There is nothing quite like a large gathering of Christians all singing together. Today, I am at the OneLove Conference. I am learning about how to realign what captivates me, what fills my longings and desires and what motivates me. I constantly need to be re-directed to the One, the only One who really deserves my full time, my full attention and my complete heart. In the busy to-and-fro of life, so easily our wants, our desires and our motivations get off course.
I remember a few months ago watching the storms in Sydney’s Northern Beaches on the news. The stark images of the beautiful houses along the coast getting buffeted by the waves stayed with me. As I watched these amazing houses having their foundations swept out from underneath them, I was shocked. But you know what? I realized it wasn’t just this one storm that caused this to happen. As the home-owners were interviewed, they were frustrated and some downright angry that the shoreline hadn’t been built up to withstand the buffeting from the powerful waves. Over time, as the waves had washed against the coastline, erosion had been happening, foundations had been shifting and no one had done anything about it. It wasn’t just the storm that caused the partial-collapse, it was the constant repetition of waves hitting the shoreline, over and over again.
And aren’t we just the same? In our culture today, it is clear that Christianity is no longer the ‘done thing’. Most people don’t adopt religion ‘just ‘coz’. Why? Because it is against the tide of the dominant thinking and it takes effort. It takes effort to follow the God-Man Carpenter whose teaching was and continues to be counter-cultural. It takes work to get our butts out of the door and to Church on a Sunday morning. It takes exertion (sometimes painful exertion!) to pause. stop. examine ourselves. It takes effort to open our Bibles and get in the life-giving Word that realigns our desires, our motivations, our whole selves to be more in line with the One who loves so much that he gave himself.
Lately, I have been realizing my fitness isn’t what it should be. I have emerged from my newborn-mother-haze and have started to notice that fitness has slipped by the wayside. But I also am convicted that I am the only one who can change this. Likewise, my theological fitness is ultimately up to me; how I view God and how I study his Word is up to me. Absolutely, if I am in a church where the Pastor regularly and faithfully preaches from the Word, it makes it a whole lot easier and so is something we should be looking for in order to grow in maturity. Church also allows us to encourage one another and hold fast and true. But where I am with God is not my Pastor’s responsibility, nor is it the responsibility of my Christian friend, it is my own.
But I am not alone. Unlike my fitness levels, God has revealed himself to me through his Word, he places the Holy Spirit in me to transform me. While we are fallen by nature, we are made righteous by the blood. As Paul so brilliantly expresses in Romans 11:33-36:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
Our thinking needs to be re-aligned to this wonderful God who has revealed himself to us. His thoughts can and do change us as we sink our teeth into his Word and his Spirit works. What I am captivated by, what motivates me, what and who shape me can be transformed. It is a promise that we can hold onto:
“7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. –Ephesians 1:7-10
So, as we venture forth into whatever the future holds, like Paul, we can marvel at the richness of God and the beauty of who he is. He has mounds of grace to lavish on us. As we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, our hearts are changed too. We become people who show mercy because we have been shown mercy. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).