When I was younger and kind of “finding myself” in terms of relationships and career, my biggest idol was peer acceptance.
I thought that if I ticked all the right boxes in terms of saying all the ‘right’ things, making people laugh, and generally being seen as clever and successful, I would receive the acceptance I craved.
I would never have considered myself “dead in my sin” but I think part of me was dead to the “colour” and life-giving power that could be found in a deep and rich and engaging relationship with God…
I like the CS Lewis quote from his book the Weight of Glory:
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I was too easily pleased. On some level I enjoyed my mud pies in the slum. Because I hadn’t yet experienced the love and acceptance of God in all its fullness. I hadn’t yet come to life in the spiritual sense.
I was dead but I didn’t know it. I hadn’t yet taken up God’s offer of the “holiday at the sea”.
And the people I looked for approval from mis-led me in many ways. I guess I allowed them to. I was so needy and vulnerable to the influences of others.
But soon enough, “easily pleased” became broken and confused. I realised, eventually, that my idols didn’t satisfy. I was looking for something I could only find in God.
And I needed to repent.
I put my expectations for unconditional love onto people who could never fulfil that demand. I put ordinary people on a pedestal, when Jesus should have been the one I worshiped.
And when all my idols came crashing down, I was deeply sorry and asked for God’s forgiveness.
I realized that all along, I was looking for the love and acceptance of Christ in these people. I had sought their approval instead of the approval Christ so readily offered me.
I didn’t yet conceive of the fact that my Father God delighted in me, deeply, no matter what I did or didn’t do.
So what does it mean to me to be alive in Christ and dead to sin?
For me it means to realise that the life and love Jesus offers is far, far superior to the life found with anyone or anything else. No matter how good our earthly relationships or experiences are, our relationship with God can be so much better. But he doesn’t take all our experiences away. He redefines them.
Some talks I heard by John Piper a few years ago taught me that when we view our everyday experiences through the lens of God’s greatness and glory, they are transformed.
When we view a sunset, we can glorify the God who created it. When we bite into something delicious or enjoy an enriching conversation or experience with a friend, we can then praise and give honour and glory to the one who gave us these gifts. We invite him into everything, acknowledging he is the great gift-giver.
We are alive to God’s greatness, glory and love in creation and everyday experiences – even in the really hard days.
I used to suffer from depression when I was younger – and though I still feel down from time to time it’s nowhere near as hard as it used to be, praise God. I truly believe God has healed me. And I think realising the depths of God’s love and acceptance of me went a long way to reducing the unrelenting despair I used to feel at times.
I realized true life came from a close union with Jesus. He redeems the past and shapes a new future for us. He’s the source of life and true joy – not just the superficial happy kind.
In my conversion I was raised up with Christ just as he rose from the dead. I rose with him to a hope-filled new life.
He did what I couldn’t do for myself, but as a Christian I have the privilege of becoming living, breathing evidence of his saving grace. My life can only be about reflecting his glory now that I truly know how glorious he is. That’s my purpose.
And he’s created me to be fruitful with my life. My life is not my own. It was bought at a price and redeemed from the darkness. I was saved to shine his light in the daily places I inhabit.
Sin imprisoned me but God’s grace and love unlocked me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle sometimes with my tendency to worry about what other people think, or my desire for acceptance from sources other than God. I’m only human after all. But because I am alive in Christ and actively aware of his unconditional love and grace, I can live a joyful, fulfilling life which celebrates and honours my God above all other things. He is the great author and perfecter of my faith. My faith is not of myself, but a precious, life-giving gift – freely given by the Father who loves me.
Once upon a time I was making mud pies in a slum – and I thought that was freedom.
But since then, I’ve discovered what God’s holiday at the sea is like. And I’m never going back…
[Today’s blog is the script of a talk I gave at my church recently.]