Not long after high school my boyfriend and I were floating on rafts about 100 feet off shore when we saw a huge dorsal fin. “Jaws” had come out not long before; I truly thought I was about to die.
I was a believer, so I called out to Jesus, right? Nope. My near death thoughts surprised even me. I still remember a vivid moment of regret — wishing I had experienced a little more of what this world had to offer, instead of dying young, naive and well-behaved.
When death feels imminent, we get honest about who we are, what we believe, and what we really want. That day God exposed all the worldly idolatry that gripped my good-girl heart.
Recently my Bible study group had the privilege of meeting with a friend who has stage 4 cancer. He’s lived well past his prognosis — shifting between cities, doctors and treatments in an Herculean effort to beat the odds one more time. I highly encourage you to read his story and all God is doing through it in his excellent blog.
He doesn’t accept the cancer pass on doing good deeds that the world offers him, but strives to live well and serve others. Jesus is his life, and life is more precious to him than ever.
His joy is evident as he tells stories, preaches, teaches and generally blesses everyone God places in his path. He’s honest, humble, vulnerable, wise, loving and possibly more fully alive than anyone I know. Despite cancer, it seems he’s having fun! I’m still mulling over thoughts from my morning with Ed.
I’ve been wondering: Why are all of us not living more like Ed? Death is everyone’s imminent reality. We may not make it until bedtime or we could live to be 100. Regardless, our time on earth is finite and fleeting as compared to eternity.
What is my day-to-day life saying about who I worship? Why am I not more vulnerable, grateful, bold, joyful and in love with Jesus? Why should I be trusting in anything but Him? Why do I think I can “live like I was dying” at any time but the present?
The idea that I allow anything to trump God as the center of my devotion is horrifying. Yet I’m afraid my flesh is still much like it was that day with the shark. At 18, I had goals to accomplish and experience. Prayer meant asking His blessings on my plans and ideas.
Now I’m 50. Do I still want to do things my way? To follow the world’s prescriptions? Do other people and things feel more urgent and important than the God who created me and loves me? Am I consistently trusting in Jesus or is my flesh finding its security elsewhere?
Despite God’s work in my heart, I frequently mess up my priorities. I know the Truth from experience — that God is my sufficiency, my joy and my first love. But it takes my intentional daily surrender in time spent with Him for me to live in this Truth. Sadly, I don’t always give Him the time I want to —
Unchecked, my flesh still believes the lies that say life is found in all that brings comfort, ease and enjoyment. I chase after the good this world offers with all my heart, soul, strength and mind — and fit Jesus in as often as I can. No matter how often I pray, my priorities say my full devotion to God is saved for the proverbial “tomorrow,” after I’ve consumed all I can, and things aren’t so busy and pressing.
The Bible calls my problem idolatry. Colossians 3:5-6 says “Put to death what is earthly in you, sexual immorality, impurity, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”
Idolatry can also describe things that are originally good gifts from God. When placed ahead of our devotion to God, even a spouse, children or parents, school, ambitions, church service, jobs, friends, homes, health — anything becomes an idol if it trumps God in achieving our devotion and attention.
God’s jealousy is righteous. John Piper teaches that God deserves our deepest affections and admiration. His is also “a loving jealousy, because we were made to find our greatest joy when He is our greatest treasure… if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put other things in his place that really satisfy us more than he does, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves. And those two things make God angry… And idolatry contradicts both of those things and so his wrath comes upon the idolater.”
At Christmas, we celebrate something mind blowing — the most powerful and joyous event ever! The Creator of the universe left His perfect heaven, became a baby who grew into a man — fully God and fully human. A man who lived a holy life, suffered and died. Why would He do this?
Jesus came to save us from ourselves, our sins and idolatry. He not only asks that we live like we are dying but that we DO DIE to ourselves, so that we may really live — today! Here on earth. Jesus deserves my first fruits of time, attention and love — without any close seconds. He asks that I put nothing before Him for any reason. Can we turn from our idolatry and give Jesus the gift of our love and devotion this Christmas, before and above anything else? Can we tell Him, Jesus, You are my Life?
Luke 9:23 – And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 – And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Mark 8:35 – For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
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