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Sunday, May 20, 2007
This was written in 2006/2007 to my class of 2007. Yes, there is some doctrinal immaturity here and there, but the same Spirit working in me and convicting me of the Truth. Praise God, He has been my Shepherd all the days of my life and continues to rescue me from every evil attack. May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering.
Leaving a Godly Legacy: In the Presence of God
Dear Class of 2007 and anyone else,
I write this letter in the name of Jesus Christ firstly to those in my former class at New Life Academy and secondly to the rest at New Life who may read this. God has laid it on my heart to share some truths from His Word to you all that are vital to the ultimate revelation of God's glory. Always remember to compare anything you hear with the truth of the Bible to determine whether or not it is true; I pray that I may present what is in this letter truly and sincerely to the glory of God and that you will be open to hearing God’s Word. I know that I am the worst candidate for writing a letter like this, but it is by God’s grace alone that I may write the truth boldly in the name of Christ though I fail to live up to God’s standards spoken of in this letter. This letter is broken up into several subcategories:
- Verse Interpretation
- Do we Truly Know What Sin Is?
- “Being All things to All People”
- The Christian Struggle
- How we are to Live in Light of the Glory of God
- Dying to Self
- Emotional Highs
- God’s Presence
- The Justness of Hell
- The Truth
- Social Life
- College Atheism
- Love for People
- What you Should do!
- What our Class Should Do!
Some of you have been in this class since the beginning of elementary and many of you have joined afterwards; some of you go to the church here too and are very integrated into the New Life world. For all of us oldtimers and most of the rest also, our story of salvation runs something like this, "When I was five, my teacher asked us if we wanted to ask Jesus into our hearts and I raised my hand and was saved and later my mom explained it to me more". Some of us will have sequels such as, "When I went on a mission trip in 8th grade my faith became more real to me and I grew alot closer to God" or "It was not until I grew older that I really understood the message of salvation". God desires that His message of salvation be proclaimed to all creatures as is stated in the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). So I will put it here, though it may seem repetitious, so that you may see what it says and whether you truly believe it for your salvation. If there is one thing you must know and understand it is the following message of salvation.
1. There is a God who is perfect, holy, sinless, all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere all the time at the same time. He perfectly loves and only does good. (Deut. 32:4)
2. God created mankind for His glory to have communion with Him and delight in His presence. (Isaiah 43:7)
3. He is not tyrannical like some kings and gave us a choice to stay in His joyous presence or leave it. (James 4:4)
4. We left it. (Romans 3:23)
5. We are no longer holy and sinless like God. We are not only tainted, but we are soaked in stains, sunk into a miry pit of despair because of our choice. (I Cor. 15:56)
6. Since God loves mankind, could He not simply let them into heaven in spite of their sin? No, heaven is perfect; the moment one of us imperfect beings enters into it, it ceases to be perfect and therefore ceases to be a place of perfect love, joy, and peace. (Hebrews 12:23)
7. For God to let us into heaven while we were imperfect was to destroy the place of perfection and we may as well have kept on living on planet earth since in a destroyed heaven and wicked earth, there exists little difference. (Romans 5:10)
8. God still loved us though and wanted to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him. (Eph 5:2)
9. God hates sin since He is perfect. (Psalm 94:23)
10. God's wrath (hell) on us due to our sin is removed by the shedding of blood. (I Thessalonians 1:10, Hebrews 9:22)
11. A perfect sacrifice was need to pay for our sins. Only God is perfect so He sent His Son to earth to be the sacrifice. (I Cor 5:7)
12. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. (I Cor 15:3-4)
13. If we repent and turn away from our sin and put our faith in Jesus Christ, we will be saved and reconciled with God. (Mark 1:15, John 1:12, Romans 10:9)
1. God showed us His grace by giving us a free gift we do not deserve (Ehpesians 2:8-9)
2. God showed us His mercy by not giving us the punishment we deserve. (Titus 3:5)
3. God showed us His love by bearing on Himself our sin though He did not wrong. (Isaiah 53:9, John 3:16)
If you do not understand this, reread it and read the verses and the Word of God more importantly until you are completely confident in God's Word. The Bible says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). If certain verses in the Bible make you uncomfortable, do not:
1. make an excuse to comfort yourself
2. try to forget about it
3. prescribe the malediction to someone else that seems more sinful than you.
Take the verse as it is and humble yourself and pray until you receive forgiveness and peace. We do not do this often because we are afraid to leave our sinful lifestyle. John 3:20 says "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.". For example, consider these verses from Matthew 7,
16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
We think to ourselves, because we are saved and in Christ, God sees me as a "good tree", how can this verse be true since I bear bad fruit sometimes. Sometimes I get angry or focus on myself or lack humility. The verse says that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Most of us would comfort ourselves saying, "God is loving and He forgives us". This is true but if we read more of God's Word we see that we must "put off our old self (Eph. 4:22)", "be blameless and pure (Phil 1:10)", "not let ourselves be burdened by the yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1)", etc. This verse is telling us that we have got to get rid of anything that is sin in our life! We cannot have comfort reading this verse if sin exists in our life and so we will never have comfort while reading it until the day when Christ brings us to His perfection. And this is how our lives were intended to be: a race to perfection and a series of dying to self and giving up one stronghold after another as the Lord shows us; it is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin, intercedes for us, and helps us pray.
Do We Truly Know What Sin Is?
So if we are to continually be surrendering our sin, we must know what sin is. At New Life we are not misinformed, but misinterpret the truth by viewing the way of life around us. There were three things Mr. Ross said over and over again concerning sin that you all must know by now.
1. Sin refers to the act of hiding...when we are not in God's presence we are sinning; if we are hidding from God we are sinning
2. We must give up our sin, but often times we fall back into sin because we ask God to remove our sin while still hanging onto it for our dear lives; God will not force sin away from us, He patiently waits for us to give it to Him of our own free will. (remember how he took a book and hugged onto it tightly while asking God to take it away from him as an example?)
3. Temptations are like branches in our way that we must constantly brush aside and after a while, God in His grace will allow us to more easily brush them aside and they become fewer.
The sin we know at New Life are the obvious things. I will be very straightforward; they are things like pregnancies, theft, drugs, alcohol, strange engagements. The sin that exists at New Life is what we all do every single day constantly. What does God say that sin is?
1. anything that does not come from faith (Romans 14:23) when we witness once a year, that is done out of faith, when we worship God in Spirit and truth, that is of faith, when we pray, that is of faith, when we encourage each other and speak God's truth, that is of faith, when we read God's Word, that is of faith, when we do good to others, that is of faith...everything else is pretty much sin. This puts the majority of the things on our list of things we do everyday in the sin category. Anything that does not bring God glory in sin. What about when you are eating an apple? Are you sinning then since you may not seem to be doing it for God's glory? Thank Him for it...give Him the glory for it and delight in Him while you eat it and that brings Him glory. While you do your homework, go for a walk, play basketball, etc. stay in God's presence and be thanking Him in your heart if not in your mind and this brings Him glory through doing these things. The problem is that most of us rarely do this. Who plays basketball while being in God's presence? Who takes tests with God and gives Him the glory for the "A"? Who praises God while putting on makeup? Who thinks about God once during lunch at Subway? Who glorifies God by joking and laughing around even about neutral things? This brings us to the fallacy that we have fallen into that neutral things are not wrong. Everything that does not comes from faith is sin. If you eat an apple not out of faith, you sin. You are hiding from God's presence in any sin. There are however two categories of sin:
a. sin done by a non Christian (a lifestyle issue)
b. sin done by a true Christian (will eventually be labeled as sin since the Christian will be miserable while living in sin and step into the light of God's word and repent and turn away from it)
We should be miserable while we speak of fall bash (most of what goes on there is not glorifying to God), or while we wear make-up, or while we flirt, or while we restrict ourselves from interacting with those of another popularity level...MISERABLE (except for the rare case that we are bringing God glory by doing these things). If you are not, ask yourself if you are a Christian. I heard about the Spirit week dance our class did last year...perhaps we could label it as sin because in most cases, such things are for our own enjoyment and do not bring God glory (especially with secular music), but apparently it unified the class and broke down walls of silence between different people groups. God is glorified when we all share in His fellowship and love so as you have seen, it is possible to glorify God in things that mostly would be manifestations of sin.
2. an attitude other than that of Christ (Phil. 2:5)
in sports we want to win or show-off quite often...this is sin
girls want to look good...this is a wrong attitude since God wants us to be modest and dress and act in a way that glorifies Him
we care too much about our reputation (grades, personalities)...this is sin also
we have prideful attitudes that we are popular, beautiful, rich children of suburbaners...this is very wrong
3. complaining and arguing (Phil 2: 14)
Can we walk down a hall way without hearing these things? Phrases such as "I am so tired", "All the teachers give us tests in the same week", "She makes us come to practice every morning?" are sin and so never say such things again. The Israelites grumbled in the desert and God punished them. God loved them, provided for and protected them, yet still they grumbled.
4. gratifying the desires of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:16)
What are the desires of our sinful nature? Wanting to be popular, loved, respected, powerful, entertained. What do we do to gratify these? Wear nice attire, act prideful, act powerful, strive to be good in our sport, laugh alot about nothing. This is all sin.
5. Unwholesome talk (Eph. 4:29, Phil 4:8)
What is wholesome talk?...that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy...not much of our talk is wholesome (we gossip alot)
6. not having our minds set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5-8, Col 3:2)
The Spirit desires life and peace. We desire comfort and the prizes of our selfish ambitions.
7. not hating our lives for the sake of Christ (John 12:25-26)
Sometimes we love to live our lives of wreckless sin or other times we hate our lives for selfish and self-pitying reasons
8. not being joyful always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances (I Thess 5:16-17)
joy of the Lord is not necessarily the happy laughing face of a Christian, joy of the Lord is joy in the hope of God's plan and the joy of being in His presence. Rarely is it seen if at all among us.
9. not loving God with all our heart, soul, and might (Deut. 11:13) if we love we obey, if we love we are in God's presence because apart from Him we cannot love Him or others.
3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
"Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
So what?: New Life is overflowing with sin. I am overflowing with sin.
So the fruitless deeds of darkness have been exposed. You are either disagreeing with it and thinking what has been said is taking the Scripture too far, are extremely uncomfortable, or are convicted. I pray that we all may be convicted and led to the Godly sorrow that brings repentance. I would be a hypocrite if I did not do what I will do next: tear apart the parts of my life and show you the sin as an example.
The strongholds in my life are:
1. grades: this is not so much a pride issue as a fear issue. My sinful nature fears the prospect of disappointing my family and being deemed unworthy of academic admiration.
2. beauty: I care about how I look and this is wrong...it is wrong that if I woke up ugly one morning I would be devastated.
3. people: I value the opinion of others and miss out on numerous witnessing opportunities at the U of MN because of this; also neediness here, I need people to compliment me and show that they like being around me.
4. Pride: I used to think I was not prideful because I was not cocky or too confident, I am prideful because I am not humble and selfless. Often I put my own comfort above others and do not act as a servant like Christ did. If He being God, was crucified, I deserve far worse and should be willing to take on the heaviest persecution.
5. Laziness: I am lazy to spend much time to prayer and often put off being in the Word, I do not stay in God's presence very long.
6. fear of physical pain, being caved in, being left alone in the world
7. lack of self control: I argue too much sometimes and can be critical in my mind of others.
8. not serving: I do not help the poor or needy many times when I could have; I do not help my own family sometimes.
9. selfishness: putting my own needs above those of others.
Now I could sit here and cry about all of this, but I will not because God who began a good work in all of his children will bring it to completion until the day of Christ. In His grace, He is removing all of these things from my life and tranforming me to be more and more like Him though I am still so far away from His holiness and perfection. This is what the Christian life is. We are not perfect once we are saved, which is why we had to be saved in the first place, but we, knowing we have been redeemed from our former way of living, are being made into Christ's likeness by putting off our old self and putting on Christ. Most of us at New Life are not drug addicts who have spent their lives in sin and have only now realized their need for a Saviour and live radically different because they know the depravity and despair of a life of sin. We grew up in Christian circles and are taught about God from an early age. We are in a sense not given a proper chance at first to engage in a blatantly sinful lifestyle. The sins that exist within us are subtle and hard to determine the existence of, but are present and eminent in their severity.
Consider someone who is very paranoid about sin and making every effort to live perfectly and holy.
1. Here is our typical response to this person you would hear at New Life: that would be legalism...all those sins mentioned above may lead to legalism. If we did not say anything to anyone and wore sackcloths and stayed at home with our Bible all day and only spoke God's Word and witnessed and did all this so as to avoid sin, we would be legalistic.
Antinomianism, the opposite of legalism, the idea that now that we have been saved, we can go on sinning, is the root of our problem. And many would beg to differ, but it will be explained why this is true. If one who impeccably avoided sin were legalistic, he/she would have inclinations of fear and/or pride, the root causes of legalism. We fear condemnation so we try hard to not sin or we want to appear good to others or satisfy ourselves and thus possess pride. But if one is truly trying to avoid sin, they will see that the root causes of legalism, namely pride and fear, are sins in and of themselves. So anyone truly avoiding sin and trying to be holy will not fall into legalism, but will rather see the grace of God that teaches us that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lust and live soberly, righteously, and Godly in the present age (Titus 2:11-12). We diagnose sin paranoia as legalism because we do not want to live our sinful lifestyle of not being in God's presence every moment of our lives. Our excuse?: avoiding legalism, which we have seen should not occur in this instance, which makes us antinomianistic.
“Being All Things to All People”
Let us look at a Bible passage we comonly misinterpret here from I Corinthians 9:
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Many times we assume that being all things to all people means doing what they do so as to relate to them and bring them to Christ. This is true to some degree; for example, one time Paul used a god then men of Athens had known as the "unknown god" to tell them of the true God who does not dwell in shrines and man-made idols (Acts 17). The problem is that often times we sin so as to bring people to Christ, something that will undoubtedly never work. By being all things to all people, we must make sure we continuously (not continually) keep ourselves in the presence of God otherwise what we are doing is futile. So consider a case: A person has a non-Christian friend whom he wants to reach for Christ. This friend is very interested in heavy metal. The person thinks, "I will go with him to the heavy metal concerts so that he will like being around me and listen to what I have to say about Christ." The problem for this person is that he has to stay in the presence of God while he is at the concert; without God's mighty power it is all but impossible to stay in the presence of God while at a bad concert, watching a bad movie, joking about nonsense, etc. Do not use the excuse that you are being all things to all people to go and do all the worldly things your non-Christian friends do. People are brought to Christ by the powerful word of God and by your selfless intercession and the mercy and grace of God. Being all things to all people is approaching people at their level. I should not necessarily go to a homeless person wearing dress clothes. Dressing normally so as to not appear conspicuously different than them is a form of being all things to all people. Also, if I was staying with a tribal group of people who eat cornmush and bananas, I should live the way they do rather than expecting additional amenities. Being all things to all people is a humble willingness to live at any level so as to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I talked to some one recently who justified un-Christian music in the following way: There are two types of music that are okay. The first one is praise/encouragement worship that is clearly glorifying to God filled with wholesome Biblically-based lyrics. The second type of music is outreach-based music that is not Christian, but alludes to Christian principles so as to "be all things to all people" by appealing to their taste of music. This however is not in tune with the Bible. In the Bible, all references to good music are those that are in worship of God. David for example played his harp for King Saul and there is no record of his music for Saul being any different than the music he played by himself in worship of the Lord. If you play extremely Biblical music for non-Christians, if they are part of the elect, they will be drawn to the truth regardless of the fact that the lyrics seem mystical or unfamiliar. This brings us to another fallacy within the church, that if we are harsh with people about the Gospel, we will turn them away from the Gospel. More importantly than whether we are harsh or empathetic is whether we are led by the Spirit. If someone is part of the elect and has a heart that yearns for the meaning to life, he/she will not be drawn away from truth. Most of the prophets in the Bible were not "nice"; they told the people of the sin that existed and how they needed to repent and mourn over their sinful lifestyles. The Word of God has power and no matter what way it is portrayed (harshly or calmly), if it is led by the Spirit, it will draw those whom God has called and turn away those whom He has rejected. People are drawn away when we preach things other than the word of God, they are not part of the elect (they are doomed for destruction), or we are acting out of selfish ambition. Purify yourselves with Christ's blood and speak the truth in God's Word and you may find that the Spirit would have you present it in a less than "nice" manner, but in any case that the Gospel is truly presented, the love and compassion of God should and will be evident to the elect. Be in prayer.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
If one is a Christian, He or she desires to have the desires of God. Because no one will be perfect until the day God's makes them (heaven), it is impossible for any Christian to not have struggle with sin. If you are struggling with sin, that is good. It means that you have acknowledged sin and exposed it and realize that it is not right that you are living in it. If anyone claims to not have any struggles with sin, they deceive themselves and they should reconsider their salvation (I John 1:8). These struggles develop in us perseverance and character for God's power is made manifest in our weakness. We need to continually be confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other. Confess that our conversations are futile and that the way we live life is meaningless and pray together with each other that these sins be forgiven and turn away from it. That is what repentance is, the word that is hardely ever spoken of that means to acknowledge our sin, change our mindset, turn away from our sin, deny ourselves, turn towards Jesus and take up His cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:38).
How we are to Live in Light of God’s Glory
I have spoken to many people that seem content to go to church, pray every now and then, go to a Bible study or two, be pretty nice to people, go on a mission trip, and not surrender everything and die to themselves completely. We must understand God's glory. We all know that the purpose for us is to bring God glory. Has anyone else ever questioned this or any other displayal of God's soverignty or wrath upon mankind and considered that it may be selfish or monarchial? We could dare to say, "Why is God so selfish that we have to live simply for Him to be glorified?" or "Why did He wipe out the Amalekites?". I used to question that myself, but now God has shown me that it is because of His character that He is worthy of glory. If anyone else other than God were glorified above all else, the glory would be selfish and utterly sinful since God alone is perfect. But since God is perfectly loving and humble enough to die for us and at the same time, omni present/potent/cient, if He were glorified this would mean the very best for all. This is because God never makes a false decision and wants us to have joy and complete satisfaction and peace in His loving presence (which is why predestination must not be frowned upon). Pastor John Piper introduces a the Biblical concept of Christian hedonism saying that, "God is most glorified when we [His chosen people] are most satisfied in Him." Only in the presence of God will we find any peace or joy; apart from Him we are nobodies chasing after wind. Our American traditions of "peaceful" retirements and comfortable living are not only aspects of our culture, but aspects of our sinful lifestyle. If we are content to be Christians and live life for ourselves, we have resigned to the fact that we either are not Christians, will barely miss the flames of hell, or are going to live futile lives. What makes it harder to live truly in the presence of God and die to ourselves completely, is the fact that often times the best people around us are only doing minimal things for the Kingdom and do not constantly display their love for God. To truly live as God desires for us to is radical not just in the secular realms, but in New Life! Another aspect of our American culture, more evident in our generation that in our parents', is the need to be entertained. Youth group administrations are constantly having to cater to the youth's need for entertainment by organizing retreats and fun events which incorporate the world of God so as to get people to come. A problem within churches and youth groups is that no fine line is made between the strengthening of the true body of Christ and outreach. One event is intended for both outreach and exhortation of the believers. The end result is that since the training for believers and unbelievers is the same, the lifestyles of believers and unbelievers end up being the same. For someone who is truly seeking to know God more and die to their old self, a broomball tournament is all but unbeneficial. It is as though by combining broomball and the Gospel, we seek to lure people in by broomball and force the truth down meanwhile. What we should rather do is offer the truth alone to nonbelievers and be strengthened in our own body so that our lives will be so rooted and established in the love of Christ that God's glory seen within us is irresistible to nonbelievers so that they will be drawn to the truth by seeing Christ in us. If we had perfect peace, lived outrageously alienishly, did miracles with Christ's power, were joyful in Christ, and loved and upheld each other, we would not need broomball, food, movies, music, parties, or anything else to bring people to our churches; Christ in us will be the attraction!
Dying to Self
Dying to ourselves is a concept that many of us were introduced to several years ago at a Deeper conference and in youth group on mission trips. The key verse was Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Our life without God only pertains to us in the sense that we work to remove remnants of ourselves from our walk with God. We in ourselves are filthy and sinful, wicked and unfit for anything but destruction. We must work to remove any inclinations to please ourselves and satisfy our sense of self worth, because this would be like putting money in a bank account of a bank that will crash in an hour. We need to be completely humble and reliant entirely on God Himself. Apart from Him we can do nothing since He is the vine and we are the branches. It is not as though we should play basketball and have God in our lives only to help us. We must be open and willing to doing what He desires alone. Sometimes, during exam times at the U, I do exactly the opposite of what I should do. I spend the whole week studyng and not doing anything else or caring about anything else...I spend the whole times selfishly caring about my grades. It is not as though I leave God out, He is necessary to my success and so I will pray for wisdom and mercy to do well and in His grace He allows me to and this seems harmless enough: studying and praying hard to do well in the place God has put me in, but it is selfish. I need to be still and clear-minded and open to God's will and plan. If He would have me call a friend or help my tired mom with housework, I need to be open and willing to be His servant and follow His plans while discarding my own. His plan is the best anyways and will lead to joy, peace, and perfection.
I want to share with you all why I discuss all these thing that you have perhaps heard elsewhere in the panoply of Biblical training you have received. Many of us are undoubtedly sick of the emotional highs experienced on mission trips, Spiritual emphasis's, chapel, etc. Why do they never last? Because in the cases that the emotional highs cease to remain at their apex, the speaker most likely dispensed with the concept of repentance. People do not want to talk about sin because it is not popular with crowds of hiper teenagers who want to be happy and feel good, but it is exactly what they need to hear. We will see change when we rid ourselves of our pride, style, flirtatiousness, hiperness, sex-craziness, ambitiousness, etc. We do not see change by falsely feeling God's presence when not turning away from our sin...we may as well go take crack. Turning away from our sin sounds harsh and uncomfortable, but if we are uncomfortable does that not even more suggest that we have a deep problem that needs to be rooted out by the power of Jesus Christ?
We need persecution...I pray for it. It will weed out the nonbelievers, strengthen (rather than weaken as we are predisposed to think) the believers, and help us to believe what we believe even more strongly. We all know that there are many at New Life who are not Christians and the Christians act just like them so it is not as though the Christians appear to "have something that they do not". God comforts me by reminding me that within New Life exists a remnant. All throughout the Old Testament, regardless of the wicked state of God's people, there was always a remant, or group of people whose heart's desire was for God to be glorified. Everything I say here is to draw the remnant closer to their King. If people choose not to side with God's holiness it is because they are not part of the remnant or have yet to see God's glory displayed by His unblinding of their eyes so that they may see the truth and be saved.
One of the major things we lack here in America is faith. All the verses that claim that we will do greater miracles than those Jesus did (John 14:12) and that we will be poisoned and pick up snakes and not be harmed (Mark 16:18), etc. are often forgotten and termed as "no longer relevant". That is what we think here in America. Currently in other countries, such miracles as the healing of the sick, the casting out of a demon, etc. occur in the same manner as they did as related in the Bible. Some of you may recall Brie Peter's amazing story of when God healed a blind man through her on a mission trips she went to in another country. Here in America, we are often devoid of physical helplessness. We have doctors who can try with their technology to heal us. Our poverty levels are relatively non-existent. Our communication is speedy and efficient. We seem to have little room to realize how helpless we are apart from God and put our faith in Him for the impossible. In other countries people struggle to survive and each day is a physical battle. Our faith is in the possible all to often. Our grandmas to get better, our test to go well, our friend to stop being mad at us are all things that are deemed possible and if they occured they could be easily counted as a coincidence. But we must have faith for the impossible. I do not, but I pray for it and one day God will give it to us. I pray that the day comes soon so that people may see the glory of God, repent of their sins, and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
When all of us want money, fame, love, beauty, good grades, fun, power, etc., it is not ultimately these things we want, but the joy and satisfaction that we think will come along with these things. This joy we seek is only found in the presence of God. "In His presence is fulness of joy" (Psalms 16:11). As children, we imagined heaven to be filled with toys, candies, and big houses. We did not understand that these things will not be needed because we will have the true joy itself rather than misconstrued mediums of it. As we got older, we were told that in heaven we will be worshipping God. Who else thought deep down that this sounded boring? It is not possible to experience boredom when we are filled with an exhilirating-beyond-imagination joy and peace in the presence of God. We cannot understand, but we can know that it will be bliss and we can experience glimpses of it while being in God's presence during prayer here on earth. God tells us in His Word to pray constantly and devote ourselves to prayer and to pray with thanksgiving with all kinds of requests. Sometimes I get stuck in the way of thinking that God already planned everything out and my prayers do not matter. But we can effect outcomes (that are already determined of course) by prayer. In a book I read called, "Reese Howell's Intercessor", it related how Reese and his college students prayed for hours at a time during World War II and affected battle outcomes. God does not need our prayers or anything of us for that matter. Prayer is for our own benefit for while we pray, after we experience God's forgiveness in Christ, we are broken and humble and experience an inexpressable joy and peace. I find that following a long period of time with God, I am very humble and calm as I am still in the Spirit of prayer. The fact is that ideally, we must always be in the spirit of prayer. Outside of this attitude, I am fearful, prideful, and selfish. God gives us His joy when we are in His presence and many of us have not felt the presence of God...it is a benefit every child of God has: to have free access to the Father through Jesus Christ. Set aside an hour to pray with God or some period of time to be still. This is very hard for me to do as I have a short attention span and fear being uncomfortable and restless, but it never happens! While we humble ourselves and pray and enter God's presence, there is no boredom whatsoever...ever. I beg of you all to pray for long period of time. This is where our hearts are changed: with God Himself. There will never be some speaker or event that will throw us all into radical submission to God as I used to wish for. It starts with each and every one of us humbling ourselves before God, turning away from our sin, and turning towards God in a life lived in the Spirit of prayer.
The Justness of Hell
All we need to do is turn away from our sin and turn towards God through Jesus Christ and we will be free forever from hell and receive the gift of eternal life: heaven. But the Bible says that repenting and trusting in Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can be saved from hell and that everyone who does not do this will go to hell. I wondered about the billions of people who have not done this and how that meant they were all on the road to hell...is that fair? I used to think the answer was no. I considered my friend Saali...she was Indian and grew up in a Hindu family thus she practiced the traditions of her heritage: bowing down to statues and performing other religious rituals. She was a sweet girl, never saying a word against anyone and always willing to help others and spread her own happiness. She had not put her faith in Christ perhaps because she had never heard the good news or perhaps because she did not want to deviate from her family's traditions. What about all the people on earth like Saali, who seem so good-natured that hell could be deemed far too much of a punishment for the trivial sins they had committed? Over the years God has shown me the truth of His justice in His Word. His Word says that God is not willing for people to go to hell, but that He desires for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Elsewhere it speaks of how God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). The truth of the matter is that God's eternal qualities and invisible attributes are so evident in the creation around us that we are left with no excuse for our rejection, if we reject His love and grace. In response my reference to Saali concerning how one's background could make the the likelyhood of someone putting their trust in Christ small, we see that the nature of God eliminates this as an excuse. God is gracious and if Saali was designated as part of God's elect, those whom God has chosen for Himself, then whichever home she was born into, she would come to believe in Jesus Christ. But if she is not among those of God's elect, then even if she grew up with a dad who was a pastor, she would still fail to come to the state of repentance. Is it fair that God chooses those who are in the elect? God is in very nature perfect and cannot make a wrong decision; if the decision were unfair, God would cease to be God. If people go to hell, it is because they truly rejected God's grace and would have adhered to their denial no matter what happened...even if God spoke to them with a loud voice from heaven. Why is this true? Because God is in very nature compassionate and merciful. He would never turn away someone who could come to Him by a particular means (the voice from heaven for example). His salvation is free and open to anyone who will believe it and surrender their lives to God so as to become truly free. There is still hope for Saali.
Being in the Word seems trite and cliched sometimes, but it should not be boring to a true truth seeker. I plead with you to wholeheartedly seek the truth of God and who He is. Do not just half-heartedly believe the Word of God because you fear hell or because that is the way you have been brought up. Truly believe it with your whole heart and know why. This truth is found in God's Word so read it as much as possible and soak it up like a sponge, because regardless of how you feel while reading it, it will change you. Faith is not feelings as you have heard before. For a while in my life at the U, I could not feel God's presence so I though that He was far from me, but in reality He had never left me, it was in this time that I needed faith: when I could not feel. If you have believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, why? Recently I wrote a paper on why one must believe in Jesus Christ. I think it is important to see a perspective so that you can get an idea for your own reasons to back up your belief in the Bible so here I will put the content:
The truth that exists is anything but clear to us, due perhaps to our own fault, for as A.W. Tozer puts it, “We cover our deep ignorance with words but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper ‘mystery’” (26) The true questions of life are so often buried under disguises of useless knowledge and effort to attain the objects of our earthly desires and in doing so, the truth is forfeited, the truth that governs our existence and holds to secrets to eternity. To those of your who have ears to listen, hear what I have to say by the power of God through Jesus Christ. Put aside whatever entangles you and come and hear the truth of why you should turn your life over to Jesus Christ, why you must repent and put your faith in the Son of God.
Firstly we must understand why we have come across this issue and why it must be addressed. There is one fact that we all cannot deny, the fact that lends to the greatest human fear: there is a hundred percent chance that every single one of us will die. The fear of death is the ultimate fear of mankind that I speak of and it is to address this fear that we look into these truths of life. In the scope of eternity, man is but a mere breath that comes and goes in the vast pool of historical time. As the Bible explains, Just as men are born and eventually die, they do not accomplish anything because his work is so little from the perspective of eternity (NIV, Eccles. 5:16). So how then can we enjoy life and make the most of it, knowing that it is meaningless within ourselves. Most people strive after things of the world such as human love, fame, beauty, power, riches, acceptance, fun, and many other things, but if we will all die one day, we all must agree that these things hardly matter. In light of this, it is not extremist, but rather entirely rational to seek out the truth of why we exist and what we are to do with our short lives here on this earth and once we have discovered this truth, to spend every moment living based upon that truth. Now that we understand why we must investigate into such matter, we will look into why we must believe the truth. One is prone to ask and right is questioning why one must believe any one particular truth when so many different versions and perceptions of truth exist in our world today. In the course of the essay will be explained why one particular truth must be believed in above all other “truth”.
Before we go into truth, we must be convinced that a God, supernatural Sovereign authority, truly does exist, because, without a God we would be left to ourselves and our vast array of truth; without a God, truth would not exist. For without a God, we are left to rely on the random order of nature for our existence in which case truth is dependent on nature (random) so truth in every sense is mutable. Truth that is mutable is not truth at all thus it would not exist in a world that was not created by a God. Some, though far from all, people would ascertain in their minds that a Creator does not exist and that the world has simply “evolved” as they put it. There are numerous debates and arguments concerning our physical world that can fend for either side of the argument. For example the evolutionists may point to carbon dating to prove that the world is billions of years old and the creationists will refute this by alluding to the inaccuracies in the dating devices or with theories that the Bible allows for there to have been a “billions of years gap”. But the underlying question we can keep asking these evolutionists is “What happened before that?” Perhaps they will start out by saying that we (humans) came from monkeys; we ask them what its predecessor happening was and they reply that the monkeys came from lesser organisms and these organisms arose from small bacterium and these bacterium from single-celled organisms and these organisms from a chemical soup and this chemical soup from an energy source and this energy source from a spark. Where did this spark come from? In the seemingly vast amounts of knowledge that the human race has discovered, can we in any way see a possibility of a spark occurring randomly? If it were to occur randomly, this would indicate the presence of other existing sources that allowed this spark to appear randomly, but there was nothing else existent at the initiation of this spark. Nothing existed in the entire realms of eternity; all of a sudden, randomly, a spark existed. And from it came the world we live in today. Can we not all agree that this sounds like some kind of infantile fairy tale? That something came from nothing and that the world has gotten more ordered defies two thermodynamic laws: that matter cannot be created or destroyed and the law of entropy.
But of course many will be ready to counter this conception by inquiring where God came from or who started/created Him. But when God comes in the picture, notions of time, space, and dimension are thrown out the window. As the Urantia book explains, God is so Sovereign and powerful and has always existed, was not created and cannot be destroyed, and no man can know His mind (The Urantia Book, 34). God is that incomprehensible Being who created the act of creation, who designed the very idea of existence, who set limits to our perceptions of dimensions, space, and time. In our limited understanding, we cannot fathom how evolution was started nor can we fathom how God has always existed, but we cannot then deny that we have limits to our minds capacity to understand eternity. And this very fact that our minds are stuck in the realms of the three dimensions indicates that there is a God, one who meant for us to be here and has a plan and purpose for each one of us; to bring Him glory. If we claim that we can understand anything (do not have finite minds), we should be able to understand the origin of “the spark”, something which never has and undoubtedly never will come under the realms of human understanding. But if we agree that our minds are finite, we acknowledge something bigger and greater than our known dimensions; we acknowledge something supernatural. And that supernatural “something” can only be God. For if we do not accept this, we are like that child who believes the fairy-tale that something came from nothing, without the use of a being who is above our notions of eternity who made things to be the way they are.
God is also clearly seen in nature; The Bible states, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (NIV Rom. 1:20). From Creation, we are aware of a divine Creator. Everything has been so perfectly set out: the distance of the earth from the sun, the gravitational force of the earth, the distance of the earth from other planets, etc. Even if this fine tuning were slightly less precise, we would cease to exist. When we see a painting, we know that it was created. When we see the beauty of a snowflake or the intricacies of a peacock’s feather, we see the handiwork of a Creator. These things did not happen by chance, they were designed by a loving God.
Once it has been made certain that a God does exist, we are still left with a vast number of ideologies and religions that point to who this God is. The problem that arises is that all these views differ on such contrary notes that quite often the overlap of two such “truths” is impossible. For example, the Islamic faith requires one to visit the city of Mecca once during his or her lifetime, which if does not occur, will prohibit the individual from going to the Islamic heaven. Buddhists on the other hand care nothing about Mecca nor its having been visited, but rather idealize self moral attainment as the means by which one can reach God. Though there are exceptions, most religions conflict with one another; which one can we then believe?
It is a widely and anciently-known theory that utopia is impossible because of the presence of evil. So then, what is preventing humans from having perfect joy and satisfaction is exclusively the presence of sin. Religion seeks to improve the moral state of man in an attempt to rid them of guilt and evil desires, the underlying causes of all problems. Many leave off investigating into religion, claiming that there are too many religions for any particular one to be worth so much to take hold of and devote one’s life to it. Because there are so many religions, if we pick one, the chances are that it is the wrong religion and we are wasting our lives if we give them up for that particular religion. But at the same time, if a God does exist it is crucial that we find out who He is and what we are to do concerning Him. For not only do we suffer immensely on this earth because of fear, hate, death, and lies, but we, if we fail to discover the truth, could end up in some hell because we failed to acknowledge the true God.
There are astounding differences between the God of the Bible and all other man-made gods and to discover these differences, we will investigate the nature of the God of the Bible. As Everson and Mcllwain explain, the God of the Bible is “supreme and sovereign” and because of this perfection, “God does not change” (104). God is perfect in every sense, knows everything, can do anything, and is everywhere at one time. God is composed of three beings: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. The one thing He cannot do is sin: He cannot lie, be unfair, be prideful, or any of the other sins we as humans are prone to do. Because God is perfect, He loves the inhabitants of the world and cannot stand evil. Therefore, heaven, His dwelling place, cannot allow the presence of any evil things. Evil arose when, Lucifer, the highest angel in heaven, decided to rebel and try to attain power over God. He and the angels (demons) that followed him were cast down from heaven and God has given them limited authority in the world to inspire evil thoughts and desires among humans. Because we are evil, we cannot enter God’s presence, so we cannot enter heaven. But God is perfect; therefore He loved us and was willing to give His life for us so that we could go to heaven. God the Father sent God the Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice so that we could be reconciled to God. One may wonder why a sacrifice was needed; it is because God is just and if He simply forgave our sins and let us into heaven, He would not be just and no longer be God, just as a judge who lets a mass murderer go free should no longer be a judge. Someone had to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could go to heaven and because God loved us so much, He paid for it with His own body and blood. To get to heaven and be reconciled to God, we must repent of our sins, despising them rather than relishing them, and put our trust and faith in Christ’s sacrifice and in God’s ability to make us a new Creation, who no longer desires to do the evil things of the world, but rather the good things, which God allows us to do by sending us His Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and prompt us to do good.
Every other “god” in the world is imperfect and does not acknowledge a perfect standard. Let us go down the list of a few:
1. Islam: the discoverer of Allah lived a reckless life of killing innocent men and Muslims have many evil practices which they attribute to their religion
2. Buddhism: the man who sought out Buddha starved himself to death and though the means of being perfectly moral is advocated, there is no given way to achieve it
3. Hinduism: a worship of many false gods, all of which have sinned as is stated in the Hindu books
4. New Age: relies on self actualization, but no moral standard is given
5. Atheism/Agnosticism: do not acknowledge a moral standard
6. Humanism: relies on ones imperfect self to attain happiness (wealth, fame, beauty, power, etc.).
Though these are rather brief generalizations, we see that there is a lack of a perfect moral standard in all of these religions. We must remember that a lack of a perfect moral standard is the reason for our imperfect world. All religions claim to reconcile the imperfect man to God, which is not possible because of whom God is in nature. These religions all involve something the human can do to attain some type of perfection, whether moral or earthly, but the God of the Bible does not involve religion or any effort on our part, but rather our faith and dependency on God’s mercy and grace for the forgiveness of sins and ticket to heaven. All have done wrong and no matter how hard we try, we can never be perfect. For those who seek the truth and value love, which is the essence of perfection, it will be realized that outside of the God of the Bible there is no means by which perfection can be achieved or for man to find true joy and peace. But once a person becomes a believer of Jesus Christ, he or she is a new creation, one that is continually being changed to be more like Christ (perfect) and one that is viewed as perfect in the sight of God because the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all the wrong things in our record. For in the presence of any other belief other than that in salvation through Jesus Christ, we are on an imperfect path and on the road to eternal damnation.
The Bible is split into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament prophesies the Savior Jesus Christ and teaches us the moral standard of God and the New Testament is about Christ’s sacrifice and life with His Holy Spirit after we have been freed from our sins by the grace shown through Christ. In the Old Testament, there are many instances in which God pours out His wrath on evil doers. This wrath must not be interpreted as pride or selfish rage, but rather the outpouring of God’s innate hatred of sin and its noxious consequences on those humans whom He loves. If an evil person or group of people ever repented, God was more than willing to forgive them and reconcile Himself to them, but when any person or group of people was unwilling to acknowledge their sin and say no it, it then becomes their choice to bear the wrath of a righteous God.
Others wonder why God allows bad things to happen on earth such as the death of the loved one or an event like hurricane Katrina. These things are strangely results of God’s grace and patience towards us. These things often bring us as humans to God because we are broken and have no where to turn so we resort to the ultimate helper and friend, our Creator. With sin came suffering and Satan’s evil attacks upon those who are candidates for receiving the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. Also, if these terrible things did not happen, the joy and satisfaction of being in God’s presence would be normality and we would not realize the entirety of its goodness, unless we could see what it was like to be in an opposite place: the presence of life without God filled with hatred, grief, and fear.
God is glorified when we are most satisfied and joyful in Him; once we have repented and trusted in Christ, we have peace with God and fellowship through Christ. We have free access to pray (be in God’s presence), which when done grants us fullness of joy and peace and the power of God’s love which will carry us safely through any adversity.
Billy Graham said, “I am convinced that only when a man is prepared to die is he also prepared to live. If you want to know what God is like, then take a look at Jesus Christ. To His disciples Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6)” (qtd. Busby, 271). I implore everyone to be reconciled to God, to repent, and to put their trust and faith in salvation through Jesus Christ. The issue is pressing and imminent because the time of our death is unknown and life on earth without God is futile and filled with evil. A God truly does exist because of the perfect design of nature and the presence of our finite minds. The God of the Bible is the true God because He alone is perfect and requires a perfect moral standard. He alone is Sovereign and merciful, loving yet just, and someday He will receive all glory forever and ever!
For those at New Life who went to the church and school for a large portion of our lives, New Life became to us our own little enviroment and world around which life evolved. We had little interaction with people outside of other New Lifers and perhaps family/relatives. Many of us even went so far as to avoid making an effort to have any extra-New Life activities or interactions. While in New Life, I feared that this was so, but it became even more apparent after leaving New Life. None of us can quite disagree that there indeed was a heirarchial structure within the school especially. Go to lunch for a week and look at the way things are if you have doubts. The table are set out dividing the popular from the normal and the normal from the unpopular. The ugly had no friends and people to talk to; it is not as though I would consider anyone ugly and it is not as though any of you would come and claim that it were so, but everything in our avoidence and silence towards them indicates that it is how we perceive them as being and it is wrong...very very wrong. Personally I never quite fit into any category at New Life since I do not have the gaiety and hiperness of normal teenagers, but I have many regrets and if I could go back now, I would Lord-willing befriend the most umpopular quiet ugly untalented people there and pray that I may truly love them and bring them into the presence of God so that they may no longer live down-trodden lonely lives. God intended for us to encourage one another and spur one another on in good deeds. If we truly have the love of Christ we will treat all other Christians as our brothers and sisters, but this is hardely the case at New Life. If you are a Christian you must have the love of Christ (I John 4:7) and if you have love, you must make an effort to know other peopel and benefit them in a Christ-led way. If you are not talking to certain people who are other Christians, ask yourself if you love them, and if you do not love them ask yourself if you are a Christian. This goes back to "working out our salvation with fear and trembling". I find that I lack love so very often. One thing you must all know is that once you graduate this June, there will no longer be the New Life social structure and if you are unpopular you will no longer be so and if you are popular, you will no longer be so. People in college mainly get drowned out in the large crowd and no one will be elevated or given more respect to any significant degree. The extent of your interactions will be with those you befriend and with those in your labs and discussion groups. Being that this is so, I urge you with all my heart to leave your walls of silence behind and love everyone with the love of Christ and let the underclassmen see this. Why would you not do this? When I was at New Life, many times in a day I would see a friend and ask them how they were and they would say they were fine and that they had lots of homework and had not gotten enough sleep, etc. Social interactions with some people were scary and I avoided them for fear of awkward silences, being rejected subtly, etc. It all seems so childish now. In college God has helped me to learn to talk to everybody more openly and freely. I should talk to crazy emos and smart preps and the average Jane and fear nothing because my only hope is that I may show them the love of Christ and reach them for the Kingdom. When I was in New Life, I would wonder why Christians who went to public schools and colleges did not witness to everyone around and be radical. It is very very hard. In secular universities, if you do not stand firm, you will not stand at all. There are hundreds of witnessing opportunities that I miss out on because of fear or selfishness. There are many different views in colleges other than moral relativism and aetheism. I will describe a few.
1. Denise grew up in a home with a mom who went to church and a family who stayed home. She cannot describe how she gets to heaven, but can agree with the salvation message. It seems as though she is open to the truth of the Gospel of Christ, but does not personalize it. When given a Bible, she reads it and wants to read it more, but cannot find much time in her busy schedule
2. Jared has a Gideon's Bible handed to him one day that he reads, but he seems to know everything but the Gospel. He thinks you have to follow the 10 commandments to be saved and when told that this was not true and we need a Savior, he seems to reluctantly agree.
3. Tang has not heard anything about the Gospel. After hearing it, he thinks it is cool that people believe it, but he does not like the idea of God demanding perfection. He thinks its not for him. He wants to roam around the world like a ghost when he dies so that he can see and travel to all the places he never could while he was alive.
4. Sarah does not know what to say and just laughs.
5. Another Sarah thinks God's wrath upon mankind's sin is very drastic, but is open to looking into the Bible.
New Life emphasized the fact that many Christian students go to college and turn away from their faith to follow aetheism, falling for the strong argument displayed by intellectual biology professors. I take classes primarily from the Biology department for my Neuroscience major and have found (without trying) that evolutionary material is very contradictory. My mom and me spent many day laughing over how unintelligible much of the stuff sounded though we must make sure that we rejoice in the truth rather than laugh out of pride. I honestly do not believe that Christian students become aetheist because the argument for aetheism is overwhelmingly strong, it seems to be rather that, after being confined in the Christians circles for their whole lives, they want to indulge in everything they never did (sin) and the only way they can do this and not feel guilty is to give up their faith entirely. That aetheism seems probable and true is practically an excuse that they use. If you do end up delving into sin in college, do not use aetheism as an excuse, aetheism under few conditions can muster up a good argument let alone an overwhelmingly good one. The evidence that they use is sound and it is not as though they are stupid, but it is the initiation of evolution (i.e. how the spark was formed) that reduces to nonsense their religion, because though they would beg to differ, aetheism is a religion that says one can sin and not be afraid because there is no God. Some of their theory such as interspecies evolution (evolution within a species) may be true and if old earth creationism is true, then much of what they say could be true, but an aspect of faith is belief in Genesis 1 and leaving the details to God because He is all-knowing and we are not.
Love for People
Pray to God to develop in you a love for people. I need to love people so much more than I do now...I am still so very timid in ways and have a hard time incorporating God's truth into everyday conversations, but with God all things are possible and when you are pleading with people for their souls, awkwardness kind of rather disappears in light of the atmosphere of the conversation. Choices in your Spiritual life will be very cut and dry. My first two semesters at the U were hard and lonely without knowing many people and only having a couple friends and acquaintances in some of my clases. This was God's plan so that I depended on God. During this time, God brought out who I was that I never knew about at New Life because I was always trying to be like the other New Lifers (everyone tries to be like everyone else there). I found out that I was not a silent deep thinker, but rather a chatter-box whose academic strength was chemistry of all things. You will find out many things about yourself after you leave self-comforming New Life. My third semester at the U was vastly different...I learned that if you are uncomfortable around people, they are uncomfortable around you and if you are content and expressive, people want to talk to you. But Satan is always ready to try to turn God's blessings into maladies. I made too many friends and the percentage of people within the groups of my acquanitances that I shared the Gospel with dwindled because I was selfish and wanted to be liked and never alone. Now God has shown me that it is better for me that I am alone, but with God than to earn the love and respect of all mankind and not be in God's presence. It is God's and my desire that I put aside an entanglements with the world (civilian affairs) and devote my entire heart, soul, mind, and strength to do His will alone. I pray that I may be humbled and broken so that I serve Him and clearminded and self controlled so that I can pray.
Most seniors, especially at New Life, are itching to get freedom. It is this desire for freedom that leads to many of the sinful lifestyles of New Lifers who leave for college. Sit back and be calm and enjoy where you are in the home of your family with parents with whom you have argued with explicitly because of their love for you. Do not desire freedom in an earthly sense...this is sinful unless it is done out of faith. Back about 5 years ago, I would have arguments with my parents about the petty things that we all argue with our parents about, but then God showed me that if my parents think something I am doing is wrong, the only reason for me to argue is if I thought I was indeed right. And if was in the right, I would not longer be in the right the second I started to argue since arguing and complaining is a sin as we have heard. But even in the case that I truly am not doing anything wrong and am being told that I am, what do I lose by abiding by my parents principles? It is not as though they would tell me to sin and to not abide by them, even if I were to be in the right (parents are usually in the right), would be sin. Therefore, whether you think you are right or wrong, always abide by what your parents say unless if conflicts with God's will for your life. If you do not do this, you sin and grieve your Lord. A strange thing happened when I started to abide by whatever my parents said more and more by God's grace: my mom became my best friend.
What You Should Do!
How then should you live as you embark on your autonomous journey into life?
1. be saved: reread the salvation portion of this; read the verses/Bible
2. read the Bible: this is your ultimate source of the most condensed form of truth, soak it up as much as possible
3. set aside time with God: pray and you will be changed leaps and bounds day by day being made to be like the one you spend your time with
4. pray that you may love others for in this the law is summed up
5. eliminate non-faith items in your life (for me it was tv, movies, internet surfing, makeup, ways of speaking, flirting, types of clothes, types of relationships) the joy of being in God's presence far outweighs these things
6. Be still and know that He is God
7. work with God on being humble and servantlike as we are called to be
8. read stories of other Christian's walks with God to encourage you (like Reese Howell's Intercessor)
9. speak the Word of God to those around you (nonbelievers and Christians)
10. be sincere, pure, and holy
It sounds so hard and radical, but it is the only way that you will not waste your life. None of us want to say on our deathbeds that we regret having wasted our life. Remember the saying "This life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last".
What our Class Should Do!
At New Life Academy you have a few months left and here is what God would have you do.
1. gather everyone and get on your knees and pray and repent and confess your sins to each other and speak of your Spiritual desires; do this as often as possible Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
2. show sincere Godly love to everyone; treat each other as brothers and sisters as we are called to do
3. spend much time on your own in the Word and in prayer as you prepare to leave for college or whatever you plan to do; pray for God to reveal His truth and His will for you
4. Be the one class in all of New Life history that leaves a major Spiritual impact to the underclassmen by talking to them of Spiritual things and of what God reveals to you in your quiet times
I pray for you all and especially for those of you who are capable of taking leadership in this. If it is God's will great things will happen in your class, otherwise great things will happen in the way God wanted them to. May God's love be with you all forever and ever dear friends!
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I was born 17 years ago in New York to a wonderful family of 3. God greatly blessed me by giving me a mom and dad who were acquanited with God's truth of salvation. As a child I went to sunday school on Sundays and my parents would continually relate stories from the Bible as I grew up. I remember my sunday school teacher from kindergarten using flannel boards to show the story of David and Goliath and of Cain and Abel. But it seemed to me that there was more to the Bible than listening to its stories. As I got older, I went to Awana which is a Christian club for kids in which we are encouraged to memorize verses. To us children, memorizing verses was more like a competition than storing the truth of God's Word in our hearts. I believed in God all this while and believed all that the Sunday school teachers had to offer, but I did not understand why it was true or what it had to do with the way I lived. A teacher I had in both 2nd and 3rd grade set a solid foundation for what God was to do in my life.
God started a new work in my life when I was in fourth grade. We found out we were moving to Missouri just for a year and coming back here to Minnesota. I was excited to move on and meet new people and see new things. But as we started out the new year in Missouri, an incredible fear took hold of my life. Every day at school, I would dread that my mom would forget to pick me up from school and that I would be alone forever in the new place. There was no reason for this fear since my mom lived her life taking care of us, but not being used to the surroundings somewhat contributed to the fear. It became so great that every day around 3:00 when it came close for students to be picked up, I would be so scared I'd get sick and the sickness was worse than the fear and I would cry every school day around 3:00. Life seemed like hell for so many months. The sickness took hold of my life and I was constantly feeling ill; I remember one day I came home from school and started crying because I could not handle it any more and my mom started singing a song that had the words "The joy of the Lord is my strength". For some strange reason, those were the only words that seemed to comfort me in my childish despair. My teacher at school was God's direct instrument to show His love; when I would cry, she would pray with me and soon her prayers began to aid and almost eliminate my struggle through the power of Jesus Christ. Leaving Missouri, God had begun something wonderful in my heart and by the time we headed back to Minnesota, God had given me a clear conscience and a new kind of peace.
The summer immediately after we had come back from Missouri, I remember sitting on a couch looking into our backyard and realizing that I was a sinner. No matter how good I was on a given day, I have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. God is perfect and holy and anything good I might try to do on my own pales so drastically in comparision to His goodness. I thought back to Sunday school when the teachers had asked to have us children raise our hands if we wanted to ask Jesus into our hearts and I had done this so many times, but why do we need Jesus in our hearts and what difference did it make? I realized that day when I was nine, on that couch, that I was a sinner and needed a Savior, Jesus Christ; I needed to repent and put my faith in Jesus Christ. Because of our sin, we cannot be at peace with God. God is perfect and cannot stand to be in the presence of sin. This meant that even though I may not be a mass murderer, I could not enter God's presence. Not being able to enter God's presence meant I could not have a relationship with God let alone go to heaven. But God did something that if we could truly comprehend, it would blow us away with wonder. He loved the world so much, that He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice so that I would not go to hell, which is the just punishment for my sin, but rather have eternal life and a personal relationship with God. Christ is the bridge and the mediator between God and me so that through Him God sees me as righteous and will have a relationship with me.
My 5th grade year, God provided me with a good Godly Christian teacher who taught our class how to pray. In praying to God, God gives us His Holy Spirit who is our teacher and comforter. We could praise God for His perfect marvelous character, we could confess our sins to Him, because if we do He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, we could thank God for the all the things He had given us like salvation and family, and we could ask Him for things, because He said that we can ask for anything in His name and He will hear us. God taught me how to pray that year.
6th and 7th grade went by quickly and my walk with God was honestly rather stagnant, but God was not about to allow this to be the end of it. He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. One day, when I was in 8th grade, my dad said at breakfast that he had something to tell my brother and me. He said my mom was going to have a baby. I was paralyzed with shock and joy. I had always wanted another companion, but never expected it because my mom was 40 at the time and I would be well above 10 years older than the baby. A few months passed, and I was a curious to know all about babies and how they are born and what can go wrong and how to prevent it. I was introduced by my online research to a term called "miscarriage" and I read all the symptoms. A couple weeks after reading, my mom started getting all the symptoms and I knew the baby was a goner to this world. And indeed, the baby died. This was the first rather discouraging event in my life. No one had really ever died and nothing terribly bad had ever happned in our home. I had to have aged several years in that one weekend, trying to be be there with my mom in her suffering. God entered my daily life very much after that and I began to take life far more seriously.
9th grade was a worldly year for me and yet God taught me about deliverance from sin through His power. I desired Godly things but still had many worldly things about the way that I lived. I lived alot of my life for myself. But God was gracious to me and taught me to repent and accept the victory through Christ that there is no condemnation for me because of what Christ has done. I went on 2 mission trips with my youth group and despite our vain shallow times, God worked to teach me His good and perfect way. The summer after 9th grade, God showed me His love is a simple way. I would go and sit by a lake or beautiful scenery and just sit and experience God's love. When our life was broken into pieces, God's love persisted and was the most powerful force in all existence. At the end of that summer, before 10th grade, I prayed for sincerity in my life, because I was sick of the emotional highs our youth group experienced and wanted to truly surrender everything to Christ.
That year was very sincere. God showed me the reality of life at my school and the fickleness and lies that existed in our Christian school. I hated my school for several months during which my cousin stayed at my house. I would constantly relate to her the things about my school that were wrong. But finally God restored my peace with the truth that He would send healing rain down and save our school from moral destruction. Then I had a peace about the sin in my school and in my life; that in God's due time, He would complete His work and make us into tranforming creations. There would never be some life changing event, but by His Spirit we are made new into a being that God turns into reflections if Himself by His grace. Towards the end of my 10th grade, I knew God wanted me to leave my school and enter into the nonChristian world at the U of MN.
I was ready to witness and speak up for Christ and at the same time, I knew I needed to cosntantly pray for my school back home and the Spiritual battle that existed there. God taught me alot more about life and people that year and by His grace I was able to speak His truth to my oral communications class and to certain people He put in my path. That year I prayed for servanthood and humilty. It was not until the end of that year that I started to see God working in those areas. He showed me the many ways in which I am prideful and that even though I may not seem that way, I lack humilty to consider others better than myself and have the attitude of Christ, who being in very nature God, went through death on a cross. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to God's glory.
This current year, I have prayed to God for boldness, but my mom introduced something else, holiness, to pray for. God began this year to show me sin for what it is, that when our attitude is not that of Christ, when we are not acting out of faith, when we are not in God's presence, we are sinning even if we are not doing anything seemingly wrong. I am no where near to being complete in my relationship with God. I need to pray as much as possible and constantly be in the Word of God. I am very timid and prideful in many ways, but God is gracious to me and turns my mistakes into learning experiences that bring Him glory. I need to get rid of anything and anything that entangles me from wholeheartedly loving and serving God. Someday God will be glorified and we will be with Him in His glory not because of anything we have done, but because of His grace, mercy, and love; because of what Jesus Christ did by dying on the cross for our sins and rising back to life in glory, having defeated death forever. He is the answer to our need. Only in Him is true and deep everlasting love, joy, and peace. Apart from Him we can do nothing.
Posted by Preethi Morris at 11:19 AM