Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why do you want to...?

I haven't written much lately (master of the obvious). I'd like to say it's because I was doing some wildly exciting thing or on a fabulous trip, but realistically I've been busy and haven't thought anyone cared a smidgen about my random thoughts. There have also been a few times I've drafted posts and, after re-reading, decided they didn't make sense or convey what I was striving for. Maybe today's will be the same, maybe not. Guess we'll see. :)

Since Christmas, I've bounced around different areas of study during my time with The Man. I've pilfered through different books in the Old Testament, agonized (well, some of the time) in Shattered Dreams, investigated Don't Waste Your Life for my small group, and, most recently, picked-up You Can Change. It's been great to see how each of these seemingly unrelated books actually relate in huge ways since they're all woven into the fabric of God's story.

Anyway, this morning I primarily focused in You Can Change, which led to a question and a passage in Matthew. The question was "why do you want to become more like Jesus?" I journaled my response, feeling confident that my motives were pure as I know being more like Jesus is abnormal and, at it's core, makes life less about me.

Then I proceeded to read and felt wildly convicted as the author explained that being more like Jesus means working through/eliminating sins and what is our motivation for that? He outlined that we often have three motivations for repenting from sin:
1. Receive blessing from the Lord
2. Be viewed as "good" by others
3. Self-atone as we still think we have to earn salvation

I realized that if I'm completely honest, I, too, am motivated by bits of those three items. In my head I think, "if I escape this sin, God will bring a husband" or "if I don't stop sinning, I'll be kicked out of student ministry" (I haven't thought that in a while, but have in the past!), or "I shouldn't sin anymore as a believer". All lies and all barriers to drawing close to the Lord and, ultimately, experiencing freedom from sin.

The author then directed to a passage in Matthew that, incidentally, paralleled the passage discussed during this weekend's Dtown (more on that later); Matthew 7:13-28.

I started thinking specifically about the narrow gate and narrow road and the foolish man building his house on the sand, along with a phrase shared this weekend "we too often choose instant gratification instead of delayed satisfaction."

This road with Christ is not intended to be easy, something I'm most definitely learning more and more. Ultimate satisfaction in Jesus does not mean earthly comfort. I find myself striving to define what it does mean in a tangible sense, but I think maybe it's not definable as it's not normal in an earthly sense. How do you define followers of Christ who are being stoned and yet singing praises to Jesus as Stephen did? That's not normal.

This realization gives me some peace, but also freaks me out. Why? Because I don't know if I'm experiencing it. Why? Because my brain STILL defines it in the realms of comfort! A piece of me thinks that if I don't feel close to the Lord and not out-of-control, that's satisfaction. But maybe that's actually the opposite. Maybe satisfaction is KNOWING God is there, in spite of my feelings, and feeling wildly out-of-control. Maybe, I'm not sure.

Anyway, so I started stewing on these things and trying to work the puzzle in my head. I also considered them through the lens of my very feelings-based personality. I've realized in the past week-or-so that too often my feelings take over my logic. Sometimes that's okay, but sometimes the feelings make it difficult to separate when I'm giving into instant gratification. However, thankfully God has shown me that this feelings-based personality is not bad. That I don't need to learn how to shut them off as he created me this way. Instead, I must realize that I must be rooted in the Spirit's power to overcome those feelings when they are leading me down the wide path as opposed to the narrow path. When they turn me into a foolish person, bent on instant gratification.

So that brings me back to the original question: "Why do you want to become more like Jesus?" We are all so very different, and yet we can ALL become more like Jesus. How awesome is that? The depth of his character is such that every single solitary personality-type can be more like him. How? Because the Spirit fills-in the gap for us all, just as it does with me.

So how do I become more like Jesus? I journaled about this for a while and, after realizing how stinking excited and exhilarating it was to read the few verses of Jesus' words, felt a pressing of the Spirit to engulf myself in them. So, folks, I'm moving over to the Gospels for an undefined period of time. I plan to avail myself to the Spirit's urging, but plan to move molassesly-slow through the four Gospels, relishing Jesus' life. I know they get repetitive when they cover the same story, but what better story to read over-and-over?! I'm darn excited. It's been a few years since I studied Jesus' life in-depth and, even then, it was typically not a dedication to all four Gospels.

I want desperately to become more like Jesus. I am ecstatic to see how this time unfolds, particularly as I've spent the last two-or-so years mostly in the OT. I am confident that time of studying prophesy for the coming Christ will ever enrich this time studying the fulfillment of those prophesies. And more than anything else, I pray that the Lord uses these times to mold and change me further, regardless of what that means for my personal comfort and dreams.

Shatter 'em, Lord, if it means I can be more like Jesus.