Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Who or What Is Most Valuable to You?



When I was in elementary school, I had a compulsive fear that our home was going to catch on fire. I often dreamed that I was standing outside our home watching it go up in flames. Why was I so concerned about it catching on fire? It wasn’t because I was concerned for our home or for my family. Instead, it was because I was concerned for all my toys. My toys, above everyone and everything else in my life, were the things which were most valuable to me.

Some people place value on a piece of property. Some people place value a specific home. Some people place value on a specific vehicle. Some people place value on their job title. Some people place value on their family. Some people, similar to the elementary school version of me, even place value on their toys. Who or what is most valuable to you? If you’re struggling to come up with an answer, ask yourself the question: Who or what would you be most terrified to lose? This is most likely the thing you value the most.

What Makes Something Valuable?


Although I’m going to get a little philosophical here, I think you might find value in this short discussion. What makes one piece of property valuable and another worthless? What makes one home valuable and another worthless? What makes an ounce of gold worth over a thousand dollars, but a large rock in my backyard worthless? The value of something is determined by the amount of something else a person is willing to give in exchange for it. For example, someone may be willing to exchange over a million dollars for a small plot of land on the beach in Fort Myers, Florida, but that same person would only be willing to exchange $20,000 for the same-size plot of land in Findlay, Ohio.

When I was growing up, beanie babies were a huge fad. People flocked to the stores in droves buying them up because they were told that beanie babies were going to be worth lots of money in the future. Although people are still willing to purchase the extremely rare beanie babies for a lot more money than was originally paid for them, the majority of them are not selling for as much today as was paid for them in the 1990s. They no longer carry the same value as they did twenty years ago. Similarly, I ask: How much value is found in a million dollar beach property when a hurricane hits and makes it part of the ocean? How much value is found in paper money when the government prints off paper money without gold reserves? How much value is found in a job title when the company goes out of business?

Does Our Work Really Matter?


I think most of us, especially millennials, want to do work that makes a difference in this world. We want to do work that matters; we want to do things that will have long-lasting value. For example, I don’t know anyone who would want to move a pile of dirt back and forth from one location to another day after day, even if he got paid good money for it. He wouldn’t see the value in moving a pile of dirt back and forth. But this same person may be interested in being on the project management team to construct a new building because that job would seem to add more value to society.

However, I have to ask: How much value is really added to society by being on the project management team to construct a new building? Even if you got a chance to work on a twenty-one story cancer research hospital at The Ohio State University, how much value is really found in spending four years of your life helping to construct that building? Many years from now when that building is falling apart and needs to be torn down, how much value will the building have? Buildings, which are inanimate objects, cannot last forever. Even the Egyptian pyramids, which were built thousands of years ago, yet still remain standing, will one day crumble to the ground.

How about if a cure for cancer was found within that building? Would it have long-lasting value at that point, even if it eventually got torn down? Initially, we would probably think that it would. But our conclusion here would be based on the assumption that our goal is to make it so that people never have to experience death. However, I’m convinced that whether people die of cancer or they die of some other cause, they will still one day die. Our medical advancements, which overall are allowing people to live longer, are still unable to keep people alive forever. Curing cancer, as great as it sounds, would only delay the inevitable.

Is There Something of Value Which Lasts Forever?


Some of you may decide to stop reading right here because you don’t like my seemingly pessimistic perspective on the way we ascribe value to worthless things. If you’re content living the way you are right now and don’t want to risk moving out of your comfort zone to find something potentially more valuable than what you currently possess, then feel free to stop reading. But if you have even a tiny hope that there’s something more out there that’s worth far more than everything you currently possess, then you may find value in hearing out the rest of what I have to say.

Personally, I am not content to continue accumulating possessions and doing work which has no eternal value. I’m no longer motivated to spend my relatively short life trying to find mere temporary happiness in accumulating millions of dollars-worth of wealth, becoming the CEO of a company, and developing lots of good character traits when I’ve discovered something, or rather someone, of so much value who can give me eternal happiness. And I want to share this “someone” with you because I want you to find him too.

When Jesus was a human being on earth, he told a parable which gave me the answer to my question:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44
At the heart of the kingdom of heaven is its King: Jesus. In this parable, Jesus was referring to himself as the treasure which is worth far more than everything else the man had accumulated. He is so valuable that the man who found him joyfully sold everything he had in order to get him. Here's what this might look like for us today.

Let’s say you are walking down the road and while looking out across a recently-plowed farm field, you see the sun reflecting off something shiny. In your curiosity, you decide to walk over to it to see what it is. When you pick it up, you realize that it is a small gold nugget worth a few thousand dollars. Let’s say you, like Mary Poppins, are able to pull a shovel out of your backpack and started digging to see if there is more. Within a few minutes, you discover that there is an extensive amount of gold buried beneath the top soil which is worth millions of dollars. What would you do? Would you steal it off of the farmer’s land? Hopefully not. Would you cover it up and walk away like you saw nothing? Again, hopefully not. Wouldn’t you go to the farmer and ask how much he wanted for his field? After giving you a price, wouldn’t you do everything you could, including selling all your “valuable” stuff, in order to purchase this field? As a matter of fact, wouldn’t you joyfully sell all your "valuable" stuff in order to buy the field? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that what you’re giving up is far less valuable than what you’re getting in return.

Jesus claimed to be the gold in the field that is not just worth millions of dollars, but is actually of infinite value. He can give us more than mere temporary happiness, but rather, he can give us eternal happiness![1] Who doesn’t want that? Personally, I see such great value in Jesus that I’ve, sometimes tangibly and sometimes intangibly, joyfully given up everything in which I formerly found value in order to have him. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night anxiously worrying about a fire destroying all my toys because I have someone of so much greater value who can never be taken away from me.


[1] Some people claim that Jesus wants to make us happy by giving us lots of wealth or by shielding us from painful experiences, but this is not what Jesus said. He said we may literally lose everything we have and that we will endure literal pain and suffering. The eternal happiness found in Jesus is not found in what he gives us, but in him. He is the greatest treasure rather than a means to obtain what we believe to be the greatest treasure.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Experiences with Jesus




In the past few weeks, I’ve briefly walked through some of the evidence supporting the existence of a God, that this God is the God of the Bible, that Jesus was a real man, that we can trust Jesus’s claim to be the Son of God, and the significance of this to us. All of these logical conclusions are good, but they fail to demonstrate the personal nature of Jesus and express the experiences I’ve had with Jesus. Here are a few of the experiences I’ve had with Jesus which make him the most important person in my life.

He Loves Me


As I shared last week, I was born as a slave to the devil, meaning that my natural will is to do his desires.[1] This slavery wasn’t something I stumbled into because I was sold into slavery, but rather, it was something I was born into. I have always been a sinner. Jesus is under no obligation whatsoever to set me free. After all, it was humanity which first turned its back on God, not the other way around.

Yet, Jesus, for his own pleasure and glory (and having nothing to do with my own actions), decided to love me so much that he did whatever was necessary to set me free and forgive my sins. But this was not simply a decision he made and then snapped his fingers to make it happen. As a sinner, my reward was eternal death where I would have endured the pouring out of the cup of God’s wrath forever.[2] The only way to change my situation was for someone who was not a sinner to trade me places. This is exactly what Jesus did. He became a human being, was tempted in every way I am, yet did not sin,[3] had the cup of God’s wrath poured out on him,[4] and was killed by God.[5]

Why would someone willingly trade places with me? I could understand the trade from his perspective if I was supposed to get eternal life and he was supposed to get eternal punishment. But that’s not the way the trade went. I was the one who was supposed to get eternal punishment and he was the one who was supposed to get eternal life. I was worth nothing and he was worth everything. Nonetheless, he decided to make the trade. That is true love!

I Can Trust Him Completely


When I was younger, I approached relationships by trusting everyone until they proved untrustworthy. But when they proved untrustworthy in even just one small thing, I became skeptical of them in every way. It was very black and white to me. I thought I could either trust someone completely or not trust him or her at all. Now that I am older, I have concluded that no human being can be trusted completely and no human being is completely untrustworthy. Everyone falls somewhere in the middle. However, my desire to have a relationship with someone who I can completely trust in has not gone away. I still desperately desire to find such a person.

I ended up finding this type of relationship with Jesus. When someone truly loves someone else, it will lead that person to will what is in the best interest of the person he or she loves. Jesus not only willed, but demonstrated his love for me when he traded places with me and he continues to demonstrate his love for me daily by leading me and transforming my heart to be like him.[6]

Although Jesus does everything he does first and foremost for his own glory, his pursuit of his own glory is an act of love towards me and benefits me in every way.[7] If he tells me to do something, I can trust that he has his and my best interest at heart. And since he created the universe and everything in it, I trust that he knows what’s best for me better than I know what’s best for me.

He Leads Me


Have you ever noticed that seemingly everyone you meet has a plan for your life? They may not come out and directly say, “I have a plan for your life,” but by the way people talk, most of them seem to think they know what’s best for you. They say things like, “You need to max out your 401k,” “You need to adopt these seven habits,” “You need to become more decisive,” or “You need to eat healthier, exercise more, and sleep longer.” As long as none of their advice conflicts, then you can follow the plans everyone else has for you. But what happens when they conflict? You’ve got one person chirping in your ear that you need to completely cut out the carbs while you’ve got someone else chirping in your other ear that you need to eat a certain number of carbs. If you’re like me, you’re hearing so much conflicting advice from all the people around you who have a plan for your life that you don’t even know what target you’re supposed to be hitting; you end up just trying your best to plant an arrow or two in every target, hoping one of them is the right one.

Because I trust Jesus, I also trust the target at which he tells me to aim: his glory.[8] That’s it. He doesn’t have ten targets that are all in conflict with one another; he has one target and it’s his glory. Everything he calls me to do is directly tied back to hitting the target of his glory. As I pursue hitting this target in everything I do, I’ve realized that I’ve been putting all my eggs in one basket. There’s no diversification in my portfolio. If I’m wrong, then I’ll lose everything. But if I’m right, then I’ll gain everything. I’m willing to take the risk of putting all my eggs in the basket of following Jesus. That’s how much I trust him based on my experiences with him. He hasn’t failed me before and I trust him not to fail me going forward.

He Transforms Me


When I was in second grade, my teacher gave me (and my classmates) a sheet of paper which asked a bunch of questions like my favorite color, my favorite movie, and my favorite food. I was enjoying answering these easy questions. But then I got to a question that wasn’t so easy to answer, “Who is your role model?” What made this question so difficult was that I didn’t have a role model. I didn’t really want to be like Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey, Jr., or Wayne Gretzky, so I was still searching for my role model. Certainly there are good characteristics about these three guys, but they also have their flaws, and I didn’t want those flaws in my life.

Today, without even the slightest hesitation, I can answer that question by saying, “Jesus.” He’s my role model. I want to be like him. But the frustrating part of Jesus being my role model is that no matter what I do, I can’t make myself like him. I can outwardly behave like him, but I can’t change my heart to love the way he loves, to have empathy the way he has empathy, and to have compassion the way he has compassion. Instead, Jesus has to transform my heart and mind to make them like his.[9] The great part, however, is that because Jesus loves me, he is continually working on transforming my heart and mind to make me more like him because he knows that’s what’s best for me. I am more like him today than I was yesterday and I will be more like him tomorrow than I am today. I’m excited to see his work (not mine) on display in the years ahead!


I’d love to hear about your experiences with Jesus. How do you see him working in your life? Feel free to write a comment, message, or drop me an email with something he has done in your life.


[1] Refer to John 8:44, 2 Timothy 2:25-26.
[2] Refer to Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23, Jeremiah 25:15, Matthew 26:36-46, and Revelation 16.
[3] Refer to Hebrews 4:15.
[4] Refer to Matthew 26:36-46.
[5] Refer to John 19:30 and Isaiah 53:10.
[6] Refer to Romans 5:6-9.
[7] For further reading on this point, see chapter 1 of John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, rev. ed. (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2011).
[8] Refer to 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Isaiah 43:7.
[9] Refer to 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29 and 12:2, Philippians 3:21, and Deuteronomy 30:6.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why Is Jesus Important to Us?




The past two weeks, I’ve provided evidence that Jesus was a real person who lived in Palestine and I’ve provided evidence supporting the legitimacy of his claim to be the Son of God. This leads me to ask, “Why is Jesus important to us?” Let’s take a look.

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?


Does it seem kind of strange that God, the creator of the universe, would incarnate himself in human form on this earth? After all, he is so much greater and more powerful than any human being, meaning that it would take great humility for him to lower himself to the same level as something he created. The Israelites, the ones to whom God had chosen to reveal himself up until that point, would’ve expected him to come to earth in order to judge the world. But John, one Jesus’s twelve disciples, gave us an eyewitness answer to this question that is different from what the Israelites would’ve naturally concluded:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:17

John said Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save the world. This naturally leads us to ask another question: From what did the world need to be saved?

From What Did the World Need to Be Saved?


All of us innately believe that we are free people who have the ability to do whatever we want. How many times have we heard it said, “You can be whatever you want”? For example, the mantra of the American Dream is that if we pull up our bootstraps and work hard enough, we can achieve anything we want. But is it really true? Are we really free people?

According to Jesus, who claimed to be the Truth,[1] every single person isn’t born as a free man or woman, but as a slave; a slave to the devil.[2] The picture this claim paints is one in which every human is inherently like a princess who is imprisoned by a dragon in the tower of his castle. This is what the world needs to be saved from; it needs to be saved from its captivity to the dragon.

What Did Jesus Do to Set His People Free?


Just when things look hopeless for the princess, Jesus, the king of kings, comes riding in on his white horse, slays the dragon, sweeps the princess off her feet, and rides off with her into the sunset where they live happily ever after. I’m dead serious!

I know, this all sounds like fantasy stuff. It all sounds too good to be true. These are the stories in which many young boys envision themselves as the prince on the white horse who is going to rescue the princess. And these are the stories upon which many young girls place their hopes and dreams in prince charming. But the boys soon find out that they can’t even fight the temptation to look at porn, let alone slay some massive dragon that’s twenty feet tall and breathes fire from his mouth. And the girls soon find out that the prince charming who came riding in on his white horse doesn’t complete her the way she thought he would.

But this is the story which is communicated to us throughout the Bible. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, humanity, which was once free, fell into captivity to the devil who is also known as the dragon.[3] Jesus then came to earth as a human being and suffered the punishment, the divine wrath of God, which was due to his princess for her sins.[4] He then rose from the dead three days later, walked the earth for another forty days, and then ascended to heaven.[5] At some point in the future, he will come back riding on his white horse and triumphantly defeat the dragon once and for all.[6] Then he will sweep his bride off her feet and ride off into the sunset where they will live happily ever after.[7]

Why Would Someone Want to Be with Jesus for All of Eternity?


This story sounds amazing, but it still leaves us with one final question: Why would someone want to be with Jesus for all of eternity? After all, wasn’t Jesus kind of an uptight guy who enjoys telling everyone how bad of sinners they are and doesn’t want us to have any fun? For clarification, the Bible doesn’t actually say that Jesus was uptight nor does it say that he walked around telling everyone how bad of sinners they were nor does it say that he doesn’t want us to have any fun. Instead, the Bible tells us that Jesus actually wants us to experience the utmost amount of joy.[8] And the way we can experience this joy is to gain him, the greatest treasure we could ever find. Jesus claimed that he was so great of a treasure that we’d be stupid (my words) not to give up everything in which we trust in order to gain him.[9] He is so great of a treasure that he can do what no one and nothing else could ever do: completely satisfy us.

So what is the benefit of the princess gaining Jesus? The benefit is that the princess will get Jesus, the most valuable treasure in the whole world, for all of eternity. She will be completely satisfied in him for all of eternity!

Conclusion


Jesus is important because he rescues his people from their captivity to the devil and draws them into a personal relationship with him. As hard as we may try to save ourselves, only Jesus can perform this supernatural feat.


[1] Refer to John 14:6.
[2] Refer to John 8:31-47, 2 Timothy 2:25-26, and Ephesians 2:1-3.
[3] Refer to Genesis 3 and Revelation 12.
[4] Refer to Jeremiah 25:15 and Matthew 26:36-46.
[5] Refer to Matthew 28:1-20 and Acts 1:1-11.
[6] Refer to Revelation 19 and 20.
[7] Refer to Revelation 21 and 22.
[8] Refer to Galatians 5:22.
[9] Refer to Matthew 13:44-46.