“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“Those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them”
(I John 3:24).
(I John 3:24).
Writes Max Lucado:
“Take note of the precious preposition ‘in.’ Christ isn’t just near you or for you or with you; he longs to be in you. God offers you the same Christmas gift he gave Mary-- the indwelling Christ. Christ grew in her until he came out. Christ will grow in you until the same occurs. Christ will come out in your speech, in your actions, in your decisions. Every place you live will be a Bethlehem and everyday you live will be a Christmas. You, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world. “
What a frightening thought that for some people, the Christ I deliver to them in my words and actions could be the only Jesus they experience! This weekend I celebrated my 53rd birthday and can say with discouraging confidence that the Christ I have delivered to family, friends, and strangers over the last half-century and change is not the Christ I long to encounter at life’s end.
That Jesus is always, always merciful. I have harbored, on far too many occasions, a well-covered desire for punishment to befall those guilty of real and supposed offenses against me or my loved ones. They have it coming, don’t they?
That Jesus is always, always loving. If I’m brutally honest, there is a pitifully short list of people I have deemed worthy of my love; in contrast, Jesus’ list includes every person on the planet. I have spoken biting words of sarcasm when he would have softly whispered, “I love you even now.” I have let resentments build and boil over when his love would have …has…covered a multitude of sins (see 1 Peter 4:8).
The Jesus I want to be like is holy. Holier-than-thou isn’t the same thing, unfortunately! My sins may look, compared to some and through equally sinful eyes, not too too bad. But if the standard is Christ, his holiness shining through this weak vessel has been effectively diluted and filtered out by my cares for the world, my selfishness, my unholiness. To be holy is to be set apart, kept for God’s purposes. How many purposes have been put into place, and fulfilled, by…me? Apart from God, not set apart for him. The Bible calls all that stuff wood, hay, and stubble, destined to be burned up. Only what God has wrought in our lives will stand the test of fire (see 1 Corinthians 3:12).
The Jesus who will greet me one day loves justice. Although it seemed, growing up, that I never got away with anything, I have. If I’ve been consistently caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I owe it to God’s loving discipline, not my own desire to stick to the straight and narrow. And if people could read my thoughts, as God can, and does? As horrible as my words and actions have been for five decades, my thoughts have been far worse. I do not want justice for myself because it would mean extreme punishment, even death (see Romans 6:23).
And yet…when I was younger, I would look at my elders and sometimes hear them speak of regrets. They wished they had gone further in school, taken another job, moved to another city, married someone else. They wished they had committed their lives to the Lord sooner. They wished they had taken better care of themselves.
At 53, I would love to go back to school and further my own education—but apparently it is God’s will that I be around to help my grandkids with their homework. Instead of gaining head knowledge I may never need or use, I have the opportunity to teach them every day. My lessons aren’t always positive, but it is a positive part of life. And nothing can stop an inquisitive person from learning, whether inside university walls or not.
I missed out on a career while homeschooling and raising four children, but those years represent the happiest (and busiest) time of my life. My jobs, when I finally ventured outside the home, have been rewarding.
When I was a child, we moved from the mountains of North Carolina to Florida’s southeast coast; I grumbled the whole way, determined not to like my parent’s choice. Had the Lord not led us there, I wouldn’t have married my husband. Four wonderful children would not have been born. Ditto for three grandchildren. And who would have guessed I would travel to Jamaica, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand? That I would have preferred staying longer on foreign soil doesn’t rob the richness of our experiences.
My parents took us to church whenever the doors were open, and made sure that we were raised in an environment of unconditional love and faith. Even though I didn’t have a deep enough understanding to commit myself to Christ until I was a teenager, I know that the decision was honestly my own.
When I started writing this, I got choked up with a sense of my shortcoming and faults. Clearly, I’ve got lots of work to do…or rather, the Lord’s completed work (see Colossians 2:9, 10) may need many more years to shine through this thick skull and carnal shell. On the other hand, I’ve finished up smiling at the gracious things he has allowed me to experience. I have known mercy. I have known love. I have known the joy of accomplishing tasks and reaching goals. I haven’t been rich (by my standards) but I also haven’t been poor (again, by my standards).
I’ve fallen down more times than I care to say. But the Lord has always pulled me back up to my feet, brushed me off, and said, one more time, “Follow me.” No matter how many times he says it, it is never with impatience, as if he knew I would fall in the first place. Hmmm.
So, I guess it’s one of those paradoxes of life that while I have many, many regrets as to my own choices of behavior, I have no regrets at all in the way the Lord has led me during the last 53 years. There are things I don’t understand and will probably never understand this side of heaven. I still get angry about some of the things he has allowed to happen, still pout occasionally and feel sorry for myself that Life refuses to treat me as the center of the universe. But I can truly say that in all things and at all times, his grace has been and continues to be sufficient.
He might have suggested exercising a little sooner, though.
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