Affected By Truth: Valuing What Matters Most

THE VALUE OF PERSPECTIVE

As I’ve gotten older (now in my early 30s), I’ve witnessed the value of what matters most to me change over time. What’s more, I’ve noticed what changed those values for me was the cost of loss during those times.

For instance, I remember distinctly how, for years during my adolescence, spirituality meant nothing to me at all; I had other interests that were far more important to me than the idea of an invisible God who allowed suffering to exist in my life (Notice the acute selfishness of my plight: My loss was, circumstantially, more significant to me than recognizing and acknowledging that I was not the only person suffering in the world!). That was my unapologetic perspective at a pubescent time when I was experiencing ineffable emotional pain and extreme loss. In hindsight, what actually shaped my personal concept of God was an amalgam of variables: the Catholic school I was a part of but didn’t feel received at, the music I listened to and embraced, which boundaries I did or didn’t have, the religious but not-so-spiritual people I was surrounded by—and my personal translation of all of those variables (and more) through a rigid, hurt, and docile mind and heart. It wasn’t until years later, after losing more of what I didn’t realize I had, that I began to value what it was that I did.

INTROSPECTION ON TRUTH

One valuable lesson I’ve learned through some experience and maturation is that with perspective comes Truth: the Truth of what matters most. I’ve learned what matters most sometimes isn’t what we think it is in the moment, and that what we think Truth is in the moment we’re in is based upon where our heart and spirit posture is.

What I want to explore in this article is how our Truth impacts the manner in which we live our lives, and how Truth changes the way we view our lives as a part of (or apart from) others’ journey in life together. I believe the Truth behind this matter can drastically influence how we live in every moment.

GOD’S GRACE LIFTS US UP—THE ENEMY’S LIES TEAR US DOWN

I identify myself as a Christian. While I believe in God’s grace through Christ, I understand—though I have a considerably hard time believingthat I am a masterpiece in His eyes through Jesus’s blood on the cross (Ephesians 2:10). As imperfect and flawed as I am, it requires consistently surrendering to God for humility to embrace and recognize I fail, constantly, to put Jesus first in my heart, mind, and decisions. One could easily condemn me for how frequently forgetful I am, or for how many areas I have yet to mature in, such as in my self-forgiveness, criticism, and working through frustrations. However, we are not the judge, and the Judge who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth has grace for the humble (James 4:6).

If God, the Judge of all, has grace on me even after all of my fallouts and misguided actions, what could man think of me that matters more? One valuable lesson as a Christian who is hyper-aware of his shortcomings is to understand that the most powerful Being in existence wants what is best for me in spite of my sin, wrongdoings, and failures. For me, that message—that Truth—is empowering and encouraging, uplifting and invigorating. Do we take the time to thank God for His grace, for seeing us as white as snow because of Jesus (Isaiah 1:18)? Do we slow ourselves to appreciate His goodness in spite of our shortcomings?

If we do not, then we are listening to the manipulative, fruitless voice of the enemy in our heads more than the bold, whispering promises of God in our hearts.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD’S PROMISE TO RESTORE US

One of my favorite past times is reading a great book and soaking up some fresh knowledge to appreciate understanding something new. The books I would read were written by people about their own experiences, or about experiences shared by friends or clients, and the message/lesson would be powerful and moving; transforming and introspective. I found value in understanding how the perspectives of the people involved were shaped either by pain (I.e. Disappointment and failure) or fulfillment (I.e. Success story/overcoming “impossible odds”). The point wasn’t that the stories had a happy ending or that things always go well, the lesson was that even when life is arduous and challenging, there is something valuable to be taken away from the pain/suffering involved. That wasn’t and still isn’t always easily digestible information, but its inspirational truth has the potential to renew a person’s inner perspective.

These same elements are found in the Bible as well, but they are much more complex because, not only are they as relatable as they are historical, they are also infused with God’s incorrigible Truth: the Bible is so spiritually transformative that, even written two millenniums ago by witnesses who experienced God so intrinsically—it is still helping people to follow Christ today.

I love when Jesus enters the story (in the flesh), and not only because He is the main character, but because of the promises and the hope He brings. I love how every person He comes across is impacted in some fundamental way; no one meets Him without some inner ripple effect taking place: He heals, He forgives, He influences; He offends, He loves, and He serves. Jesus as God in the flesh never leaves someone the same once He has introduced Himself, and the Bible tells this story.

Do we take enough time to relate to the people who lived and told the story of how God influenced their lives? Do we embrace and receive, fully, the magnitude of the Good News Jesus brings, and the restorative power of His promises to raise us up as new?

If we don’t, then we are putting the weight of our purpose and existence into the flawed, empty promises of this world through the flesh, rather than the freeing, fulfilling hope and joy that comes with receiving the Truth of God through Christ in the spirit.

INFLUENCES OF THIS WORLD vs EFFECTS OF CHRIST-FOLLOWING

Previously, I would watch more horror films and listen more to darker rock music with aggressive, explicit lyrics because that was what I was drawn to, and that is what I sought out. What changed is that later on (in my late twenties), I began seeking more peace in my life and in my spirit. During this transition, I found a very practical way to find peace was to reallocate my mind and heart’s energy to more fitting, realistic sources.

In the midst of my pursuit for peace, I discovered that by not watching as many horror films, I no longer carried a heavy sense of darkness in my heart about the world, and I experienced less violent imagery floating around in my mind from what I’d watched. Also, by listening to more uplifting, light-hearted music, I came to feel more upbeat and relaxed; less anxious, frustrated, or bitter towards people and the world around me.

Even further yet, joining a warm, inviting community with authentic Christ-followers brought me to experience others in this world who believe in a loving, provisional God in Jesus Christ, and that their love for Him inspired them to live their lives in a different manner. When I joined the community, I found myself feeling less isolated from the world and more fulfilled in my desire to be a part of something meaningful.

Where do we spend most of our mental/spiritual/physical energy? Do we give ourselves to the plight of this world; to pain and vindication for being wronged by other hurting, boundary-less individuals? Do we consider turning to a different Source for grace, strength, acceptance, peace, and unconditional love?

If not, then we dull our spirits by exhausting ourselves on the yolk of heavy sin, rather than on the light and easy yoke of the spirit who wants to give us rest, comfort, peace, and passion for what matters most.

INEVITABILITY OF THE EFFECTS OF OUR TRUTH

How we define our Truth will dramatically alter the way we live our lives, the way we do or don’t express an appropriate and unconditional love towards others, as well as the way we view our purpose in the lives of others around us. Our Truth is that by which we see the reason we are who we are, the reason why who we are matters, and how who we are impacts the choices we make, effecting the people around us. When our truth is based on the promises of this world (I.e. money, sex, power, etc.), it is prone to be more selfish, narcissistic, cynical, envious, and boundary-less. In turn, the way we live our lives may be isolated, condemning, clandestine, conditional, and non-transformative. Whether we want to or not, our actions, whether good or bad, impact the other people in our lives; whether someone close, or a complete stranger. The importance of understanding the significance of the way Truth impacts our lives is the difference between how we love others (or how we barely even love ourselves) and how we deviate others from experiencing God.

If our truth is that Jesus is not Lord, and that loving others depends on certain parts of a person rather than accepting a person as different than ourselves (in a general but boundary-loving manner), then our truth is limiting us from experiencing God more fully, and limiting others from experiencing Him through us. When we can learn to realize, accept, and embrace that the manner in which we see our lives and the others in it is largely significant and therefore impossible to bypass, we will also grasp the pertinent nature of the selflessness in choosing to intentionally impact others in a positive way, because we will understand the ways we are also impacted by others‘ choices and their Truth.

THE WALLS OF SHAME: BLOCKED FROM GOD’S GRACE

How are we living our lives? How is our Truth shaping the manner in which we live? How can we be more intentional with people in order to unveil in ourselves the empathy and compassion necessary to impact them with unconditional love?

Though God is constantly extending His grace, we aren’t always ready to receive it, and therefore we aren’t always living in gratefulness for it. Instead, we sometimes fall prey to living under the umbrella of shame. As a result, the shame of our flaws ends up stalling or stopping us from extending God’s gift of grace for us onto others, and in turn, how others end up receiving us is the way we live and act through our feeling shame rather than how we act through feeling thankfulness and joy. This backwards spiral keeps us from experiencing Jesus in full, and consequently, this limitation prevents us from displaying to others the love we are freely and unconditionally given in Christ, which is given regardless of our shame and sinful nature.

Our shame is a lie of the enemy, not a Truth from God; God convicts, only the enemy condemns. The difference is that condemnation points out our sin, the problem, whereas conviction reveals the answer to the problem, and the path towards changing our ways according to God’s love and Truth. God’s unconditional love is more powerful than the enemy’s condemnation; only a person who refuses God’s love out of self-deprecation and shame will be less likely to comprehend the unlimited nature of God’s love, nor the immeasurable depth of His grace, to consequently act and speak out of love towards others in response to these blessings. This person needs to let go of past hurts that have convinced him he is deserving of such condemnation and worthlessness, which do not come from God—and to turn his heart towards God, living from the heart posture of gratitude.

HANDCRAFTED MASTERPIECE

What is God’s Truth for you right now? In what area do you feel God calling you to turn from the lies of the enemy? Which lies are you believing, and how can you learn to live in the Truth of God’s grace so you will not only receive His love, but extend it to others? I invite you to open your heart, drop to your knees, and humbly give yourself in surrender to God’s will for you and your heart. You are never a prisoner to God, but a masterpiece handcrafted to serve His kingdom with love, grace, forgiveness, the surrender of your spirit, and your obedience to His will. There is no other truth like the Truth of Jesus’ abiding love and perfect desire for us to be in relationship with Him.

What is your Truth?

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Mere Christianity vs “Perfect” Christianity: Heart Posture

THE “PERFECT CHRISTIAN” FALLACY

Many Christians sometimes live under the pressure of a fallacy that, once a believer, one must “have their act together.” This creates a problem because it undermines one of the key reasons people turn to Christianity to begin with. A person who comes to the faith is initially humbled in admitting they are imperfect, recognizing their need for a Savior and their desire for a fulfilling way to live a life of intention, purpose, and Christ-like love.

One of the problems with the notion of a believer having their act together is that if, once a believer, a person did have their act together, what would be the purpose of continual faith? If the process of becoming a Christ-follower carried the full weight of the journey of faith, what reason would a person have to remain vigilant in the faith, keeping devoted and consistent with prayer life, community, the Bible, and choosing God first above all things? There would be no need if we were made perfect through the commencement of faith. But this is far from the actual truth, and the actual truth is what I want to explore in this article.

THE ‘WALK OF FAITH’ LIFE DOESN’T END

When a person first gives their life to Christ, among the first actions usually urged by spiritual leaders of a church is to get involved. Whether by life group or volunteer work, the purpose is for the believer to get to know others within the community of Christ-followers. But, why? Is this ritual-based, or perhaps a per-church requirement? Very simply, the purpose is to encourage, uplift, and support the new believer in their faith walk. Christians not only need to continue to strengthen their faith in Christ, but also, outside support from those around them when facing the spiritual struggles of life (I.e. Doubt, defeat, depression, grief, etc.). A Christian is not called to walk their journey alone, but we are called to be part of one ‘body’ (metaphorical for ‘community’).

We, as believers, are called to reflect the Truth of Christ and be an example for others, encouraging one another in our adversities (1 Timothy 4:12) (Hebrews 10: 24-25). We are called not to be haughty, but to be able to associate with people of low positions (Romans 12:16). To be a Christ-follower is not to have the attitude of a conceited critic, looking down from the throne of pride, but rather, faith calls us to be dependent on Christ and to love others the way He first loved us (John 15:12). We can’t love unconditionally if are fixated on the belief that we are made perfect through the mere professing of faith. Surely, we are not made “perfect” in Him if, by the professing of our faith, we become so proud of our title as a Christian that we mistake loving others for closing others off from experiencing His overflowing love through our expression of gratitude for God’s grace (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Undoubtedly, a new believer needs the nourishment of support from other believers who understand the difficulties and struggles of faith: the dryness of despair in a hurting world, the chaos of spiritual warfare, and the heaviness of the occasional stint of doubt as a result of experiencing this world at its cruelest. We, as Christ-followers, never have our act together, in the sense that we are never in so much control not to need any help. It would be beneficial to remember and remain aware that grace is given to us through Jesus’s love and volition, and not because of any act of our own. After all, it was while we were still sinners that He came and died for us (Romans 5:8). Therefore, actions are not a prerequisite for grace, but a means by which we can express our thanks for what He did on the cross.

THE DANGEROUS GAVEL OF CONDEMNATION

Still, other times Christians face pressure from unbelievers to ‘be better’ because, after identifying as a Christian publicly, they are met with criticism for not being a more “perfect” (I.e. Nice, selfless, compassionate, friendly, mannered, gentle, forgiving) person.

Critics sometimes stigmatize Christians as the failure of a promise towards perfection when they see a believer act “out of line,” because there is a fallacious notion that once a believer, faith makes the person “better” than an unbeliever. But this problematic assumption is rooted from people having witnessed believers who treat faith like a graduation certificate in the morality of life, behaving as though they know better than they really do, waving around a dangerous combination of Christianity and condemnation like a gavel.

There are many unbelievers with previous experiences in which a person treated them unfairly or unjustly while identifying themselves as Christian. These actions do not align with what Jesus intended for the community of Christ-followers to hold true to (loving others the way He first loved us), but they do not defeat Christ or His work by any means. Believers must be diligent and committed in lifting each other up to continue putting into action loving those who don’t understand the life-changing invitation to relationship with Christ, being renewed in the spirit, nor the significant role humility plays in choosing surrender to Christ.

AUTHENTIC MOTIVES IN A FALLEN WORLD

The notion of a Christian having his act together has an authentic root, however. Generally, depending on the true heart posture of the person before giving his life to Christ, a person who becomes a believer has a genuine desire to improve the manner in which he lives his life, the passion with which he loves his family and friends, and to express a more Christ-like acceptance/love/grace towards strangers. These intentions are byproducts of the Holy Spirit working in a person and moving him towards closer alignment with relationship with Jesus.

When a Christian speaks or acts in an unloving way towards a person, the claim that the believer is a bad example of the faith is a reality check that any believer is just as imperfect and flawed as any unbeliever. However, the difference is between a believer and nonbeliever is that the believer wants to improve, and to do so as a reflection of Christ’s impact on their life. The point to take away from this is the importance of discerning and distinguishing between two heart postures:

1. A person who is emptily professing they are a Christian but not acting or speaking from a genuinely Christ-like heart posture.

2. A person who identifies as a Christ-follower, makes mistakes, then repents; making noticeable changes in behavior to display Christ’s influence in their life.

While number 1 is refutable, number 2 is increasingly important to consider. The only authentically good change a believer can make is to turn their heart to Christ in humility and try again.

“REFLECTIONS” OF CHRIST, NOT ‘REPLICAS’

Christianity is merely a word until a person depicts Christ-like qualities. That means the actions of a Christ-centered individual coincide with the Truth that the only perfection that exists does so through Christ, and is merely reflected through a person who identifies as a follower. Put differently, perfection exists only through Christ (God incarnate), and therefore, to expect more “better-ness” from a person is too high of a standard from which to judge. There is always room for more improvement, so the best action to take is to choose Christ, move forward, and humble ourselves to receive His grace again and again when we mess up—which we will—taking responsibility for our sinful choices but always turning to Jesus for the strength and grace to try again. His grace is sufficient, His love unending. If we can learn to view others through a more Christ-like lens, we will then come to see others with a deeper sense of empathy, understanding, patience, grace, forgiveness, and love, while not looking down on them with unnecessary condemnation. Only Jesus is Jesus. Believers are His followers, and we must humble ourselves constantly to be redirected by Him. We are nothing without Him, but because of Him, we are made new in God’s eyes, and that is the actual Truth that will set us free from ourselves, others’ criticism, the lies of this world, and the choice to live our lives the way we would without Him.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!