Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Jesus Wants You to Believe in Yourself" and Other Lies about Self-Confidence

Confidence is deceitful.  You may be confident that you can jump off a cliff, flap your arms, and soar through the air, but the truth is that you will plummet like a stone.  Sure, self-confidence may make us feel better about ourselves, and may make us feel more productive and willing to take risks.  But the truth is, we all fail regardless of how good we feel about ourselves.

Many books have been written in the attempt to free us to be content in who we are and to stop us from comparing ourselves to others.  That sounds good when you're talking about externals, but if you look at that from a spiritual angle, it falls flat.  We are NOT inherently good.  God did not choose us because he "believed in us", but because he saw that we are helpless and lost.  Even while his loving arms are reaching out to us, we are blind and cold to him.  By nature we hate God.  We hate what is pure, what is true, and what is good. 

If you are a Christian and think that you must make yourself believe that you have innate faith, beauty, or goodness, you are believing a lie.  Certainly, these attributes are imputed to us through Christ, but not because of any merit of our own.  God did not choose us because we are good enough- we can never be good enough!  He chose us because he loved us.

I often find myself comparing myself to others.  Sometimes the result is that I feel less beautiful, less lovable, or less spiritual... I can make myself miserable with the thought that I am somehow worth less.  Other times I compare myself with others in order to feel better about myself- "At least I would never do that!".  We all do this.  But we are so busy quantifying ourselves in comparison to fellow sinners that we are blind to the perfect righteousness that God requires.  What is the point in saying that we still have a few shreds of flesh left on our bones, when we are all dead anyways?  The life of Christ is the only thing worth comparing ourselves to.  When we see his spotless righteousness in light of our constant failings, our "self-confidence" is shattered.  There is no chance to redeem ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.  That kind of security is simply hanging from a thread.  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", and thus we are all justly doomed to the same fate- an eternity in hell. 

When will we see that we are dry bones, devoid of the breath of life?  (Ezekiel 37)  Oh, but if we will see and recognize the reality that we were dead but now we live, what joy we find!  Because Christ took our sins upon himself and abolished them, we are resurrected to life with him through the breath of the Spirit.  The identity of a Christian therefore lies not in what we do, but who we are identified with.  And so we no longer look to others, or even to ourselves for identity or security- we are secure in Christ, who is our identity.  We esteem him above all, so that we are no longer concerned with esteeming ourselves.

This is why I marvel, and this is where my security lies: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

While we were nothing, He became our everything.  Self-esteem, self-image, self-confidence... these are self-centered ideas that lead to disillusionment and discontentment.  But to exalt the Lord and to be confident that His plans and His salvation are unfailing, despite my failed efforts- this is the path to contentment and security.  We find unshakable confidence when we realize that we are worthless, and yet are loved by the one who is forever worthy.

So I challenge you- ask God to help you see your depravity this week, so that you might marvel in the beauty of his redemption and love.

My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price
of all my sin at Calvary.

No merit of my own
His anger to suppress,
My only hope is found
In Jesus' righteousness.

("My Hope is in the Lord" by Norman J. Clayton)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is He Enough?

Have you ever eaten your favorite food so often that you became sick of it? Have you ever had a good friend who became just plain annoying after you had to be with them for an extended length of time?

We all have. Because of our experiences, we as humans have trouble believing that any material thing, any good thing, any emotion, or any pleasure, will last forever.  We know from experience that no one thing will ever fulfill us, so we go from one thing to another, trying to find something that will last. Quite simply, no good thing in this world lasts forever, including our own lives. And so, when it comes to God, we do not come expecting to be satisfied- we are so used to having to move from one thing to another in order to find something that will fill us. It seems like eternal restlessness has been built into people. We face the reality that nothing in all the earth can quench our innate thirst for that “something” we have yet to find. So we search for that “something” in status, riches, food, drink, relationships- the list is endless. But we do not find it there. We feel that our emptiness is a mortal wound, and so we search fruitlessly for the cure. 

We do not think to find the grand paradox- we do not see the reality that to be the least is to be the greatest. The highest place is at the feet of the King of Kings. We are rich when we sell our filthy rags to gain the Pearl of great price (Matt 13:44-45). When we realize that we are starving, we find that true food is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). True drink flows from the Fountain of Living Water (John 4:13-14). A fulfilling and lasting relationship is found as the child (Gal 3:26-27), the slave (Rom 6:18), and the bride (Eph 5:25-27), of the Father (1 John 3:1), the Master (Matt 6:24), and the Bridegroom (Is 54:5) of our souls!

There is one thing in all the universe that will fully satisfy: his name is Jesus Christ.

There is no searching in Christ- there is no restlessness. His love does not grow tired, stale, or cold. His love is an ever-consuming fire with no beginning and no end. His eternal attributes; his justice, wrath, mercy, and grace are immeasurable.  His thoughts are higher than we could fathom. 

His power is enough to tear down the mountains and empty the seas. He could shake the stars from the heavens as easily as a child's breath could scatter a cloud of dandelion seeds.

Do not turn again to worldly things in the fear that God is not enough. Banish the reflex of ascent, instead resting in Him, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:7 Search and test Him. Plumb the unsearchable depths of His nature and be in awe. Be filled and amazed! Be lost in the worship of His glory. Drown in the spring which will never run dry.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever. 
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yummy Pumpkin Scones

I am so glad I decided to take Food Studies this year!  I love baking and cooking, and the incentive of taking a course helps me find time to do it.  Yesterday morning I made this scone recipe.  Were they ever good! I always begin craving pumpkin this time of year.  The spices seem to complement the crisp air so well. 
I decided to cut down on the sugar content, so I made only the spiced glaze, which seemed to be just the perfect amount of sweetness.  I'm planning to make these again tomorrow morning.  This recipe has quickly become a family favorite.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Beautiful Picture

I took this picture a while ago and ran across it tonight.  Hopefully you can read the words of Psalm 32 on the page.  I really don't know what else to say about this passage.  It's such a beautiful, true picture of guilt, conviction, repentance, and the blessedness of forgiveness.  And what beautiful foreshadowing to the atoning sacrifice of Christ there is in the words, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered... in whose spirit is no deceit".  We are not forgiven because of our righteousness or blamelessness- for we are by nature deceitful and objects of wrath- but because we are bought by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God- Jesus Christ.  We are clothed in his pure white garments.  What a blessed Saviour!