Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Core Principles

In one of my first college courses, I had to write a paper on five core principles that i based my life on. That was 3 years ago, it's equally true of me now:

Principle one -- WORSHIP

I was created to worship God. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), which to me means worship as a total lifestyle. To live in relationship with the One who loves me more than His own life is the fulfilment (ultimately the only real fulfilment) of my deepest needs. And worship is not only the aspiration and praise that springs from the deepest places of my heart, for Jesus said “worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and also, “if you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15), so worship is also obedience and action. I think of it as ‘God-centred living’, seeking to learn to keep in step with the Spirit in everything I’m doing, to seek His will in all I do, and constantly “keep the channel open” for prayer and praise and listening to Him.

Principle two --INTEGRITY

By integrity I do not just mean honesty in my dealings with others (though that is a crucial expression of it) but honesty with myself, and a submissive attitude to the convicting revelations that come from the Holy Spirit. I want to have the same attitude as David, who said “Search me O God and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23), for he says of the Lord “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts” (Psalm 51:6). It is all too easy to live in self-deception and hypocrisy. Somebody once suggested to me that deer can stay sure-footed on the heights because their back feet track exactly where their front feet went – to me this makes Habakkuk 3:19 “he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the high places” -- a perfect image of the integrity I long to run in, discarding, like old coats no longer needed, the fears and falsehoods that hamper me.

Integrity, to me, also means keeping my word, whether I mean the absolute, binding nature of my marriage vows, or a casual “promise” made to an acquaintance, seeking to live as one who “keeps his oath even when it hurts”. (Psalm 15:4)

Principle three -- GRACE

I can live in freedom and joy because I have been “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24) – “this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:2) Therefore, I have an absolute responsibility to show to others the same grace and forgiveness that God, through Christ, has shown me. Jesus said “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14), and, in James 2:13 we are told, “judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”. I have learned it as a living truth that we cannot stand at the foot of the cross and immerse ourselves in “the incomparable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7) and have contempt and unforgiveness for our brother or sister at the same time, no matter how badly we have been wronged. For instance, until I fully forgave those who had abused me, I was still chained to them, and could not fully experience God’s love myself. All human beings desperately need to receive grace, if Jesus’ words “let your light so shine before men” (Matthew 5:16) are to become a reality in our lives, in my life, surely it must begin by being channels of His grace and mercy to one another?

Principle four -- FAITH

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and pleasing God is my deepest desire. But, to me, living by faith goes further even than trusting in Jesus’ work rather than my own for my salvation; it means choosing to view life from the perspective of God’s Word, even when that conflicts with the way that things feel and appear to me. It means acknowledging that “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18), and re-setting the parameters of my will so that I might walk in step with God, rather the world, the flesh or the Spirit of the Age. Therefore faith is something that requires courage, demanding that I leave the “comfort zone” of self-pity and powerlessness, and learn to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) and “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16), even when I have every human reason to be negative and discouraged.

Principle five -- COMMUNITY

As a person who has been hurt, and whose tendency is towards introversion, I have an innate preference for withdrawing from people rather than risking further hurt, but my commitment to community compels me back into connection. As a new Christian I had the privilege of hearing a speaker share deeply about his experience of real fellowship, and it planted a dream in my heart of “how it ought to be”, which has only strengthened since. I long deeply to see the Body of Christ really being what God has called it to be (eg John 13:35; Romans 13:8; John 13:14; 15:12: Galatians 6:2), but I have learned the hard way that our dreams do not become reality by wishful thinking, but by deliberately choosing to sow what we desire to reap (2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7); therefore I, myself, must learn how to model appropriate vulnerability and be willing to reach out and get humanly involved rather than sitting on the sidelines in my comfort zone protecting myself.

DISCLAIMER (or conclusion)

In the words of Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12)

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