God's New Year's Resolution

God's New Year's Resolution

January 1 marks the day I first caught a glimpse of the most profound truth in the universe. I was 18 years old. I was fighting tooth and nail with God. And He showed me, finally, through one the weirdest acts ever performed on the human body, that He and He alone makes me His son. Here's how it all went down.

Guest Post: It's the Love: On Conversion from Islam to Christianity

Guest Post: It's the Love: On Conversion from Islam to Christianity

Over the last couple of weeks, Dr. Duane Miller has been teaching a class at Crown of Life Lutheran Church, San Antonio, TX, on Islam. He's introduced us not only to the religion's history and theology, but also drawn upon his Ph.D. work to relate some of the conversations he's had with men and women who converted from Islam to Christianity. I asked him to write an article about the difference between these two Faith's understanding of divine love. I thank him for his insights.

How Do I Know I'm a Christian?

How Do I Know I'm a Christian?

There are questions about ourselves that are easily answered, and there are other questions that present more of a challenge. If someone asks me, “Are you a husband?” I can show them my ring, present my wedding certificate, point to the woman standing next to me who shares my life and my last name. Yes, I am 100% sure that I’m married.

Have We Made Christianity Too Easy?

One of the hardest things for us to do is to keep things simple. For humans, easy comes hard. Take relationships. Some people complicate every relationship they’re in, as if drama is their drug. An easy, uncomplicated bond with a beloved bores them, so they stir up mistrust or jealousy where it need not exist, as if they need a mess to control or manipulate in order to be happy. Or take jobs. People with very easy, straightforward jobs often complain about how challenging their duties are, or make their responsibilities more difficult than they need to be, because the harder they perceive their work to be, the more important they feel about themselves. Instead of accepting simplicity and ease as gifts, we complicate matters, make them harder than they need to be, for it makes us feel more in control.

A while back a friend of mine told me that Christianity seems “too easy.” And I couldn’t agree more. It does seem too simple, too easy. In fact, it has seemed that way from the beginning, so from the beginning believers have found ways to make it harder.

It cannot be that God looked down upon an evil, ugly, hate-filled world, reeking with iniquity, rotten to the core, and loved every single person on it. Love doesn’t work that way. Love sees someone worthy of love, and then loves. Evidently, there were at least some specimens of humanity worth divine love, and for their sake His love fanned out to the entire world. But, no, it really is that simple: God loved a world at enmity with Him.

It cannot be that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to atone for the sins of the world which He loved. That would mean this Jewish man died even for Adolf Hitler. That would mean He was conceived for abortionists. The would mean He lived for murderers. That cannot be; it’s not that simple. Everyone cannot mean everyone. It must mean He died for the elect, or people with at least a spark of goodness in them. But, no, it really is that simple: God died for every human who’s ever existed.

It cannot be that God does all the work to bring people into His family, that He makes the unwilling willing, replaces unbelief with faith. The Lord does His part, and people must do theirs. They must make a conscious decision to become a Christian. They must exercise their will to choose Him. God may begin the process of conversion, but a sinner needs to complete it. Otherwise, becoming a Christian is too easy, as if God does all the work. But, no, it really is that simple: everyone who is a believer, is a believer solely because the Holy Spirit called, gathered, and enlightened that person, for no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

It cannot be that God does all the work to keep a person in the faith, to keep them faithful in their Christian walk, and to fulfill their life of sanctification. The Lord may do all the work of saving us, but surely it’s up to us to see it through. We begin with grace, to be sure, but there are now commandments to fulfill, vocations to pursue, temptations to avoid, good works in which to engage. It’s too easy if we give God all the credit, even for our good works, as if we have died and it’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, loves in us, labors in us. But, no, it really is that simple: all our good works are the works of Christ in us, as He lives out His life in our lives, even as our lives are full of life because of Him.

Have we made Christianity too easy? No, God has made Christianity “too easy” because He has made it pure gift. That gift is Jesus Christ, God’s gift of God Himself for the life of the world. He loved us when we were seemingly unlovable. He saved us when we were unworthy of being saved. He made us believers when we were captive to unbelief. He keeps us believers though we still struggle with a sinful nature. He does our good works in us, for “it is God who is at work in [us], both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13), for "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me," (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, for us, easy comes hard. Simple seems too simple. Such good seems too good to be true. But that’s the beauty of the work of God in Jesus Christ. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s true. And it is all for you.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30