"Every man leaves a lasting influence... that will affect future generations for centuries to come. But let's face it, not all legacies are the same. Some are productive, others are destructive. Some are illustrious, others are infamous... what kind of a legacy will you leave behind? A spiritual legacy is one that money can't buy and taxes can't take away, it is passing down to the next generation what matters most."
Steven J. Lawson

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amazing Grace...Jesus Removes the Scales

This weekend, I watched the film Amazing Grace, which has become one of my favorite films. The film is about William Wilberforce and his lifelong battle to end slavery. However, this is not why this is one of my favorite films. The film includes John Newton, as he was Wilberforce's pastor and mentor and his story ties into the whole slavery issue. Newton was a former slave ship captain until his radical conversion by the grace of God. This grace so profoundly impacted Newton, that he penned the hymn Amazing Grace in 1779. It has since become arguably the most popular Christian hymn of all time. So, back to the film, the best two lines in the film are in the same scene where John is dictating his account as a slave ship captain, when Wilberforce enters to speak to him. The old preacher says "Two things I know; they are that I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior." This to me was summed up in the hymn Amazing Grace. The second greatest line in the film is really a question he asks of Wilberforce, "I once was blind, but now I see, did I really right that?" William replies "Yes, you did." With tears in his eyes, John exclaims, "Now at last it's true!"(what is truly ironic is that at this point, John Newton was actually blind!)

As I watched this film, I wept because for some inexplicable reason, it was made more real to me when, in a very moving scene(other than the one mentioned above), Wilberforce sings the hymn in a very clear and moving voice. The words, as I listened rang so clearly in my heart, that I began to cry. That night, as I realized that my life has been a continual cycle of essentially throwing God's grace in his face, I knew that I had to take radical action to change my ways.

Today, I made a connection between the line 'I once was blind, but now I see' and a very powerful scene(and my favorite) from the C.S Lewis classic The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The scene in question is a scene where Aslan confronts Eustace, a selfish and rude boy from the real world, who has turned into a dragon because of his greed. Eustace vainly attempts to rid himself of the scales, and return to his regular state yet, every time he tries, it doesn't work. Finally, Aslan tells Eustace that he must undress him. And so even though it was very painful, Eustace let Aslan tear off the dragon scales with his claws. After the painful process is over, Eustace is a boy again, and a much humbler, and grateful boy than before. Eustace finally understood that he needed Aslan to do it for him, because only he could change him.

This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus does for us. Aslan represents Jesus in the Chronicles of Narnia, and is the perfect allegory for how we need Jesus to remove the scales over our hearts and eyes so that we may see the truth about ourselves, and about him. Without the fierce love of Aslan, Eustace could not begin to understand his need for Aslan to remove the scales, so that he might begin to really live. We are no different. Sin has blinded our hearts to our condition, and our need for a savior. The scales are so thick over our eyes, that we have no hope of saving or changing ourselves. Instead, we must let the Lion of Judah tear the scales away, however painful it will be. This is what Jesus does by his grace. He allows us to see that we are sinners and that we desperately need a Savior. Even after we are saved, the great Lion must continually tear away scales to change us and transform us through the process of sanctification. This makes grace that amazing! The question I have to ask myself is: Am I willing for the lion to tear away at me? Jesus, tear the scales away!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christ Bids Me Come and Die

One thing that I have kept hearing over and over again throughout the last several months is the phrase "count the cost". Of course, this phrase is often associated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer from perhaps his greatest work The Cost of Discipleship. This is not the first place we see this phrase used however. Jesus commissions us in Luke 9:23-25 to take up our cross daily and follow after him. If I would follow after Jesus and be his disciple, I must die to myself and carry my cross daily. Counting the cost of following him must therefore be taken with solemn and courageous hearts. Jesus offers a life of suffering and trial, not a life that is carefree, but he does promise that he will be with us as we walk that road.

So the question begs an answer. Am I counting the cost? Jesus commands that I give up everything to follow him. I must be able to say with Paul that "everything is but loss, for the sake of Christ." Do I see the worth and beauty of following Christ? Am I willing to give up everything on this earth for him? Heavy questions to ponder and consider. The eternal life promised far outshines any earthly gain or wealth that can ever be attained here in this temporal existence. This life is fleeting and will pass away, but life eternal will never fade away. How could I ever trade the glorious riches of eternal life in Christ for cheap and fleeting idols that only weaken and destroy? Yet, the tragedy of this is that, often I do drink out of broken cisterns that hold nothing. May it never be, that I would trade what Christ has paid for with his own blood, for empty promises that broken cisterns offer!

A life filled with pain and suffering would be worth the cost if it meant spending eternity in the glorious presence of my God! A life of sacrifice would be worth it if it meant that I had the joy of heaven to cast my vision toward! Jesus, give me the courage to deny myself, to walk the hard road, and to follow after Thee; to gladly share in Thy suffering, and truly count the cost of following Thee as a disciple.

If you know anything about the extraordinary life of Bonhoeffer, you know that he was martyred on April 9, 1945 for resisting the Third Reich. He gave his life for his fellow believers in Germany and entrusted himself to his Savior, which enabled him to face death with the certainty of being united with Christ. Bonhoeffer was able to count the cost of following after Jesus because the grace of Jesus Christ compelled him to live a life in total surrender to his Lord, and live sacrificially, even at the cost of his own life. Bonhoeffer himself wrote these searing words, "Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again... It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life." This was certainly true in Bonhoeffer's life as he lived it out to his tragic death only nine days before he would have been liberated by the Allies. Perhaps the greatest statement he ever made was this:"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." His life is a poignant example of how a man ought to live for God, but more importantly, it points to the great sacrifice of Christ who took up his cross, and died that I might live. Christ bids me come and die, and so I die...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Men with Brave Hearts: Part II

So control. Self-control is important for many disciplines in life. It takes self-control to rein in anger; to control fleshly lust, and train yourself for spiritual as well as physical pursuits. Without self-control, greed, lust, anger, and other vices would be more prevalent in the Christian life. Self- control also helps one handle fear. Part of bravery is having the self- control to take hold of your fear and use it for good. Having self- control can also make it easier to do the hard thing. I want to be a man of self-control because I don't want my life to be one of unchecked emotion and impulses.
In Part 1 I spoke of fear and how it can cripple you. In my life, fear of making the wrong decision about something has seriously crippled me in being a man of action.This year, I hope to develop more of a broad, and long term vision for my life, and for the Kingdom of God. I want to turn my fear of the future into action and hope for what God has in store for me. A friend told me last week, "Tyler, I think this year is going to be a year where you learn to do the hard thing." He's right. A man who trusts in his Lord will not be afraid to do the hard thing. If I must learn through mistakes then I will, but I am tired of not being a man of action. My heart has grown too restless. I want to step out in faith and be a man with a brave heart.