Category: Basic Christianity


Yesterday I had such a wondrous time reading Matthew chapters 5-7 — just alone time with my God and me. I started from the Beatitudes to the end of Christ’s words, and His teaching just struck me as so amazing. Stuff I had heard before, but for some reason I was seeing with new eyes. Like, He says, when your enemy forces you to go one mile with him, you should go with him two miles. Or if he sues you for your tunic, give him your coat also. Wow, how counter-intuitive! How totally lacking in bitterness — what a hard, amazing thing. He’s really saying, in a nutshell, to repay evil with good, to give to your opponent even when you are the one wronged.

THAT takes a lot of maturity — maturity in becoming Christlike. I was just thinking through these three chapters how a lot of it is about our relationships and our character-building — what righteousness is is Christlike character! The whole Christian experience is growing in that character so that we reflect God’s own perfect character. And all the things Christ was saying in these chapters — so counter-intuitive, against your expectations kind of things — it just made me realize how smart, wise Christ is.

Did you ever ponder how He is pretty smart, I mean, like you admire how other people are smart? I’ve been noticing the ingenuity of God lately, like how His greatest act of glory (redemption of fallen humans) is through His greatest humiliation (the cross)! I mean, how genius is that? Who ever thought of winning through utter defeat, giving life through death — that’s just mind-blowing!

My sis and I really started appreciating this because we’re trying to write a novel, and we come up with these story twists and character growths. And then we apply what we’re doing with what God’s doing, and suddenly we see how awesome God is — He is the greatest Storyteller ever. How He ever came up with the cross is astounding. He’s a person who wants to show His great glory — and yet He shows His greatest glory by becoming a weak, poor, tortured man who dies a criminal’s death on the cross. What’s with that — I mean, if I was trying to show my glory, that’s not the way I’d go about it! I’d blast the world with light or something and just everyone will be at their knees. That’s how we’d all do it.

But not God. He really has a humble streak in Him — He loves showing power through weakness, glory through meekness. O how beautiful — can’t you see how incredible He is! God is a genius — we talk about how loving or holy or merciful He is, but has anybody ever just thought of how He’s just so smart, so genius to come up with such a counter-intuitive way of showing all His glory in the most defeating way? Amazing! Awesome! Now He’s Someone to really admire — to revere and worship and just stand in awe!

Did you know who helped end the entire slave trade in England? He was a Christian in politics named William Wilberforce. Sometimes he would wear chains while in the legislative hall to wake up his fellowmen to the plight of the slaves. He followed God and His will to the ends of the earth, to places even where he was ridiculed. How much we need such a faith as he had! I’ve been reading a modern form of his work, Real Christianity, and it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

He not only helped end slavery, but his writings and example helped inspire a whole nation to turn back to God. He wrote what it means to have authentic faith in Christ. One of the great principles of authentic faith is a true heart of humility before God:

As we grow in Christian maturity, we will also grow in humility. This is the primary principle on which vital faith rests. To the degree that humility grows, so grows our vitality. To the degree it diminishes, our vitality will also diminish. From beginning to end, authentic faith is based on humility. It takes humility to acknowledge our true state before God and throw ourselves on His mercy. It takes humility to recognize that nothing we can do can change the true state of our heart; only surrender to Christ and opening our heart to the Holy Spirit can enable us to change at all. How we relate to God, to ourselves and to our fellow men and women is all a function of the humility we possess” (Real Christianity, paraphrase of Wilberforce, pp. 176-7).

What is humility? How can we obtain it? Humility, according to the dictionary, is a modest or low view of oneself, being synonymous with humbleness. But I think it is more than just that – it is acknowledging the truth about ourselves. We are naturally an arrogant species – we almost always have a problem with thinking better of ourselves than we actually are. Thus, to really view ourselves as we are in reality, it is imperative that we see ourselves as lower than we otherwise would, because our tendency is to over-inflate our worth. To get to the truth, we must be humble.

One key to finding humility is introspective reflection. We need to examine our hearts to see not just our strengths, but also our faults. And not just the easy faults, like a quick temper, but the sins that stretch deeply into the fabric of our souls, sins that may be looked upon by the culture as good or that are so deeply hidden in our thoughts that others don’t even know they’re there. It is extremely easy to overlook sin – this is probably the easiest thing men on earth do.

I’ve seen it in my life. There are times when I would never suspect I was sinning, but then circumstances revealed otherwise:

There was a time when one of my dreams was to send hundreds of balloons across the world with Gospel tracts attached to them. I’d imagine that I’d figure out the wind patterns so that the balloons would peter out and fall down over Christian-persecuting countries such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea so that the people there could hear the Gospel. Sounds like a pretty neat, unique plan, right?

I thought so. I was happy to have such a unique idea and I dreamed of doing it.

But then one day I heard that Christian South Koreans were already sending balloons with tracts into North Korea. When I heard the news, for a second my heart felt disappointed. Since I’m an introspective person, I pondered: “Why, Rowena, are you disappointed about South Koreans finding an ingenious way of sharing the Gospel?”

I was disappointed because I was sad that someone already had my idea. I liked the uniqueness of the idea so much that when I saw someone else using it, I felt that “my idea” had already been used. What a terrible reaction I had – here when I should be praising God for the spreading of the Gospel, I was instead sad that someone was using “my idea” (which never really was mine).

I’ve thought of this example many times because it shows the super-subtle nature of sin and pride, the antithesis to true humility:

First, what was wrong with my original thought? I wanted to share the Gospel of God. That’s good. I wanted to share it with peoples who could hardly find God on their own. That’s good. I thought of a way to reach these people. That’s good. Everything here is worthy and good – everything as you would want if you were following God and doing His will.

But the greatness of the idea went to my head. My pride stealthily crept in, and I was totally unaware of it until I heard of someone else having the idea before me. Just imagine for a second if I never heard about the South Koreans sending Gospel balloons to North Korea. Would I have known that I was sinning in my pride? No! My pride was mixed in with my good motives of serving God, so that I had no knowledge of it until circumstances brought it to light.

This type of sinning and pride is much subtler than the “obvious” sins of adultery, murder, stealing, etc. It’s easy to see if we are or are not committing such sins. But sins of the heart are much trickier and deceptive. That’s why the path to humility must first be launched on a path of self-reflection, to see the motives and attitudes of our true heart. We need to know the sin in us before we will bow in humility before God.

I’ll give another example, then you should think of your own. When I go with my family to shop at Winco (a great, low-priced place to shop!), my sister and I personally bag our groceries (that’s Winco’s policy – self-bagging). Everybody’s bagging their own groceries. Sometimes I see another girl, about the same age as I am, bagging with her family. If she is kind of geeky-looking or shy, I feel empathy and friendliness towards her. But if she has lots of makeup and looks like a hot-shot beauty, I start to feel less friendly and more competitive. I start thinking about how vain she is.

But as I dwell on her faults, what does that say about me? I was empathetic with the less-pretty, less sophisticated girl (compared to me), but was more competitive with the more-pretty, sophisticated girl (compared to me). Sounds like I’m comparing myself. When I see someone less “attractive” than myself, my pride is not threatened, and I may even feel a sense of superiority over her that I hide as empathy. I would have never known this was my superiority-complex rising up had it not been for my negative reaction to a girl more attractive than myself. Suddenly, my true feelings well up.

I’m sure something like this has happened to you. Right now, just reflect on your own thoughts and reactions towards yourself and others. Don’t think for the moment how this article can really be applied to that prideful, obnoxious so-and-so you know – we need to reflect on our hearts first and foremost.

It’s so easy to apply what you are reading right now to someone you know instead of yourself. It’s fine to apply it to people you know. A couple people right now come to my mind who can learn a thing or two about humility! Can’t you just feel your thoughts naming them right now? I remember instances where someone was arguing how people are hypocrites, and then my mind flashes with all the hypocritical things they’ve done! It seems so clear that they are acting hypocritical – why can’t they see it? Why can’t they see all the faults in themselves that everyone else sees?

One reason they can’t see their own faults is because when they hear about certain sins, like pride, selfishness, unlovingness, etc., their minds immediately come up with other people guilty of these travesties, and not themselves. We – our own minds – always are astute to see others committing sins, but are blind towards our own.

That’s why I’m emphasizing here that, rather than just applying these saying to other people, apply them to yourself. To yourself. Not anyone else in that room with you. Self-reflect on your own actions and thoughts.

  1. Are you focusing your thoughts and actions on God?

  2. Are you thinking about yourself most of the time?

  3. Do you think highly of yourself? If you do, think what reasons you base this high opinion. Is pride stealthily creeping into your attitude towards yourself?

  4. Do you show false humility? For example, if you berate yourself for your faults, and if someone agrees with you, are you mad at them for agreeing with your negative self-assessment? If you negatively view yourself, are you really trying to gain sympathy from others?

  5. When you do “good” actions (such as the balloon-tract idea I had), are you really doing it from pure good motives to praise God, or are your motives mixed with self-pride or self-gain for recognition, etc.?

Doing “good” actions from self-serving motives is probably the most widespread sin on earth – so watch yourself extremely carefully in this area. “Big sins” like murder, lying, and cheating are easy to spot and refrain from, but such sins as seeking for self-adoration from gifts of charity are so hard to see that we often label them as the highest good in society. In all probability, most of the “good things” we do are laced with bad motives.

So if you’re striving for humility, the first step is to accurately assess your own sins. By reflecting on your day-to-day actions and attitudes towards God, others, and yourself, you will see the extent of your own sinfulness, and thus humility will grow in you. You will see why you were under judgment as a sinner before your salvation, and why God is so awesomely amazing to save you from your sins now. When you see yourself as you really are, you will be awed by God even more and learn to say, “Let You increase, and me decrease.”

I’ve often wondered how to be humble. If I start thinking myself as obtaining humbleness, is it really humility or is it self-righteousness? One little test to see how humble you are is if your thoughts revolve around God and others instead of yourself. If you think and meditate so much on God, then you won’t have time to think about yourself and whether or not you’re humble! Rather than wondering how humble you are, you will be living the humble life experientially as you experience God and seek His will alone for your life. Focusing on God is the key to becoming humble. We forget ourselves and melt into His presence and enjoy Him more than anything in the world.

When we long to be His servant and to make ourselves less than Him, we receive the joy of true humility as found in authentic faith.

The God of Love

Yes, God is certainly loving. The most loving Being in the universe, for He is the only One Who would give Himself for avowed enemies. No man was His friend, for no one seeks after Him: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11).

Yet by His sheer grace, He offered salvation. Now that is love. But His love has many facets, and like we know, His is not a condoning “love” — the “love” that accepts everything, right and wrong, the “love” whose god is personal happiness (temporal, at that).

No, God’s love is mature and holy. He hates sin with a passion: “The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face” (Psalm 11:5-7).

Thus, God will not tolerate sin. He cannot stand sin, and it is with great pain that He allows Himself to endure the sin of history, it is with grace He allows this. He could have — should have! — obliterated us first chance He got. We disgrace Him constantly: “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

We would never love Him, except by the grace He gave us to open our eyes to the glory that is His. Yet He cannot just let sin slide. And this was love: That He absorbed all our sin on Himself and paid the penalty required of disgracing the God of the universe.

He paid it Himself. The God of Heaven humbled Himself as a man to pay our debt so that we could find true happiness, the happiness that could only be achieved by filling our souls with His glory.

Praise the Lord.

“For the love of God!” Ever said this? You probably weren’t thinking about God’s love or your love for God – in fact, maybe you don’t think God is much of a great guy anyway. Who does He think He is, telling me what to do as He lords over the cosmos? What has He ever done for me? What’s so great about God?

Maybe He doesn’t exist. That’s what I was wondering in my early teen years. I began to doubt God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, Heaven, and my own state as a Christian. Did these really exist? Was I a real Christian, or did I just believed these things because my parents did? It was strange: Often when my father, mother, or my sister had other personal troubles, each would not be afraid to talk about the trouble with me. Yet I shut my own agony within myself. Normal activities became escapes from the troubling thoughts, but even these did not always help. A murder mystery could stir up thoughts of death and the fearful unknown behind it. My every joy was dampened, for how could I be happy when my eternity was uncertain?

Yet God rescued me. He instilled in me a drive to investigate the factual foundations for my faith. I read books on the awesome complexity of God’s creation, the scientific foundations of the Genesis Flood, the historical accuracy of Christ’s resurrection, and the prophetic reliability of the Bible. I read about these proofs in the car and while eating lunch. I wrote research papers on their topics. And they became my comfort and joy. No matter how much I reasoned, the huge weight of evidence could not be doubted away. Christianity was not just the religion I happened to be born into; it stood on a foundation of evidence like no other. God’s Word could be trusted like no other word.

But what truly transformed my life was not a defense of Christianity. It was when I realized how great God really is. In April of 2006, I read Knowing God. As I learned about God’s sovereignty and perfect right over all His universe, I wondered in awe at His supreme greatness, righteousness, and glory. He is eternal; I am mortal. He is Creator; I am created. He is Sustainer; I am sustained. He is infinite; I am finite. He is everything; I am nothing.

Then I realized just how much this God had done for me. This great God, who answers to no one, suffered for my sins on the cross of Calvary. The God of infinite worth actually suffered for me. The thought brought tears down my cheeks. Surely my every deed and thought and breath should be devoted to the One who gives me all motion and mind and breath, for is not this my life’s purpose, to glorify God? Then I knew the love of God.

Do you not feel the greatness of God? Is it not strange that many hate God and many love Him? Such a paradoxical attitude towards God results from a fundamental, willful misunderstanding about God – and ourselves. God is very, very holy; we are very, very not. If you believe that holiness, and thus goodness, is not so important to God, then you will never understand why He must judge evil people, including ourselves. If you believe that we are good inside, then you will never understand the depth of the love of God. For God’s love is displayed at its greatest at the height of God’s judgment – on the cross of Calvary. Here God places judgment on Himself to pay the penalty for our evil deeds – death. How can we deserve such a punishment?

Just think – we as human beings are tiny creatures on a planet on the outskirts of a galaxy among a billion galaxies. We are the dust on a mountain, yet we rebel against God our Maker like we were big shots. We go about our lives as if He was nothing. Why didn’t He just wipe away the dust dirtying His pottery work of the cosmos? He had every right as Maker. He has every right to cast justice upon us who lie, cheat, hurt, and hate thousands of times in our lives. We have no excuse: We are guilty of evil countless times. We have become like a poisonous mold infecting a twig on a tree in God’s forest – why shouldn’t we be wiped away to rid the world of evil?

Yet He suffered for this bit of mold on a twig in the forest – He suffered for the cancerous mold that is us! He suffered and died to wipe away our evils and restore us to Himself – how wondrous, how glorious, how Loving! O, I cannot imagine a greater love than the Love of God. When you know just how holy He is and how He had every right to wipe us out in one second, then His mercy and love is made infinitely sweet. I stand in awe of God – I cry at the thought of His cross and its beauty. Praise the Lord! Praise His holy name! We have hardly an idea just how much God LOVES us!

O how God is everything to me. He is Creator, yet He clothed Himself as a creature like me. He is King, yet He became a criminal in place of me. He suffered poverty in life, ridicule in trial, and agony in death, to save me from my own evil. He is my Hero of heroes – for not even a hero dies for his enemies to save them. He didn’t have to suffer anything. But He did.

That’s what God has done for me – that’s why God is so great. And He has done the same for you. Though you may smirk at Him and laugh at Him and use His name as a curse word, He gave His life for you. He is like the President of the United States giving his life for Osama bin Ladin. O how we hate God and wish Him dead – yet He gave His life for us so that we could live.

This is why I worship Him – this is why I adore Him and devote my life to Him. He is my Lover and I am His beloved. Do not look strangely upon me as I love Someone I cannot see, hear, or touch, for His love letters He has handed to me in His perfect Word that has stood the test of time. To revere Him is sweetness and true delight. No other joy on earth can match the magnitude of loving Him. For the love of God, I long. For the love of God, I live. For the love of God is life. It is my battle-cry and my peace, my hope and my love.

For the love of God – love Him back! Make Him the love of your heart as He is the Lover of your soul. There is nothing greater in life than to know, cherish, praise, and love the God of heaven and earth, the God who came down from His throne to love you:

He is the Father, yet He became a babe.
He is Creator, yet He became a man.
He is wealthy, yet He became poor.
He dwells in Heaven, yet He lived on earth.
He is happy, yet He became “a man of sorrows.”
He is good, yet He “became sin for us.”
He is life, yet He met death for us.

We hate Him, yet He loved us. How great He is.

Are God’s Judgments Evil?

God wiped out the peoples of Canaan, He imposes eternal punishment in hell for unbelievers, and He will destroy the world in the end times for its disobedience. Would a good, loving God judge like this?

Canaan: Justice or Genocide?

Was God committing genocide by commanding Israel to destroy Canaanite peoples? No, for the Canaanites were wicked: They sacrificed their children to idols (Psalm 106:34-39). This and other evils permeated their society to the deepest levels. God wouldn’t be good if He didn’t lay down justice on them. God even restrained His judgment upon one group, the Amorites, for hundreds of years until their evil became too great – He gave time to repent (Genesis 15:16).

Revelation: World Atrocity or Wicked World?

What about the world destruction prophesied in Revelation, where many will die in the end time judgment? Yet God didn’t initiate this carnage – it’s started by evil men, particularly one man, the Antichrist. His evil forces kill a fourth of the world (Revelation 6). These martyrs are God’s people (Revelation 6:9-10), who cry:

  • “‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”

Thus, God is not yet judging if His people are calling for justice. The Antichrist and his followers are the ones killing a fourth of the earth. The Antichrist is worse than Hitler, yet skeptics claim God is unjust for not punishing Hitler and his SS. Yet Revelation reveals God’s justice, for God finally crushes the worst Hitler.

On one hand, when God is merciful to men, waiting for them to repent, skeptics claim God is unjust for not punishing evil. Then when God enacts justice, skeptics claim He is too harsh. Yet God alone knows when to be merciful and when to be just.

Hell: Deserved or Undeserved?

Why would God send so many people to Hell if He loved them? Actually, He didn’t have to love anyone – we don’t deserve it. Just think: In our short life of both good and bad deeds, do we truly deserve Heaven’s eternal happiness? Our good deeds are not enough for an infinite reward. Yet do we deserve Hell? Consider this: God is our Creator, Sustainer, and Blesser. We owe Him everything, because everything came from Him; while He owes us nothing. Yet we forget Him and hardly give Him thanks, but have rebelled against Him by disrespecting Him and our fellowmen created in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Because He created all value, He has all value and is infinitely worthy. What is the punishment for willful and continual rebellion against a One of infinite value? It is eternal punishment – so we all deserve hell.

But Isn’t Man Good at Heart?

Every newspaper and news channel in the world reveals that man is not good but evil at heart. Robbery, extortion, cheating, lying, murder. From the smallest to the greatest. Even good deeds are tainted with selfishness – are we really donating that $10 because we’re kind or because we want to look better than others?

Look at dictators. They are windows to the soul, because their absolute control gives them every freedom to do either good or bad. If the human heart is good, then they should be the best people of all! Yet their reputations are the worst of humanity: Stalin, Mao, Hitler. Without social or legal restraints, they show their true hearts. We all have the potential to be as bad as they, but we are constrained from fully revealing our evil nature. If we lie, we get caught. If we steal, we go to jail. We often treat people good only to get our desires. Our heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). That’s why we never tell our fantasies to grandma – we don’t titillate over charity to the poor.

This truth is hard to accept. A criminal always thinks the verdict is unjust and the judge, unfair. We are the same. Rather than objective truth seekers, we are guilty and want to hide it. So we claim that our Judge is unjust or doesn’t even exist. Our motive is pride. That’s why the proud don’t find God, only the humble who admit their need for God’s mercy (1 Peter 5:5).

Forgive and Forget?

God can’t just forget and ignore our wrongs. That would compromise justice – He would be a crooked Judge. We always criticize crooked judges – but in the end, we ourselves want to be the exception. It’s human nature to want justice until it shines its light on us. God can’t forget justice: That’s why God judges. But that’s also why He died on the cross. He paid the price for our infinite punishment with the blood of His infinite worth, so justice has been fulfilled. Thus, He joins together infinite justice and infinite mercy – we are saved from our evil by the goodness of God.

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