Princess is a born-again Christian living in the Philippines. She is also working as an educator.
The Beginning of a Life-Changing Journey
As Christians, we are called to know God more and our identity from the Scripture. It is the main authority we ought to follow when it comes to our faith. It allows us to know who God is, access God’s promises, know stories that will greatly impact our lives, and guide our ways and decisions in life. As Psalm 119: 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” However, studies show that almost 45% of Americans seldom or never read the Scriptures (Religious Landscape Study, 2014). Amidst the benefits and the need to study the Scripture, it is sad to note that Christians struggle to create and cultivate a habit of reading the Bible-- to which I can also relate.
At some point in my life, I realized that if I can spend an average of 2 hours daily browsing through Facebook and Instagram, 15-30 minutes of spending time with God is really possible if you are intentional in creating a habit of reading and cultivating your quiet time.
As I am praying to be intentional with my time with God, our church launched a new sermon series called “God-breathed” which focuses on the importance of the Word in our lives. Along with the series is a challenge called NT30 Challenge where we go through the whole New Testament for 30 days. At first, I felt it was challenging but at the same time I am excited to go through the New Testament with the whole church. The church provided the books and chapters for us to read or go through using the church Spotify podcast. I took the challenge as God’s loving way of pursuing me to get to know Him deeper and to grow in my relationship with Him and others. The 30 days went by so quickly but there are so many things I am grateful for and lessons that greatly impacted my life. Here are 3 of the truths I discovered throughout the challenge.
1. Jesus’ way is countercultural.
Reading through the Gospels, I can’t help but notice that Jesus’ way of teaching is different from the way scribes and Pharisees teach and practice their belief in God. His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), parables (e.g. Luke 8:1-5; Luke 15), how he healed during Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), how he looked at what’s coming out of the mouth than what we put in it (Matthew 15:11-20), and how he showed compassion over people (Mark 6:34), proved how different He was with others. He communicated acceptance, love, forgiveness, and authority. His teaching transcends what the Law established. His conviction, boldness, wisdom, and kindness attract people to Him. He was not afraid to rebuke, to teach, to heal.
Another thing I noticed was that He took His relationship with the Father seriously and His top priority. Mark 1:35 (ESV) clearly states, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Even how busy His schedule was, how many patients he had, how many lessons he is teaching His disciples, how far they are traveling, He rose up very early in the morning to pray. We can see that His devotion with the Father allowed Him to be redirected and to be single-minded in His mission -- to restore sinners to God (Mark 1:38). If you are looking for a great model in Christianity, look to Jesus. He was 100% man when He was on earth yet He knew how important it is to spend time with God.
2. The law does not contradict with grace.
After reading through the Gospels, we meet Paul as we go through the Epistles. Here we see how Paul is trying to encourage believers to continue in the faith knowing that the grace we received leads us to obey God’s commands. Paul reminded the believers of the grace they received in Christ which is the reason why they need to persevere in obeying the law. Paul explained in Romans 6 that His grace does not lead us to sin but it leads us to obedience. He then explained in Romans 7 that without the law we will not know sin. The law stands as a precaution and mirror that reveals what's in our hearts. It protects us from abusing grace (Romans 7:7).
Since we were bought with a price, our motivation in obeying the law is not for us to be considered good or moral but for us to glorify God in our lives. Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Verse 10 clearly states that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works which include obeying the law and His commands. When we fully understand what God has done for us, our hearts desire to obey the law, love God, and love others.
3. We are saved to serve.
Knowing how God loved us by giving His Son (John 3:16), what should be our response? Obedience. Yes, obedience. He has called us to live a life serving Him and others. We are called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), to love the brotherhood of believers, to honor the King (1 Peter 2:17), and to serve with joy and gladness in our hearts. How can you serve? You can start small, you can start wherever God has assigned you. Not everyone is called to become missionaries to far-flung areas but we are all called as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to represent Him in our families, our workplaces, our neighborhood. We are to love others so He will be made known to them. We are not just saved to sit and not care. In fact, when you receive Jesus, the Holy Spirit enables you to serve and do good works for His glory (John 16:12-14).
We can start small, we can start today. And if you think you cannot do it or you have no capacity to do what God has called you to do, remember 2 Peter 1:3-7:
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love."
There are other verses and truths that struck me during the challenge but these 3 are the highlights. I realized that the challenge has helped me gain perspective, and be refreshed of my identity and calling in Christ.
I encourage you to go through the same challenge that I experienced. It was challenging but at the same time fulfilling, rewarding and life-changing. I can’t wait to hear your story soon.
© 2021 Princess Nel-Ann Olo