“How we live our lives ultimately meets divine judgment” – I read this today in my daily devotional, and it gave me a little heart attack.
Am I doing this right? Am I doing enough? I’m not doing enough. I haven’t helped/given/prayed enough. I am the very worst kind of sinner because I’m totally inadequate OMG I’M GOING TO HELL.
And then I put down my coffee cup.
We all sin. Some of us were unaware of our sin for longer periods of life than others. For instance, my friend who remembers accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior in her kindergarten Sunday School class may be more alert and has had more practice defeating her sins than me, who in my twenties was instigating arguments with Christians only to scorn them for their beliefs.
Sometimes I feel like I have some catching up to do.
But we all sin, every day. Not one is worse than the other – God made us all, and we are all alike in that we all fall short of his intention for us, individually and as a group.
Then, for some of us, and I hope and pray most of us, at some point our eyes open and we become aware of God’s hand in our lives. We see how he has orchestrated our past to mold our future. We feel the love he has poured out on us through the sacrifice of his son and the gift of his spirit. As a result we act more deliberately and with more intention; this intentional behavior occurs more regularly and with less effort. Our will becomes God’s; our lives stick to the path he provided for us.
We become aware that we are building treasure in heaven with how we conduct our lives. Over time, our character changes; our feelings align with what is right instead of only what we want; we feel love that surpasses the love we thought we knew.
We experience genuine peace in our hearts – what bothered us before no longer holds its pull on us. We are tempered by the love of Christ, humbled by his sacrifice, and made gentle. Our hard edges are softened, our motives purified.
We realize that we are still human, and the old ways still creep in, but God has our souls, and we are in his hands.
It’s all he really wants for us, for us to accept his gift. The rest will follow, no matter how long or short of a time it takes for us to come around. I’m not sure how big my pile of treasure in heaven is at this point, and I can only guess that it is smaller than the one my friend has amassed, but that really isn’t for me to know. I do know that I can do better, and I have done better. I no longer pick fights with people about their beliefs. I am no longer the young woman with a chip on her shoulder about everything. I am no longer as selfish, no longer as mean, no longer as careless with others’ feelings.
And I pray for God to change me more, and I pray for him to change the hearts and lives of my loved ones, friends and family members who maybe don’t know yet what I know. God’s love has shown me how wonderful this life can be, even if it is hard. The greatest feeling I’ve ever known is that he wants me in heaven. There’s just something about it that I want everyone to experience.
Because once they have it, they always will. And we will enjoy our treasure once we get to heaven, no matter how big or how small.
Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.
Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:1-11 (The Message)