Thursday, 20 February 2014

One thing the Olympics have taught me.

Image source
I quiet enjoy watching sport, and I've really enjoyed turning on the TV and seeing the Sochi Winter Olympic games on. Watching people from different countries battle it out against one another in various different sports is pretty enjoyable. But one thing in particular has struck me as I've been watching the Winter Olympics this year: These people train for at least 4 years (probably far longer) just to compete for a few minutes. Some of them succeed, winning for themselves a brief moment of glory and a shiny piece of metal. Others are forgotten by the wayside within moments, left only with the hope of something different after four more years of training.
It occurred to me that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with sport or the Olympics, if this is all that these people live for then they are to be pitied. If all they can hope to attain in life is a few minutes of fame, if all that they set their eyes on is the glory of being the best in the world for a few years, then they aren't really living for anything that will last. The fact is that in a years time only a few people will remember who won medals and who competed well. In a few decades these athletes won't be remembered at all.
But it struck me that the same applies for everything in this world - doesn't it? We can chase after things that promise a lot, but can they ever truly deliver? Will we be happy with just one more promotion? Will making my first million dollars truly make me content and fulfilled in life? Even friends and families will disappoint us - and likewise we'll fail them. And even if these things could bring lasting contentedness, none of them can change the fact that we are sinful and need a saviour. None of them can save us from death.
In Ecclesiastes 7:2 Solomon says:
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

The truth is that whatever we achieve in this life, there is no purpose to it unless it is done for God. Whatever we accomplish will fade away. It will be forgotten and replaced. But if we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus as the only one who will save, then we have the promise that we will go to be in heaven with him for eternity. We won't take our achievements with us. In fact, it won't matter if we've achieved "greatness" by the world's standard. The only thing that will matter in the long run is if we have put our faith in Jesus and, as a result of that, have served God faithfully out of thankfulness and love.
What are you trying to achieve in life? What are your goals? Will they matter once you die? Will they matter in 200 years time?How long will it take for people to forget you?
The real question boils down to this: Are you living your life as a Christian who has turned to Jesus as the only one who can save, or are you rejecting him and living your own way?
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Have you been crucified with Christ?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
A lot of people know this verse. It's one of those common ones that we can pull out without too much thought. But that's the problem - have we actually considered the depths of what it means to be crucified with Christ?
It only hit me the other day what the implications of that statement are. If we were crucified with Jesus, that means we died with him. If we were dead we wouldn't be doing anything would we? We'd just be laying in the ground decaying. But Paul doesn't just say "I no longer live" - he says "but Christ lives in me".
If Christ lives in us, and we are dead, what does that mean for our sin and all the extra bits and pieces that we fill our lives with? If we are really dead to the world, and if it is really Christ who lives in us (which should be our aim), then there is absolutely no excuse to sin. There's no excuse for a "little white lie", or for doing something that dishonors God "just one last time".
But at the same time, if we are dead, what about the video games and movies that don't really have a purpose? The exercise done not to honour God with our bodies but just to honour ourselves? We all fill our lives with things that don't really matter (those were just two common examples for my age group).
But if we are dead, and it is Christ who lives in us, shouldn't our every action, word and thought be in line with his? Shouldn't we be always looking for ways to honour and glorify him and share the gospel? Shouldn't we be transformed, doing everything for his glory and out of love for those around us?
And yet, if we're honest none of us are like that. To be completely dead to anything except Christ is nearly impossible on this earth. And at the same time that should be our aim - we should be living as Christians constantly, always re-evaluating what we are doing in an attempt to make it more and more honouring to God. Here are two ideas:
  • Are there specific areas in your life that you are still sinning? The answer to that will be yes - because we are still sinful and won't be perfect until heaven. But are you repentant for those things and trying to give your life more fully to God?
  • Have a look at where you use your time. Are those things useful and good? Are they glorifying to God in any way? They may not be wrong to do, but do they tangle you up and stop you from doing things that are specifically good and right?
  • Have a think about where your thoughts are usually drawn to. Are you often thinking about how to honour God and how to serve him? Or about other things which might not be particularly bad, but just aren't as good? I find my attention is usually drawn to my friends - not in an effort to encourage and love them, but thinking about what they think of me and things like that.
I'm not at all saying that by doing things that aren't specifically godly or ungodly we aren't Christians. I'm just asking if we've really considered what this verse means - are we dead to ourselves and the things in this world and living only for Christ? What areas in my life do I need to be working on?
This was first posted on my new blog: