Humbled Before Jesus

It’s far too easy for the Gospel to get watered down, especially when you live in the Bible belt. For much of my life, I held nothing more than a watered down view of Jesus. To me, it was common knowledge that Jesus had died on the cross, and that He rose again, bringing salvation to all who believed in Him. It was as good as fact.

But it didn’t prompt me to worship.

I’ve been reading through Exodus recently, and I came across the following passage in Exodus 4:

Then the people of Israel were convinced that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 4:31 (NLT)

The Israelites are in Egypt, experiencing a lot of hardship. Years ago (I don’t know exactly how long ago it had been, but it was when Moses had been born, and now he was a grown man), the Egyptians subjected the Israelites to harsh slavery and subjugation.

The Israelites have been crying out for help to God, it says in 2:23. And now, when they have realized that God has heard their cries and has sent someone to help them, their immediate response is to bow down and worship. 

The Exodus is the great delivery of the Old Testament, you could say. It’s a fantastic moment displaying God’s care for His people and God deliverance of His people. And it’s rivaled only by Jesus dying on the cross.

If the Israelites, so many years ago, worshiped God for His promise to deliver them from the Egyptians, how much more should we worship God for sending His Son to suffer for our sins and deliver us for eternity? 

But for some reason, many of us almost seem to take the Gospel for granted. At least, I certainly do sometimes.

Why? Why do we do that?

The answer I’ve found, at least to explain my own foolishness, is that I place too much importance on myself and thus diminish God’s holiness.

Let’s just walk through that for a minute.

God created everything in existence. And then He created us. We are nothing more than God’s creation. We exist only because God made us. That right there is enough reason for us to literally owe our entirely lives to Him.

But let’s go even further. He made us in His image, with an eternal soul, and He gave us free will. We took that free will and sinned against Him. Setting off a continuous line of rebellious people who betray God and turn away from Him.

God’s own creation continually rebelled against Him, believing they could manage on their own and essentially calling Him useless. 

Mind you, this is an eternal, perfect, holy, and just God we’re calling useless. It’s crazy, right?

God, perfect and just as He is, had – and still has – every right to punish us. We chose to separate ourselves from Him, we chose to sin against His perfection, and God can’t have imperfection in His holy and perfect domain, that is, heaven. So what is He to do with this little rebel creation of His?

The first option is to forget about them. They chose to rebel against them, so God has every right to let them do their sinful thing and move about His holy eternal life. Naturally, because we have an eternal soul, that would mean condemnation for us. It would mean eternal punishment, hell, separation from God forever.

That is justice. That is us getting what we deserve.

But God didn’t choose that option. Instead, God chose to pursue his little rebel creations and sent His own Son, God in the flesh, to take our punishment for us. Say what?!

God, the King of kings, God of angel armies, Creator of the universe, died a painful death on the cross to take the punishment for a crime he never committed. He took the blame that was never His in the first place. For a closer look at just how unfathomable that is, feel free to read Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross.

And because He lived a perfect, blameless life (He was God – hello!) He conquered the grave and rose again after three days. And now, through His death and resurrection, we have eternal life if we only place our faith and trust in Him.

We, the greatest rebels of all time (well, aside from Satan), have been reunited with our holy and awesome God to live eternally with Him because He chose to pursue us and take our punishment on His shoulders. 

After understanding – and I mean really understanding – the story of the Gospel, how can I dare to think that God was supposed to save me? In other words, how can I possibly feel entitled to salvation? If anything, I’m entitled to condemnation.

I am a dirty, rebellious creation. But it is my imperfection that magnifies the perfect love of God, in that He chose to save me despite my imperfection.

Which is why even the mention of God’s promise of deliverance – the greatest of which is Jesus Christ on the cross – should prompt us to worship. How can we read such promises and nod and forget about it, to simply carry on with our lives, as if nothing huge had just been told to us?

The Israelites had it right. God’s deliverance is no small thing. It’s an incredible, life-giving, undeserved love that pursues us all the days of our lives, as it says in Psalm 23:6.

And it is because of His deliverance that we need not fear death, or worry about anything in life. God loves us, in our dirty, imperfect state, and He will deliver us from all things, in due time.

Jesus said, at the end of a sermon about not worrying:

So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 (NLT)

So I rejoice and I worship in the notion that the King of kings is given great happiness by giving me the Kingdom.

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Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross

I’ve been reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst recently (which is a great book on how to live life in God’s love without letting rejection and the whims of others steal your joy), and at one point she mentioned Abigail, Nabal’s wife in 1 Samuel 25. As I continued thinking about what she said about Abigail, I decided to take a dive into the passage myself.

For the sake of space, I’ll just summarize it here, but please do go read the full chapter if you have the time. Essentially, David finds himself near Nabal’s home at sheep-shearing time. Since he’s protected Nabal from harm before, he asks Nabal to share some of his provisions with him.

Nabal, however, lashes out and basically insults David, saying that he’s no good and absolutely refusing to give him anything.

Now, most of us know a bit about King David. He was the one who God chose as king, to reign after Saul. He’s the guy who killed Goliath, and the guy God described as, “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22 NLT).

But here’s Nabal saying that David is a nobody who is undeserving of his gifts.

When he hears this, David sets out intent on killing Nabal. How dare he insult David’s name like that? How dare he be so selfish and unkind?

Abigail, Nabal’s wife, however, hears this, and instantly she gathers gifts for David and goes out to meet him. And when she arrives, what she says is just flabbergasting.

She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say.”

1 Samuel 25:24 (NLT)

I accept all blame in this matter. 

Wait, what?! Abigail, girl, you didn’t do anything wrong. You’re completely innocent here. It’s your husband who did it. Why are you taking the blame?

I put myself in Abigail’s place. I imagine doing what she did. And I just get so filled with rage. Why would I take the blame for something I so clearly didn’t do? No, Nabal did it. He’s the one to blame. Not me.

But Abigail says, “I accept all blame.”

And I think that’s such a beautiful representation of what Jesus did on the cross. 

Growing up in the Bible belt and knowing all about Jesus and how he died for our sins and rose again, sometimes I miss out on the impact of exactly what Jesus did. It’s almost like background knowledge to say that Jesus was sent to earth, he lived a perfect life, he was crucified for our sins, and then he rose again on the third day. Just standard fact.

But it’s not just standard fact. It is jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, amazing grace. 

And looking at Abigail’s story, the impact hit me again.

Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, dealt with a bunch of nasty people who essentially called him a liar, lived with absolutely no sin, and still was crucified as a criminal. He went down into the grave to defeat death for us. He didn’t do anything that made him deserving of death, and yet he said, “I accept all blame.”

We are Nabal. We are the fools who messed up, who sinned, who are now on the receiving end of the perfectly just wrath of God.

But just like Abigail stepped in on Nabal’s behalf, Jesus stepped in on our behalf. He stepped between us and God and said, “I accept all blame.” Which means that, through him, we can have an eternal life with God that we don’t deserve.

It’s absolutely incredible, isn’t it?

So anytime I’m struggling to see the weight of Jesus dying on the cross, I’m going to put myself in Abigail’s place, think about what I would do. When I do that, I can’t help but realize just how game-changing and awesome it is that Jesus took all the blame for all of us, despite being completely blameless.

On him be the blame, not on us. That. That is amazing grace.

A Failing Perfectionist

I wouldn’t call myself a total perfectionist, but when it comes to certain things in life, I definitely strive to be pretty close to perfect. Namely, in academics.

I feel like I’ve relaxed a bit since coming to college, but that’s not to say that my tendencies from high school to stress over even the tiniest of details of a homework assignment and to be upset if I don’t get an A in a class are gone completely. Honestly, this perfectionism makes my life so much more stressful, and I’m full of worries about what’s to come and if I prepared well enough for it.

In short, I’m a mess.

I’m a mess because no matter how much I want to be perfect in my schoolwork, I cannot. 

Let me repeat that again, but generalized. Perfectionists have a tendency to let our unreasonable desire to be perfect cause us unnecessary stress because no matter how much we strive to be perfect, we will inevitably fall short. 

That goes for those like me who want to be perfect in their schoolwork, to those who want to be the perfect role model (also me), to those who want to be the best at their job, to those who want to be perfect in just about everything they do.

Here’s the deal, we’re not perfect beings. Romans 3:23 tells us that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). As unpleasant as that may sound, that’s fact. We’re sinning, imperfect beings who can never be perfect on our own.

But for all you perfectionists out there, there is hope. The Gospel says that Jesus came down to earth and died for our sins, that we may have eternal life with him if we believe. He has sent the Holy Spirit to us to start creating us believers anew.

The Holy Spirit is making us perfect. 

Isn’t that awesome?!

We can never hope to achieve perfection on our own, but if we rely on the Holy Spirit and let Him lead us and shape us and mold us, we will slowly but surely become more like our perfect Father in heaven. And once we get to heaven, we will be perfect and without sin.

So, all that to say, perfectionism in and of itself, I believe, is not an entirely bad desire to have.

After all, it can point to our creation. Genesis 1 says that everything God created was “good.” God is perfect, and He made man in His image, meaning that man started off as perfect. It was only when sin entered the world that we were made imperfect.

Secondly, if we didn’t have a desire to be better or a desire to be perfect, why would we need the Holy Spirit? The very basis of Christianity is this: We are imperfect sinners, and we realize this, but Jesus Christ has covered the cost and through the Holy Spirit we will be made more and more like Him through this lifetime.

Christianity is all about imperfect beings being restored to perfection by our perfect Creator. 

Now, that’s certainly just one take at the Gospel, and there are many other aspects to it, but I say that to illustrate the point that perfectionism, defined as a desire to constantly be better and do better, in and of itself isn’t bad. It is only when we look to ourselves to be perfect that we falter. Only God can make us perfect.

So don’t shun your perfectionist tendencies completely, just turn them over to the God who is perfect. Instead of relying on yourself to become perfect, rely on God. That’s the only way our efforts will not be in vain.