light. Church wasn’t just something to do. God wasn’t just someone to worship. The Church was something I was part of… and God was someone to worship and to love.

I realized I was saved from an existence without Him… I was no longer a sinner in need of salvation; my new identity was that I am saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), adopted into His family (Eph. 1:4-6), transformed (2 Cor. 5:17), redeemed (Gal. 3:12-13, reconciled into right standing with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19) and a coheir with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). And there was more! I was called to be a part of His mission (Mark 16:15).

That’s something that changes you forever.

What a beginning. I spent the weekend on my knees, so totally humbled by this revelation that I didn’t even desire to stand. It was an all-encompassing feeling, one that I’ll never forget but that if I’m not careful I can quickly relegate to the back of my mind. In just a single moment, the Holy Spirit illuminated my own heart and gave me a glimpse of the darkness abiding there –  and the knowledge that I was not in love with Christ, despite the fact that I was a “good kid,” in church and serving daily, obedient to my parents, and a memorizer of Scripture. I realized that even though I had served Christ and recognized my need for a Savior all of my life, I had never really known His heart or that He desired a relationship with me. I had never connected the “why” with the “what” and “how.” I knew we were saved by grace through Christ’s death, but I had never known why He wanted to save me.

That weekend transformed my life to from being Whitney-centered, to being focused on a pursuit of God and the people He loves. I desperately desired that my heart become His heart. I wanted to share His love with anyone and everyone that I met. I saved every penny to head to South Africa that summer to share the Gospel with people who had never heard. I was transformed from the inside out. I had finally figured out that life wasn’t meant to revolve around me. Life is all meant to be all about Christ – showcasing His love and the Gospel to everyone I come in contact with.

Living the Cross Centered Life

C.J. Mahaney’s book Living the Cross Centered Life is incredible. Basically, he articulates in clear and profound ways all that the Lord has been walking me through in my relationship with Him throughout the past year or so.

I love the questions he asks… Questions like, “What’s really the main thing in your life? Only one thing can truly be first in priority; so what’s at the top of your list, second to none? […] What are you most passionate about? What do you love to talk about? What do you think about most when your mind is free? […] What is it that defines you? Is it your career? A relationship? Maybe it’s your family, or your ministry. It could be some cause or movement, or some political affiliation…” (13)

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel is the only essential thing for our lives – “Now I would remind you brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins.” (1 Cor. 15:1,3)

What an introduction. And that’s only the first page. Trust me – you need a copy of this book. The foreword warned that it is “nothing less than a manifesto for turning your world upside down” (9) and boy, is it correct.

We all want to say that it’s our relationship with Christ that defines us. Most of the time I firmly believe that the Gospel is the thing I love the most… the thing I lean on and cling to; the thing I strive to remember and reflect on constantly. I talk about it daily and it is always my goal to live out the Gospel to those that I interact with and lead. But does it hold the foremost place in my heart and in life? Do I love HIM most?

I’m also currently reading Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood and today I read one of the most convicting things that I have ever read:

“The tricky thing about idolatry is that it is usually the pursuit of something that is otherwise good…Idolatry is enslavement to something we love… it’s a good thing that is elevated to a god thing […] a sin becomes an idol when we hold it in greater value than we value Jesus for our ultimate joy and satisfaction” (68)

This has led me to ask the following questions:

Where in my life do I pursue Christ as a means to an end? Where is merely who He is not enough for my ultimate joy and satisfaction?

Is there an area of my heart that I’m enslaved to something I love? If so, what is it?

Asking these questions is absolutely critical if I’m to live a Christ-centered life. I don’t have all the answers to them yet, but I know that I desire for the Gospel to be the thing that I’m most passionate about. I want it to color the way I look at each circumstance I walk through and every relationship I’m a part of. I want the Holy Spirit to constantly be transforming me into the image of the Son – all to bring Him glory and spread His name.

Mahaney says that “in the Scriptures we discover a profound urgency for focusing all we are and everything we do around the gospel of the cross. For not only does this good news come first chronologically in our Christian experience, but it stays foremost in critical importance for creating and sustaining our joy and our fruitfulness” (15).

I’m learning that once you fall in love with the Gospel the next step is to make your life match (be worthy of) the weight of the Gospel and Scripture. And I think that the first step in doing so is actually establishing Christ as first. Making Him my ultimate joy and expecting that He’ll make a beautiful thing of me.

beautiful rescues

We were rescued a long time ago. It’s a story we tell, but not often enough.

Tonight in small group the last few of the girls shared their stories of how they came to know Christ. I’m always totally and completely amazed at how unique each story and journey is, even though the ultimate theme is SALVATION. Pain, grace, forgiveness, and redemption are woven into each story, whether the storyteller was raised in church, in a broken, hurting family, or in a broken, hurting family that was also in church. We’re saved from so much, and yet… we forget all too often. I think we tend to lose sight of what such a rescue really means… what we were really saved from. When we focus on today and its problems and troubles, we fail to look at the big picture… and we forget how important these stories really are.

A rescue story, one in which we become “free or delivered from confinement, violence, danger, or evil,” is a story that is generally told over and over… and each time with just as much enthusiasm… because one who was lost is now found… recovered and brought back from the brink of death. When we hear of a lost child being recovered, or of a trapped miner being freed, those stories spread like wildfire online, are picked up by all the news outlets, and usually remain in the news for several days. The more dramatic stories, like long-lost kidnapping victims being returned, remain in the news for months or years, even.  Generally PEOPLE Magazine runs a several page spread of photos and a human interest story and then they check in with the individual several months or a year down the road to see how they’re doing. Rescues are really big deals.

At the beginning of the fall semester, John shared again with the Gathering  the story of how he was found by Christ. I’ve heard the story many times, but I’m always totally amazed all over again at the lengths God will go to, just to get our attention. I grabbed a CD (quite appropriately entitled “Rescue”) and listened again this week… I feel like we need to remember these stories of rescue more often. The grace wrapped up in John’s story amazes me and every time I hear him describe the relief and the feelings that came with his salvation, I’m totally reminded of my own story… and of the grace I myself have been given.

Colossians 1:13-14, 21-22 paints such a beautiful picture of this grace:

13:-14: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

21-22: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…”

Wow. How can we fail to be amazed perpetually, much less daily?