Thursday, February 14, 2013

Loving Him is Red

Please welcome guest author Sarah Monticue! Sarah works on staff for DiscipleMakers, loves to sing, and has just launched her new blog today: Loving Him is Red. Enjoy her first post, remember the gospel, and may you fall more in love with the Best Lover!

When I first heard the song Red by Taylor Swift, I marveled at her clever use of colors to describe feelings. But more than that, I was amazed at how accurately her simple use of the color red described what's it's like to be in love. All she had to say was: "Loving him was red, burning red," and I knew what she meant. Red love is the kind of soul-stirring passion that makes you feel as though you were never really alive or had ever truly loved until you've experienced it. It's the kind of love I've been longing for my whole life.

Even as I think back to my time in high school, I can remember reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and feeling as though Marianne Dashwood and I were kindred spirits. In saying, "Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn - to be on fire," she opposed the view that love must be moderated rather than all-consuming. So far, Taylor, Marianne, and I are all on the same page.

But here's where it gets complicated. During my freshmen year in college, God got my attention in a way He never had before. As I heard the Word of God preached, I realized that God wanted to be the supreme relationship of my life. He loved me so much that He entered a covenant - a marriage - with me. And so He deserved to have the primary place in my heart. But I had been giving my heart away to other things - to other lovers - and had broken my end of the covenant. God, however, never stopped loving me. Instead, He sent Jesus to pay the price for my unfaithfulness, and He did so with His life. (Ezekiel 16, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:26).

As my understanding of this reality continued to deepen, I became more and more uncomfortable living my life as I had before. So I started giving things up - things that I loved, wanted, thought I couldn't live without - all in an attempt to love God more than anything else in my life. And then I did the impossible. I gave up my headed-toward-marriage, red relationship and faced the scary reality that I might never get to experience red love ever again. And that was the first time I ever chose to believe that God's love could be greater and more satisfying than the love of another person.

I've been struggling to believe it ever since.

And that's where Taylor Swift and her concept of red love began to really resonate with me. Because I can't just stop myself from wanting to experience this red love that I've always longed for. Instead I can let that longing point me to the fact that I already have a red love - a love that burns so brightly that flood waters could never extinguish its flame (Song of Songs 8:7). And as I consider and experience Jesus' great love for me, my heart responds with a deeper love and affection for Him.

Like the earlier definition of red love says, until the Lord opened my eyes to how much He loved me, "I was never really alive or had ever truly loved." I was dead in my transgressions and sins. But He made me alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5). And I never really loved anyone til then. I really only loved myself. But in this new life, I no longer live for myself, but for Him, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 2:20).

So when I really consider Jesus' love and sacrifice, I can't help but love Him in return. I've never met someone quite so kind, so generous, so forgiving, so loving, so patient, so persistent, so humble, so willing to lay down His life... Though I continually reject Him time and time again, He still continues to pursue me; He never gives up. And He's an amazing pursuer, because He's the Only One who knows everything about me and exactly how to make my heart beat faster and fall more in love with Him. He's the One who makes life worth living. He is the One I've been waiting for. Truly, Loving Him is Red.

That's why I'm writing this blog. Because I need to constantly remember that:

1) Anything my heart could ever love or long for in this life is just a shadow of my love and longing for Jesus, since loving and being loved by Him is the most fulfilling and passionate love that I could ever know.  

2) I will never regret giving up everything to make Jesus the first love of my life, because He gave up everything for me.

3) Others can benefit from what God teaches me in the midst of my struggle to love Him with all of my heart.

So I hope you'll join me on this journey to remember that Jesus is the Only Perfect Lover and that Loving Him is Red.

Here's Taylor, singing Red:

Follow Sarah's blog here: Loving Him is Red.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." - Galatians 5:1

When Paul was writing to the churches in Galatia, he didn't mince words with them. He went straight for the target and rebuked them for abandoning the gospel in favor of a works-based help-yourself salvation program. You wanna see an evangelist-apostle-church-planter ex-Pharisee flip out? Tell him Jesus' cross wasn't enough.

By the time Paul gets to chapter 5 he's all worked up, and blurts out this amazing truth and challenge in 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." It seems that the sentence should have a few explanation points at the end, with some underlines... "For freedom Christ has set us FREE; stand firm therefore, and DO NOT submit again to a yoke of slavery!!!" (maybe shouted out by William Wallace).

Think about that... Truth? Christ has set us free. Application? Don't go back to being a slave. Amen! Now let's examine the surface meaning, and then the deeper interpretation based on the context.

Surface Meaning: You're Free from SIN: Christ has died on the cross to set us free from sin. The curse is broken, the old man is crucified WITH Christ, and we are now new creations. Free from sin! So stand firm in that freedom, and don't go back to your old slavery to sin. FIGHT your sin!

Deeper Interpretation: You're Free from RELIGION: If you look at the context of Paul's letter, and the surrounding verses (chapter 4 about the freedom of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the rest of chapter 5 about the freedom from circumcision-based righteousness), it is clear that Paul is mainly talking about the freedom of salvation by FAITH apart from the LAW! Or in other words, Christ has set you free from religion, meaning a human effort work-your-way-to-heaven salvation plan that performs to earn God's favor. So stand firm in God's grace! Stand firm and don't go BACK to the endless performance-treadmill slavery of religion. FIGHT to remember the gospel!

Pay attention, because this distinction is tricky, but VITALLY important: The fight to live in the freedom from religion comes before the fight to live in the freedom from sin. Do you see the order? Read it again if you have to. Because this distinction makes a WORLD of difference for how we live our lives. What might it look like? Maybe it looks like singing worship songs in joy and faith right after a failure as you are amazed at the GRACE of God in the gospel, instead of groveling before God and putting yourself on probation for a few days as you sulk in guilt, promising God you'll fight harder next time.

So yes, keep fighting your sin. But even deeper, and more primary is the fight to remember and believe the gospel! That is the relentless fight. Fight to remember the gospel, and once you do, you will have the strength, joy, and reason for fighting your sin. Your forgiven sin. The very sin that you are now free from because of the gospel.

For Freedom,
The Relentless Fight