Humbly surrendering our free will to the influence of Jesus is humanity’s greatest gift to God; His greatest gift to us was sending us His one and only Son to be the prime example of exactly what it means to humbly surrender.
Look around you. It’s hard to find many people who unmistakably exemplify the Golden Rule(s) of Christ: To love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength; to love each other the way He loves us, and to love ourselves the same way. Why are these so important? What did Christ show us?
There are the miracles; and there are many. Some weren’t even healing– one was just Jesus’ disciples witnessing Him defy gravity by walking on water. But Jesus didn’t place emphasis on His power because performing miracles wasn’t the purpose or message of His ministry. His main message was that of love and hope. Love is the foundation of the church Christ laid down when He died on the cross for humanity, but His greatest gift to us was rising from the dead, conquering death and giving us something to put our hope in; something to look forward to: seeing Him and living with Him forever in Heaven when we die, if we accept His love and sacrifice for us into our hearts, here and now.
So, again, what did Christ show us?– He showed us how to love. Not with miracles, but with His words and actions. Yes– He healed the blind and the sick– but… He loved them. He even healed a person with leprosy by touching them in front of a crowd He’d just given a sermon to. Did He have to touch the person? Of course not! He was God Incarnate! He healed a child in an entirely different city just by responding to a man’s faith in Him. So why did Jesus touch the leper, which–in that time– was deeply frowned upon (for fear of catching Hansen’s Disease)? Jesus wanted the crowd to see that for Him, loving the people with faith in God– and being the reason for the seculars who hadn’t yet discovered such faith or hope– that was His main purpose for existing on Earth. He came to Earth love us; and through loving us, He died for us so that we would not have to pay for all the selfish rebelling we do. But that wasn’t His last act of love. He went one step further than any man, woman, or being in existence has ever done and could ever do: He resurrected. And by that final act of love, He gives us the greatest hope mankind has ever known.
When Christians say Jesus is their hope, what they are recognizing is that Jesus is our one and only bridge from this life to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is. Jesus claimed that the only way to the Father was through Him. In resurrecting, all of His promises became ossified in history as true facts, and not just hopes and cliches. By resurrecting, all of the parables Jesus said, every miracle He performed; every sermon He told and rebuke He made became parallel with His claims during trial that He was the great I Am. There was nothing anyone could do but exult His name, worship the Him through the Father whom Jesus claimed He served on behalf of, and to love each other the way He commanded us to.
On an additional note related to this point, I hope some of you can relate to this short story:
In my later teens, I had a relationship with a girl, and I would ask her, even when things were going fine, “Do you love me?” This question wasn’t aimed from something she’d done to show a lack of love, but at my own insecurity. At this time, I was an atheist, and so–looking back now, as a Christian–I can recognize an aspect of that relationship I never noticed before: I was looking for God’s validation of love and hope through this girl. The essence of our relationship with God can never be satisfied with another human being. Looking for God’s love through the opposite gender will never satisfy that need. Only God can do that. And as stubborn as I was when I was an atheist–and for those of you who are an atheist or agnostic right now–I was never open to trying to believe God was the missing piece. But I have been there and I am here, as a Christ follower now, and I can tell you for a fact that there is no missing piece other than God, Himself. Without Him, no one will ever give you what you need. And that is not discouraging–that is the reason to have hope in Christ!!
Previously, in my post “Masculinity In A Broken World: Revisited“, I wrote this:
“A man needs no affirmation of a woman to be a man (Readers, do not confuse affirmation with validation. A kindly spoken, “You look handsome today!” or “So proud of you!” can go a long way. But that is not validation, those are compliments.) , and a man who thinks he does is still a boy.”
When I say this, I’m directly speaking into my point right now. God’s validation is all anyone need’s– whether or not they understand the wisdom from that truth. My point in that post was specifically directed at men and their relationship with God, so here in this post, I am speaking in another direction about the same point. People do not need validation from people in order to recharge or to be fully alive. In fact, for a woman to become fully a woman, she needs the same thing! To become intimate with God is to know oneself fully without the approval of humanity complimenting her every move, choice, or appearance. And where does all of this come from? Hope in Christ.
So for the secular, atheistic, and agnostic crowd out there, I want to speak into your space here. As a former atheist, myself, and a current Christian, I can elaborate distinctly on the difference between Christian hope and atheistic complacency. The hope of Christ is something that does not derive of this world, and it does not come from the pleasures of sex, drugs, partying, clubs, or attention; validation from your mom or boss, nor the way people respond to you. The hope of Christ comes from within your spirit. A first step towards understanding exactly what I mean by this is softening your heart. What does softening your heart feel or look like? Well, first, do you understand what hardening your heart looks and feels like? When you are rigid, stubborn, jealous, envious, closed-minded and difficult to communicate with effectively, you are being “hard-hearted”. When someone wants to pay you a compliment and all you can respond with is, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just a shirt,” you’re being hard-hearted. In reverse, softening your heart means becoming humble and seeing things from another point of view without the fear of it automatically and drastically changing you upon impact.
Honestly, the fear of change is prevalent and universal. The fear of someone changing our belief systems, morality, and ratiocination (reason)–is, therefore, that much more daunting and unfamiliar. So when the first step towards any direction is softening your heart, the very first thought is usually– “you’re asking me to let it in the unfamiliar, and to trust myself enough not to be afraid that I’m going to let the unfamiliar change me right away if I don’t want it to.” Yes, exactly!
Now let’s back up. When Christians mention “hope in Christ”, what we’re talking about is softening our hearts to the will of Jesus–meaning–we are receptive to what Jesus has to say in our hearts, and we are willing to listen before dropping it on the back burner of our minds as useless. We consider what His words are saying, what they mean, how they would impact us and/or others, and what the intention Jesus is behind His words. Softening your heart doesn’t mean you become Christian. If you choose to follow Christ, that is your own decision to make. But first, softening your heart means you’re willing to listen. How willing are you to listen to someone you hardly ever–if ever– give a chance to speak fully, clearly, and honestly into your heart and soul? You’ve heard all sorts of voices; parents, co-workers, friends, strangers, enemies, significant others– you know them all very well. How well do you know Jesus’ voice? Do you know for a fact that He wants something bad for you; to threaten you and all that you want in life, or do you assume that based on the unsolved mysteries (unsolved as far as you believe) of this over two-millennium-aged book called the Bible? If you don’t understand Jesus, you will not understand what He has intended for you to know about Him and from Him. Are you willing to let Him tell you exactly what He wants with you, and for you? Would listening to Him really hurt you? Has not listening to Him truly helped you?
When I was an atheist, quite honestly, I was very hard-hearted. I was obstinate and rebellious against any idea of faith. Friends would mention God and I would hate every word they said. I didn’t want to hear anything and I tried my hardest to discard every word. Their words come back sometimes now because I want more than anything to know more about Jesus. But at that time, I wasn’t ready. Can you become ready to hear what the hope of Jesus means for you today?
The hope of Christ is that you no longer have to suffer for your sins. You don’t believe in sin? How do you describe what it is when someone kills another person? What is abortion; a choice? It’s a choice to kill. Readers, I’m well aware that saying that causes controversy. I get that. But do you understand what abortion is? A “professional” either provides a mother a herbal medicine meant to destroy the fetus–or–they stick a blade into a woman’s uterus and removes the still-forming body parts of a human being by forcing them out in pieces. Is that not murder? And if it is murder, how is that not sin? How is that not rebelling against the miracle of God’s blessing of giving life to a child?
Women and men alike will ask, “What if we can’t afford a baby?” I ask back, “What about adoption?”– “What if we can’t afford adoption?”….But you could afford to have sex, right? Why should a defenseless human be paying the price for your irresponsible hormonal decision? And you know what else? Where is your faith that God won’t provide a way for the newborn to be given a proper home in 9 months? Nowadays, in 2016–there are plenty of couples who can’t get pregnant who would travel across the world to take the one you can’t afford to give a proper, healthy upbringing. I personally know a couple who adopted a child this year, and I’m proud of them. That is better than a blade, is it not?
(For those of you who have already had an abortion and are reading this, please hear no condemnation or hate from me. I make my point about abortion to be clear about sin, and to be helpful for those who have not yet had an abortion– to encourage them to seriously reconsider such a heavy decision before carrying it out. I believe in the power of forgiveness, and that your choice to receive an abortion in the past can be made right through Christ. By asking Jesus for forgiveness, and upon accepting forgiveness from Him, I believe in peace beyond such painful choices. I do not believe you need to live the rest of your life in shame based on your past decisions; I believe in Jesus’ gift of forgiveness wholeheartedly! Be filled with forgiveness today and be raised up with His love. All is made right through Christ!)
Readers, again, the hope of Christ means we no longer have to suffer for our sins. In this life, we will have adversity; we will have trouble. But Jesus has already taken care of that. If we would accept His love now, we have something to look forward to later (that is, still living in present moment with the hope and joy what is yet to come after we die), something that will completely blow this vapor of a life away. Imagine 80 years to eternity! When you consider the comparison, imagining a place without death, pain, disease, suffering, or tears is a pretty amazing thought. And you can look forward to that, but first you must acknowledge who made it possible: Jesus. If not for Jesus, we would have nothing to look forward to at all. Not even death.
The expression from the workaholics out there, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” falls on dead ears. They live a life full of meaningless relationships and selfishness, thinking money will spell love to the ones dying for their affections right now, and then they think they’ll go to a place without pain while leaving those on Earth who needed their affirmation for their life without so much as a clue as to who they even were. How does that work, exactly? Jesus was always ready to stop and talk with people, even when He was completely exhausted. But workaholics have to work until they can’t even function enough for those they make the money for? Something tells me they don’t have faith in Christ’s ability to provide, and that is destroying their soul.
Christ wants us to lean on Him, one-hundred percent! He wouldn’t ask for such a commitment if He didn’t have something significant to offer. But He offers eternity with unconditional love– without pain! There is no fathomable experience within a lightyear of that promise on this Earth. So if He is promising that after His resurrection, there is truth to His promise. But, again, we must first acknowledge who gave us that option! Jesus did!
Be encouraged today. Whether or not you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, know that His offer is open to you, always. All you need to do is soften your heart and speak to Him honestly, and listen to what He has to say. If you can’t hear Him yourself, perhaps He’ll speak to you through another believer who God sends your way. Whatever happens, I can promise you there is nothing to be afraid of with Jesus. He always has your best intentions in mind. His roads don’t make sense lots of times at first—I’ve found myself countless times thinking, “Jesus, what are you doing??” But, in hindsight, I can see Jesus always has a plan, but it isn’t important that we know what the plan is every time we’re in it. It’s more important to Jesus that we’re obedient. He will never take us down the wrong path.
What will you do with this information? Will you try to do what I explained about softening your heart and speaking honestly to Jesus? Will you remain stubborn like I once was? You already know how the stubborn road feels and looks like– you’ve walked down that fork in the road before. Are you willing and brave enough to try something new? I would like to challenge you to try to give this a shot. The worst that can happen is… nothing happening. How bad is that? For your own sake, I would ask that you try, and see what best case scenario comes of it.
Be blessed, readers! May God lift you up and encourage you through every interaction and every circumstance you encounter today!