Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Life

Only one life,
‘Twil soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last.
-- Anon.*

Fourteen people – men, women and children – made a journey to Papua New Guinea on the other side of the world for a variety of reasons and various callings. In the end, they all boil down to a desire to serve Jesus Christ and spread his message of redemption from sin. The world – and American culture – is increasingly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus, but it is a message we cannot and must not keep to ourselves.

There's a reason we call it the Good News. It's not bad news; it's good! Yet, all too often, we who call ourselves Christians act, not like joyous ex-convicts mercifully rescued from death row, but rather like IRS agents looking to spoil someone else's party. Not that there aren't tax cheats and other sinners out there doing things they shouldn't; it's just that being a Christian isn't about changing other people's bad behavior. It’s about introducing them to the Life Changer. Jesus said it best -- as he always does:

“How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Mt 7:4-5)
Being a Christian is all about first receiving, and then bestowing, grace.

Grace? Yes. It's a little word with immeasurable value. We receive grace primarily and most importantly from God through faith in Jesus Christ (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.” -- Ephesians 2:8-9). That grace, in turn, rearranges our lives, causes us to recognize that "plank" in our eyes and put our lives in order. That's repentance, the flip side of grace, and the two cannot be separated. So Christianity does have something to do with a call to better behavior, but the better behavior should be among us self-professed Christians, shining like lights in the world. What a glad disposition that would put on us if only we would learn that simple fact. I count myself among the first who need to remember it (and apply it).

But that fact doesn’t eliminate the reality that polite, refined, educated sinners are just as condemned as vile, despicable ones. And so we share the Good News with whoever will hear it.

We saw the work of the Life Changer at work in many people on this trip. One was the Papua New Guinean drug maker and peddler who also took to collecting weapons. To the people of his village, his face became the face of death. But, having also come face to face with the risen savior, he got rid of those things with their trappings of power and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Now Jesus is his strength and his shield, and the weapon he wields is love as he leads the little congregation of Ba’e and battles drug dealers and the culture of vengeance that surrounds him.

Another was the American missionary with a similar story.

Most of us don’t have the past history of Ba’e’s pastor, but we all fall under the weight of sin. Some of us are just nicer, more cultured and refined sinners, but sinners all the same. All of us are in need of the life changing work of Jesus Christ who died on the cross, in our place, for our sins. When we come to that realization, then the lives we live and the way we live them begin to change.

*Verse is from John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life