Private thoughts: 002

Unpolished, fearless, awkward thinking on making sense of Christianity.

For the why behind this style of post, read the introduction to Private thoughts: 001.

I’ve always been one to consume the real-life depraved and macabre. True crime podcasts are my diet of choice, with documentaries running a close second. Listening to the trauma (and the quest for justice) of others has helped me with perspective in understanding my own.

But since becoming a Christian, it all feels a bit weird. I can’t pinpoint the why, but looking back at my behaviour, it feels almost sadistic. I’ve been using the lives of others to deal with, and feel better about, my own.

Now, whenever I feel the pull, I listen to music from my youth or a Christian podcast (the last one I listened to was Timothy Keller’s Beholding the Love of God). I’m keeping my options as alternatives to make my decision during the temptation a simple one.

I also pray. I ask our Lord to help me stop looking for comfort and validity in worldly things and ideas. To help me understand the magnitude of what He has done for us, and how this is true comfort—even moreso because I don’t deserve it.

It feels clumsy, but it’s (I’m) a work in progress.

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I’ll leave the light on for you.

I scrawled this on an unrelated page in my bullet journal during our Sunday study of Thessalonians at church.

It feels like a beautiful gesture, doesn’t it? It conjures up the idea that you are loved: that someone is taking a proactive step so that you don’t stumble in the darkness.

(I also can’t help but think of Belinda Carlisle’s Leave a Light On.)

But it’s deeper than an act. This is what I understand:

  • We are called to serve others, just as Jesus serves us.

  • We are called to share the gospel, and not be afraid or ashamed to do so.

  • We are ready when you are.

  • This doesn’t mean we’re in the business of persuasion, forcing ourselves on others: to think that we can is rude, arrogant and misguided. (I must admit, when the urgency of the truth hits me, I feel like I should take to the traffic lights with placards. I promise you I won’t.) We are conduits: the only one that can turn someone’s heart is God himself.

  • We are here to illuminate the Bible in our world of darkness, as much for ourselves as for those around us.

Here are three examples from the Bible that have helped me understand our duty to share the gospel:

Romans 10:9 | If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

2 Corinthians 5:20 | We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

1 Corinthians 9:16 | For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Although I annotate like I’ve an endless supply of markers (of which I do, who am I kidding, and FYI these are my fave highlighters du jour), I often wish I could recite the Bible from memory. I feel frustrated when I’m trying to understand or discuss a particular part, and I know what I’m looking for is in there somewhere (both the Bible and in my head), and I feel like it’s interrupting my flow.

So I’m going to start memorising verses, in no particular order (for now). Again, I’m reminding myself that this isn’t a checklist item to gain God’s approval: it’s merely a tool to help me know and love Him further.

I’m starting with this one:

Philippians 2:3-4 | 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

This is one I could do with remembering every day.

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I’m reading John Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life. I wanted a gentle introduction to his work so starting with this extract from his most famous theological work (the Institutes of the Christian Religion) felt like a good place to start.

It’s taking me a long time to read. Not because it’s super difficult (it’s been translated from the Latin), but because I feel challenged by Calvin’s ideas.

This is the most recent sentence I highlighted:

Moreover, Our Lord in no way had to take upon Himself the bearing of the cross except to prove and testify to His own obedience to His Father. (pg 60)

He owes us nothing. Nothing. This is sobering and liberating at once. I need to sit on this.

Also, I’m fascinated that a book that was written in 1559 feels positively modern. Forward. Ground-breaking. But shut the front door: he’s discussing a book that’s even older and even more radical. Call me naïve but doesn’t this blow your mind?!

Thanks for letting me bend your ear.