Pastor Vanderpool preached this morning about the gate talked about in John 10:1-11 and the concept of entering the gate. He used the analogy of a door, and the theme of the sermon was this: the purpose of a door is to shut something behind us and to open something to us.
Jesus said in verse 7 that He is the gate, that He is the door. So the question that was asked was: what are we shutting behind us as we enter the abundant life through Jesus? Paul says that in Christ we are a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.
Vanderpool told the story of a young man that is a part of our church family that underwent a horrific tragedy last year. He was only 19 years old, and as a result of a careless night of drinking and driving, he lost his two best friends in an accident when his car hit a pole, was airborne and flew into a house and burst into flames. He was burned in the inferno, spent months in a coma and undergoing painful skin grafts and was charged for the deaths of his friends. He was sentenced to nine years in prison only a month ago, and I remember when this happened. In this midst of all that has gone on, he wrote a letter to his dad about his inner struggle. He was dealing with incredible guilt over what took place, and knew that he did not deserve to follow Christ. Through the pain, God was able to work in his heart to let go of the enormous guilt and replace it with a passion for living abundantly following Christ.
As the sermon concluded, Vanderpool closed with this thought: A door means absolutely nothing unless you use it.
As I was listening, I was thinking through all the things that hold me back from truly following Christ. I think about the passionate life that I know God is calling me to live and I wonder what it is that stands in the way. What is it that I need to shut the door on in my life so I can go forward into the life that God has called me to live? What do I need to let go of?
First, my insecurity. Although this has gotten a lot better in the past year or so, there are some things that I just need to decide to put out of my thoughts. It’s not about worth, and life is not about earning something. It is about becoming all God desires for us through His strength and power. It is about falling in love with God and living life in relationship with Him. It shouldn’t matter to me if so and so doesn’t approve of this or that in my life, and I shouldn’t be so focused on pleasing everyone around me. My life needs to be solely measured and lived in the grace of God, and my heart must learn how to see through His eyes, and His eyes alone.
Second, my fear. I have lived my life completely dominated by fear for so long. Some fear is rational, but there comes a point when it truly stands in the way of following God. God doesn’t always ask us to do rational things, and quite frankly, living like Jesus taught is a pretty foreign concept in our culture and world for that matter. I need to choose to put fear behind me as I step forward in following Christ.
Third, my will. Exercising has been a great lesson for me in sacrificing my will. Everything inside me tells me that I have earned my keep before I even make it to the gym, but I know I must go anyway. Five minutes into the workout, my body tells me it’s done doing that and wants to do something else. I stay anyway. I do this because I made a commitment before God that I would take care of myself physically. It may sound like a selfish thing, but this is what He has called me to do this summer: to focus on being holistically healthy before Him. This is my act of worship. This carries over into other areas of my life. How often do I feel God asking me to spend time with Him, and I really want to do something else so I put it off, knowing that He’ll be there later? How often does God wake me up in the middle of the night wanting to spend time with me, but I go back to sleep anyway? I become so frustrated at my laziness, and every day I have been asking God to discipline me to listen and respond in obedience to His voice. I want to put my will aside, so that even in the little things and as they become larger, I will be able to follow His will.
Fourth, my desire to not be alone. A couple nights ago is a perfect example of this. I had a pretty bad nightmare and I woke up suddenly and pretty freaked out. As I was walking around my apartment, I heard a sound that continued and for some reason, I concluded that the apartment below me might be on fire. Later, looking back on this, I probably reasoned this because that is one of my greatest fears: fire. As I was up, the thought crossed my mind, “I wish I didn’t live alone.” I realized right then that this was something that I needed to give to God. Even though I have to constantly give this to Him, some days are harder than others. Every night before I go to bed as I pray for my future husband (if there is one), I also pray that God would make my passion first and foremost to following Him. I want to fall in love with Jesus and truly be found in Him. Sometimes when I wish that I could share life with someone, I must learn to take joy in sharing that life with God.
So if I could truly let go and let God, these would be the things that I would shut the door to. And today, I choose to do that.
Now, for the other side of the coin, what am I opening the door to? What does a passionate and abundant life in Christ look like?
This morning at church we sang the song that the David Crowder Band made popular called, “How He Loves.” Such a powerful, powerful song. Here are the lyrics:
And He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me
And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all
And we are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
Oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all
How He loves
The thought struck me as I walked into church this morning how I sit amongst a people that I don’t even know. I’ve been going to this church for over a year now, and there are still so many people I have never met and I don’t even know their names. As I thought about the deep love that God has for us, and how He not only knows the names of everyone in the world, but He also knows how many hairs are on their heads, every experience they have had, and every tear that they have cried. He knows the longings of their hearts and the things that they’ve never told anyone. Amidst all that, it is not just knowledge to God; it is a deep passion and love for what matters to us that draws Him in, and likewise us to Him. It’s amazing to me to even think about. It’s so big that I can’t even fathom.
And yet, God calls us to love as He has loved us. Does that start with a glimmer in my eye? Does that start with looking at a person, not as someone that I do not know, but as someone that God intimately knows and loves? Shouldn’t that make me want to know them too? When I talk to someone, I don’t want to simply have a conversation; I want to choose to focus my eyes between the lines, seeking for their heart, and being passionate about the things that make them who they are. What if I lived my life like that every day? What if I talked to everyone I meet that way? Surely that would be exhausting. However, when we step out in faith that God will provide the strength we need to live as He has called us to live, that is when we experience the miraculous peace that passes all understanding. We will walk and not grow weary; we will run and not be faint.
That is how I want to live. I want to love as I have been loved: extravagantly. This life is not about me, it is all about Him.
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and somehow we got on the subject that I want to be cremated. She was pretty intrigued by this and asked me to explain. It was hard to do, because I’ve never explained it before, but it’s a really deep desire of mine.
I actually have a lot of reasons for this. First, I will start by saying that I want my ashes to be spread over the ocean. This seems kind of funny since I grew up in Nebraska and I live in Kansas. However, the ocean has always had a very significant spiritual place in my heart. And someday, Lord willing, I will not live in Kansas, but somewhere a little wetter.
For me, it has everything to do with the subject of “the old has gone and the new has come.” I have realized how much I have put God in different boxes in my life, and consequently put limits on myself. God’s love is like the ocean: vast and deep. In fact, man has gone to the moon, but we haven’t even explored the entire depth of the ocean. There is so much more to God’s love that we haven’t even known. There is something confining about a coffin, something that I don’t believe that we were created for. We were created to be free and to swim in the depths of His ocean of love. If you’ve ever stood on the beach as the sun sets, it’s like time doesn’t even matter anymore. That’s like death. It’s really only in this life that time matters. After it is over and the sun has set, everything freezes in time and space and there’s just peace. The water grows calm and the light of the moon reflects perfectly over the water. I want to lose myself in His love. I want to ride the waves of His mercy. I want to experience His grace that falls like rain on the open water. I want to truly be free in Him, free from everything that kept me captive. Just like ashes in the ocean, I want to be found only in Him. On that final day, I don’t want to rise from a box. I want to rise from the depths of His love.
And there’s something about water that is pure. When things are washed in the water, they become clean. Think about how powerful water is. A wave crashes against a rock mightily and roars like a lion. Everything that was once dirty and ugly is pulled out to sea to who knows where. The castles in the sand are gone within minutes, and a new day begins. That is like death. Suddenly life is gone, but death in Christ is only a new beginning. The old has gone; the new has come. Eternity in the presence and love of God begins. How amazing is THAT?
In one of my classes in college, one of our first assignments we had was to write in one short phrase the inscription we would put on our tombstone; one statement that we wish to define our lives. I still remember what I wrote to this day. I want my tombstone to say: She loved God and others deeply. I want love to be the defining purpose of every moment of my life.
So this is the door: Jesus. I choose to close the door to my insecurity, fear, will and desires and open the door to living in the depths of God’s love.