There are mountaintop moments in every person’s life.
For me, there was one such moment as I stood on a hill in Mongolia at 5:30 a.m. I’d woken up early to have some time away from the 11 people on my team. For a couple of weeks, I’d been in the introvert’s worst nightmare having trained with 100 people in Colorado, sharing a room, eating meals with all 100 of them, never having a moment for myself. After stateside training, there were several days in airports, on buses, in hotels, and in training rooms in Beijing. Then, our numbers lessened for a few days to 50 when we arrived in U.B. (Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capitol). We did a few more days of training there, and finally 12 of us went on to spend the summer in Zuunmod, a town about an hour outside of U.B.
I’d gone for a run through town and impulsively continued to hike across a large field filled with goats, across a road, and to the top of a huge hill with a strange, man-made mound of rocks on top of it, surrounded by the bones of animals sacrificed over the years. I stood there looking out across the open expanse, and the air felt different. That’s what I love the most about international travel. If you pay attention, you can take a place in through your senses the moment you arrive. The air in Zuunmod was unpolluted, crisp, chilled, and, for me, it was pregnant with hope. It was the moment of a lifetime.
And yet, God is better.
As I was thinking about how to write this post, I really struggled, because there’s cliché to saying that God is great or holy or good. Of course Christians believe that about God, right? That’s one of those things that’s a given… except that it’s really not.
Last week, I posted about why Christians believe men are evil. You can get to that post by clicking here.
This week, I’m writing the second post in a series called: The Sanitization of Christ. While the idea that men are evil is sanitized for obvious reasons, it probably seems a bit of a stretch to say that Christians sanitize the idea of God being better than everything. I promise, it isn’t.
“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”
I took this a little bit out of context, because Paul is writing here primarily about counting his own righteousness as rubbish, but the thing about Christianity is that Christians are to consider everything in their lives as rubbish in contrast to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus…”
This is really difficult, and I struggle with it a lot. I am NOT saying that a person who struggles with this is not a Christian. What I AM saying is that a Christian must try to view the most sublime experiences in her life, the closest people in her life, and the achievement of her most secret ambitions as rubbish next to Christ.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
This is one of those verses that aches, because it’s about the love of your life, your family, your friends. It’s about people who have meant the world.
And yet, Jesus, Himself said those people can’t be primary. The most out-spoken Christians take an enormous amount of pride in saying that they put their families first. They judge people around them as less, because they detest the idea of a person putting his job or his hobbies first. And yet, Jesus specifically condemns people who put family first. He said that He has to be more to you than people are.
It is a cheap and false Christianity to believe that any person can be more important than Christ is. Christ claims all (every part of the being) of His followers, not the left-overs after family has had what they want.
*This last one is a little long, and pulled from context, but it provides some poetic descriptions of God’s greatness. It’s in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so the people for whom he gives thanks are the Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:16 – 23
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
The sheer volume of doctrine in that passage is overwhelming, so I want to draw out the idea that God the Father “put all things under his [Jesus’s] feet.”
Mongolia is a footstool to God’s enormity.
The only man I’ve loved is a footstool.
My favorite book is a footstool.
My family is a footstool.
Camping at the foot of an iceberg in Peru is a footstool.
Matt and Ashly are a footstool.
Everything is a footstool. Everything and everyone is rubbish.
That’s what Christianity says and is.
When I look at what the New Testament says about God’s ranking in my life among the most valuable people, belongings, and experiences, I have to either concede that they are a footstool God created for Himself, and therefore, insignificant next to Him OR I have to say that the Bible didn’t mean what it says and isn’t the infallible word of God – that Christianity isn’t based on something that really happened, but is rather something I can invent for myself. And, if I can invent it for myself, it is fiction.
Mongolia was awesome. It really, really was, but Christ requires that my heart love him more than it loves Mongolia. He requires that my love of people/mountaintops exist in the shadow of my love for Him.
That is why people sanitize Christianity… they want to love mountaintops more than they love Christ, which Christ, Himself, said makes men and women unworthy of Him.
Finally, I want to deal with one crucial implication of believing that God is better than everything.
If God is better than I am, you are, my friends and family are, Mongolia is, books are, money is… If He is greater than everything, then He can rescue me. If He isn’t, then nothing can rescue me.
I am evil (See previous post) and deserve to be punished for my evil. You are evil and deserve to be punished for your evil. Everyone I know is evil and everyone who exists is evil… If that is true, then I cannot save you and you cannot save me. The Dali Lama, President Obama, and the Pope are all evil. They cannot save themselves, and certainly cannot save me.
We need Someone better. That is the basis of Christianity. Christ entered the world because of our evil and our need for Someone better…
Have a lovely Easter and think on Who Jesus was and is.
In an effort to focus on only New Testament passages and only three of them, I’ve left out some of the most poignant pieces of scripture that point to how great God truly is, so I want to quickly refer to them here so that we don’t end up in a place where we feel forced into a doctrine that says God is great, rather than being wooed into it. Here are some passages that woo me every time I think on them.
- “In the beginning, God…” Genesis 1 is a great place to see the surpassing greatness of God, as He speaks creation into being.
- “In the beginning was the Word…” John 1 is a great place to see how Jesus fits into Genesis 1 and to marvel at the idea of a God Who relinquished deity to rescue his murderers.
- “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’” Exodus 33:12-23 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture, because it makes tangible my ever-present plea: God – please show me Your glory.
- “…stop and consider the wondrous works of God…” The last ten chapters of Job (32-42) are so difficult and beautiful. They make my entire point for me, because both Elihu and God answer Job’s tragedy by pointing to the greatness of God in comparison to all else.
There are other passages. The Book of Psalms, for instance, is a great place to go to see the greatness of God. The whole Bible proclaims the greatness of God, although it’s more explicit at some times than it is at others.
And lastly, a book that changed my life and revealed God’s greatness to me is called Knowledge of the Holy. It’s by A.W. Tozer.