“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”
This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.
The Christian Life Made Simple
A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.
What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.
See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.
So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.
Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.
Where did this pastor get this idea? Probably from Jesus. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this is how He responded:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).
What It’s All About
This is what the Christian life is all about. Our Creator made us in His image. He has charged us with living like Him, the God of love. But we have failed. Big time.
God knew we would. And so because He is love, He has made a way for us to be transformed.
He sent His Son to live a life of love toward God and others in our place. While Jesus loved mankind perfectly, we spit in His face. Rejected Him. Left Him for dead.
But Love is stronger than the grave, and He rose victoriously, securing a forgiven past and a brand-new present and future for all who would trust in Him.
That’s not all. He hasn’t left you to muster up love for Himself and for others on your own. He has given His Spirit to all who trust in Him—this Spirit who just naturally produces love.
So if you’re anxious like me, I have good news. You can breathe deep. The Christian life is simple, really:
Repent and believe the gospel when you fail.
Okay, it’s your turn to talk. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?]
When I was a teen, all I wanted was to be “normal,” to fit in. But my parents’ rules wouldn’t allow for it. I had to wear shorts that hit the top of my knees. My knees.
I was pulled out of square dancing in P.E. class in fourth grade, and I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at classmates’ houses or watch certain movies in school. I was weird, and I hated it.
I’m not the only one. Audrey wrote me,
Most of the people I know think I’m weird bcuz I don’t want to talk about guys and first kisses cuz I want to wait for my wedding day to have my first kiss!!!! And we’re only thirteen so why bother??? Now they all think I’m lesbian just cuz I choose not to gossip about guys (or girls) . . . Sometimes I really hate being a Christian.
I wonder if Audrey knows the real reason she’s weird.
1 Peter 2:9–12 is just one of many passages in the Bible that shows the real reason Christians are weird:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
God considers us “sojourners” and “exiles” on this earth. We might as well be aliens from a different planet! We’re separated from our true home, and we’re . . . different.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t belong to the cool crowd, but because you now belong to God.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of the length of your shorts, but because you now wear the righteousness of Christ.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of whether you can spend the night at classmates’ houses, but because you are now a home for the living God.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of the words that don’t come out of your mouth, but because God has given you a brand-new, clean heart.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t go to homecoming, but because you’re going to heaven.
If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t belong to the cool crowd, but because you now belong to God.
The older I get, the weirder I want to become. Here’s a peek at a journal entry I wrote a few weeks ago after reading Acts 16:
Paul is crazy weird, in the best sense of the word. He is so focused, so “all in.”
He’s sitting in prison . . . praying and singing praises to God. Strange!
The doors to the prison open after a giant earthquake . . . and he sticks around rather than making his escape. Weird!
When the police come and tell him he can leave, he says, “No way. You beat me publicly, you threw me in prison publicly . . . you can take me out publicly.” Crazy!
Oh to be as crazy all-in as Paul.
Lord, would You continue to make me bold and trusting and 100 percent sold-out to You? Please God, no more holding back. If I’m going to be weird, I want to be WEIRD.
How about you? Are you weird? If so, do you know the real reasons you’re weird? I sure hope so!
What are some things you do to boost your trust in God? I’m having issues with stepping back and simply saying “You’re in charge.” I just can’t get myself to do it. I’m too stubborn. What should I do to humble myself and step back? It’s really weird. I want to, but I feel like I can’t.
First off, you’re not alone. Human beings have struggled to trust their Creator ever since . . . Genesis 3!
But if you’re ready to get serious, here are five ways you can boost your trust in God today.
1. Get to know God.
Ever since you were a little girl, you’ve been trained not to trust strangers. It’s only been as you’ve gotten to know someone that you’ve learned that they could be trusted.
As you get to know Him through His Word, you will begin to see that He is absolutely trustworthy.
The same is true of God. He is a Person who has let you know what He’s like by writing a Book about Himself. As you get to know Him through His Word, you will begin to see that He is absolutely trustworthy, and your trust in Him will grow (Rom. 10:17).
2. Learn from those who have walked with God longer than you have.
Rather than having to learn everything the hard way, grab onto the wisdom of those who have gone before. It will save you a whole lotta pain!
In Numbers 20:2, we learn that the people of Israel had no water. The thing is, forty years earlier, the previous generation had experienced the same thing (Ex. 17:1). In that case, God had provided water from a rock. How do you think this knowledge could have helped the younger generation as they faced the same test?
3. Remember God’s trustworthiness in the past.
All through Scripture God commands us to “remember,” “remember,” “remember” His faithfulness. In Joshua 4:6, the people were commanded to set up twelve stones for this reason:
“These stones will remind the people of what the Lord has done.”
What can you do today to keep track of and remember the many times God has proved Himself trustworthy? Maybe it’s journaling about the experience or framing a picture of it or . . .
4. Surround yourself with people who trust God and encourage you to trust Him as well.
Proverbs 12:26 is just one of many verses that shows us the importance of who we do life with: “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
5. Choose to trust God, even when you feel like you can’t. Just do it.
It is exactly these tough moments that will teach and strengthen you to believe and trust God. This is the perfect opportunity to grow your trust in Him! But first you’ll have to just . . . trust.
When nothing in you wants to trust God, that’s precisely when faith steps in.
Trust, or faith, is a simple (okay, not necessarily easy, but definitely doable) act of the will. When nothing in you wants to trust God, that’s precisely when faith steps in. Faith chooses to trust God’s promises rather than trusting one’s own feelings. It’s your choice: trust yourself, or trust God. Who do you think is more trustworthy?
I’d love to hear from you. How else can we all boost our trust in God?
Have you ever been made fun of for being so innocent?
Innocence isn’t something our culture values.
But God does.
The other day I read a verse I’d never noticed before,
“I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom. 16:19).
Interesting, huh? We get that mixed up. We tend to be wise about evil but innocent about good.
If your friends find out that you’re innocent about something evil, they’ll likely laugh incredulously, “She doesn’t know about ______?!”
Innocence about evil is not a curse. It is a gift.
They’ll be more than happy to fill you in on all the dirty details. But even if they don’t, it’s easier than ever to learn about evil. All you have to do is pull up Google, and you’re a couple clicks away from moving from innocent to world-wise just like that.
So . . . will you?
A Word to Innocents:
I know you can feel like an outsider when your friends start talking and laughing about something you know nothing about. The fact is, you are an outsider. But that’s a wonderful thing! If you belong to Christ, you’re new now. Different. You belong to another kingdom. A far better one. Don’t try to fit in with the darkness; walk as a daughter of light. Never think your innocence about evil is a curse. It is a gift. Keep guarding your eyes and mind!
A Word to the World-Wise:
If you’re already “world-wise,” is it too late for you? Not at all! Ask God to make you as curious about “good” and right living as you’ve been about evil. Stop making fun of those who are more innocent than you. Don’t try to “help” them anymore by filling them in on evil. Be transformed by washing your mind with Scripture (Rom. 12:2).
A Word to Youth Leaders:
Several years ago, I asked a young woman if she thought I needed to know certain “worldly” things in order to effectively minister to teens. She said I didn’t and encouraged me to continue to seek to know the Word of God above all. How grateful I am for her wise advice. I am not aware of any ministry opportunities I have lost as a result, and there are so many dirty thoughts I don’t have to battle as a result.
I’d love to hear from you. Would you consider yourself innocent or world-wise? What is one thing you can practically do this week to pursue being “wise as to what is good”?
One of the saddest comments I ever read on this blog went like this:
I go to a Christian school, but we’re at the stage where Jesus is irrelevant and a joke.
After spending a week at a Christian school, I saw firsthand the kind of peer pressure (or is it persecution?) that takes place from other students at Christian schools.
I don’t share this with you to discourage you; I just don’t want you to be shocked or unprepared when you walk into your Christian school . . . or even your local church.
Because this is a fact: Lots of people who claim to be Christians aren’t. Jesus is clear about this in Matthew 7:21–23,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
So what can you do about this?
1. Make sure that you know that you are a genuine follower of Jesus.
If you’re not positive, begin by reading “Are You Good Enough to Go to Hell?” Then pick up your Bible and read the book of 1 John (you can do it; it’s just five chapters!). As you read, ask God to help you know whether you really belong to Him.
2. Don’t expect everyone in your class to be a Christian just because they’re at a “Christian” school.
In fact, I think it’s wiser to assume that “Christians” don’t know Christ—until the “fruit” of their life proves otherwise. (For more on that, check out “Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?”)
I’d rather be paid in praise over a paycheck any day, I texted a friend.
Can you relate, or am I the only high-maintenance girl out there who loves to have all her work noticed and applauded?
I realized how much praise motivates me as I was examining each area of my life with the help of The Personal Vitality Plan. As I wrote down what was going well and what was being neglected in the area of my work, I kept stumbling across words like:
Except those were words that did not describe the way I felt. I scribbled on the corners of my paper,
I wonder what it would take to get me to a place of looking forward to going into the office each day . . . Is it my problem or theirs that I’m not wholehearted, passionate, excited, and motivated about my job?
My thoughts soon meandered down the path of guilt as I reasoned with myself, Who has time to praise me for every little thing I do? How high-maintenance of me!
But then it hit me.
God’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.
There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by praise—as long as I’m seeking HIS praise. I just tend to look for it in all the wrong places. My employer and coworkers—incredible as they are—are too busy to notice everything I do and to reward me for it.
God’s not, though.
Did you know that God is a lavish Rewarder? He loves it when His people go all out for His praise.
Don’t misunderstand me. He doesn’t love it when we work to earn His approval. But when we know that we already have His approval through Christ, He applauds our effort to please Him! Not because we deserve it; but because He’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.
No, we won’t hear His praise right . . . this . . . second, but we will hear it! Audibly. How I want Him to say something like this to me when we first meet face to face,
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).
And so, I’m heading into the office with a whole new goal: to be fully pleasing to the Lord in my work.
How about you? Are you feeling unmotivated in your own work, whether it’s at the office or at home or somewhere in-between? If so, I’m praying the apostle Paul’s prayer for you and for me:
“And so . . . we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9–10).
We know His will. Among other things, God’s will is that,
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).
So how about it? Are you feeling unmotivated? How about working today for God’s praise?
What an honor, to work heartily for the One who sweat great drops of blood for us, so that we might one day soon enter into His rest and hear Him exclaim, “Well done!”
I got some mail this week that I can’t keep to myself. Read on to hear what one young mom has to say as she looks back on her own singleness from the other side of marriage and motherhood. Then, would you post a comment below thanking God for one tangible gift of singleness today?
Can’t wait to read what you share,
PS: As a little extra credit, is there a young, sleep-deprived mom you could offer to help today?
I am writing this to you while it is still dark out because it is my only time of the day when the house is quiet and I have time to myself.
A few minutes ago I was reading in Exodus about how Moses found himself serving in Midian as a shepherd after having lived in Egypt in Pharaoh’s household. The devotional I was reading pointed out that these years of serving as a shepherd in the desert were also years of God preparing Moses to shepherd his people Israel through the desert for forty years.
I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
I found myself wondering if though Moses may have despised being a shepherd at the time, in retrospect as he struggled to lead the Israelites if he often looked back on those shepherding years as “golden” and “restful” compared to the struggles he faced with the Israelites.
I found myself thinking of my own life as well and wondering what I would classify as my “golden years,” my years of “rest and preparation.” I think I can honestly say they would be my single years.
Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely LOVE being married to my husband and raising my precious children. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. And yet, I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
Today I don’t know that I will use my Keurig to brew a single cup of coffee. Today I will probably pull out the old coffee pot and brew a full pot. I have been up most of the night with a toddler who has a croupy cough and was struggling to breathe in the middle of the night.
By the time I finally got him to sleep my baby woke up and refused to go back down. Ten minutes before my alarm was to go off at five in the morning, I rolled into bed beside my husband and asked him to do whatever it took to get our baby to sleep so I could just sleep for ten more minutes before I had to get up for the day.
These are days that are hard, and I find myself looking back on those single years realizing I did not savor those moments as much as I should have: uninterrupted sleep, awakening truly refreshed and eager to serve the Lord, enjoying an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee while reading God’s Word without distraction. There was nothing wrong with longing for a husband and family of my own, and my God so generously blessed me with them. However, I was foolish not to fully embrace my singleness at that time and treasure it for the sweet gift from God that it was.
Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.
Sometimes in the middle of the night when the moon is out and I am rocking my baby while everyone else sleeps, I can see a shadow of myself on the nursery wall holding and rocking my sweet Ellie. In those moments it is as if I hear God speaking deep in my heart and saying to me, “Savor this. You will not always be rocking babies in the middle of the night, and one day you WILL miss this.” Oh, how I wish I would have heard His voice saying those similar words to me as a single person. “Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.”
Like I said, please do not misunderstand how much I love my husband and children and our little life together. It is so sweet and so precious! But like singleness, it has its moments where it can be rough. However, that does not mean that it should not be cherished as God’s perfect gift for me in this moment, just as I should have cherished more God’s gift of singleness to me as His perfect will for my life at that time.
This was heavy on my heart to share with you this morning, Paula, and I pray you can use it to encourage the hearts of other single people who may need to be reminded of how perfect and precious God’s will is for our lives.
We don’t want to miss out on enjoying His perfect gift for each of us today, because today will not last. Tomorrow is coming, filled with new gifts of its own for us to enjoy. But we can never get back today.
For the past three weeks we’ve been talking about words, words, words. Is all this talk just a good suggestion?
Nope, it’s a lot more serious than that. Turns out your future is at stake, according to Jesus:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).
Umm, question! Doesn’t that sound like we’re working our way to heaven?
Nope. We’d never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. It’s just that our words reveal our hearts like a thermometer reveals a fever or snow reveals cold.
Our words clearly show our true heart condition. God doesn’t miss a thing, and He says we’ll give an account to Him one day soon of every single word we ever spoke (gulp!). I’m gonna guess that also includes words we type, text, etc.
Like I said a couple weeks ago, we all desperately need a heart transplant (because our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem).
But how? Do you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork? Get stuck on a waiting list for years? Save up thousands of dollars?
Nope! God wants to give you a new heart. His heart.
When you confess to God the sin in your heart and ask Him to give you a new one, He will generously give you His Holy Spirit. And it won’t cost you a penny; it’s a gift! It wasn’t free for the Son of God, mind you; it cost Him His life. But it’s free for you.
Check out His promise in Ezekiel 36:26–29:
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. . . . You shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.”
By the way, this isn’t a get-out-of-hell-free-and-then-live-any-way-you-want card. If you really understand your need for a heart transplant and God’s crazy incredible grace in giving one to you, you will be forever changed.
And the proof will be in your new words.
You’ll begin to serve a new Master now with every single word you speak. He’ll own your tongue, your body, your life.
If you know you’ve never truly received a heart transplant, would you agree with God about the condition of your wicked heart and ask Him to replace it with His righteous one? If so, He’ll do it immediately!
If, on the other hand, you’ve had a heart transplant but when you take the Are Your Words Nasty or Nice? quiz you still see sin coming out of your mouth, would you:
Confess to God the big ways you’re sinning with your mouth and choose to turn from them.
Ask God how you can begin to store up good treasures in your heart by practicing the opposite of that sinful tendency.For example, if you struggle with lying, ask the person for forgiveness each time you lie to them. Do this until you begin to speak only the truth.Or if you regularly tear others down—even just in your thoughts—begin to intentionally encourage those people.
Share your top struggles and commitments with a friend for prayer and accountability.
Before social media, my junior high friends and I used to write each other old-fashioned notes using lined paper and pencils—the kind they make from real trees! I still have some of those notes, so I’m going to share two of them with you today: the first from 6th or 7th grade and the second from college.
As you read these notes, look for the fruit (did their words build someone up or tear someone down) as well as the root behind the fruit of their words (what’s obviously in these girls’ hearts).
Will you go with me to talk to Megan? I want to tell her why we won’t tell her why we’re mad (because she’ll tell her mom and then we’ll get in trouble).
Her clothes are ugly.
She flirts (and denies it).
She thinks she is awesome.
She brags about her grades.
She brags about her brothers.
She brags about the ugly cars they have.
She said she has only gotten spanked once.
She thinks she is cool because she has a silver trumpet.
She tells her mom everything.
She copies us.
She thinks she is talented at running, drawing, and school work.
She thinks she is pretty.
She thinks she is cool because her dad is the preacher.
She thinks she is a good babysitter.
She thinks everyone likes her.
She thinks she is a tomboy (pink, teddy bears, mama’s girl, likes dresses).
She thinks she has a perfect life.
Oh yeah, when her mom asked what was wrong she said, “Are you jealous of Megan because of something she has or can do or does?” I stood there thinking, Yeah right!!
I’m kinda scared too because she’ll tell her mom, and then her mom will tell my mom, and I’ll get in trouble!
PS: Write back.
10 Things I Love About Paula
10. She delights in simple pleasures.
9. She gives great advice.
8. Her iron will when it comes to resisting sugar. 😉
7. She loves people.
6. She makes me laugh.
5. Her curiosity about people and life.
4. She’s my sister Resident Assistant.
3. Her beautiful smile.
2. She gives great back rubs.
1. Her boast and confidence is in Christ.
How about it? Did exhibit 1 and 2 build up or tear someone down? What can you tell about the writers’ hearts based only on their words?
And, more importantly . . . are your words more like exhibit 1 or exhibit 2? Maybe you say, I would never write a letter like Kelly wrote. But before you let yourself off the hook too quickly, take this twenty-question quiz from Mary Kassian.
Then, write someone a note (yes, on real paper from actual trees!) with the goal of building them up. Let me know you did so below by Friday, October 3 for a chance to win one of two copies of Mary’s Bible study Conversation Peace in our Freebie Friday giveaway.
“Two Letters; Two Hearts” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.