A Winning Record

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Why do we have this recurring tendency to go back to the score sheet?

As Christians, the truth is that we are free from any need to keep score and measure ourselves by our good deeds.

We don’t have to earn God’s love.  Romans 5:8 says “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He loved us before we ever thought about earning it.

We don’t have to strive to remain in God’s love.  In Jeremiah 31:3 God told His people “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  Everlasting applies in both directions – past and future. He always loved us, and He always will.

Bottom line: Everything is His doing and none of it is ours!

This takes some getting used to. It’s not an easy concept to grasp. And, even when we finally get it, we still have this tendency to drift back to thinking we must do work to keep things right with God. Why is that?

I can think of a few reasons:

  1. It’s ingrained in us. From our earliest days, we are told there is no free lunch. If we want to succeed in school, sports, career, relationships, <insert-other-life-pursuit-here>, we must work for it. We get to where we are and have what we have based on our efforts. This is, in my opinion, the fundamental idea that makes it so hard to grasp the truth in the first place.
  2. There are plenty of voices telling us this is the way it has to be. The Galatians didn’t fall into this trap completely on their own. Teachers came through their churches telling them that they had to follow the Jewish customs to be truly right with God. And (probably because of point #1 above) it made perfect sense, so they bought it. And – don’t miss this – this was not people outside the church telling them such things. It was people in the church! Sound familiar?
  3. True freedom in relationship with Christ is a unique experience. This point intertwines with point #2 – but it’s worth mentioning separately. There is no religion in the world where the work is already done and we don’t have to strive. The reason why those voices in the church sound so convincing and make so much sense is because it fits with everything we know about religion. Which is why it’s important to differentiate relationship with Christ from religious performance. They are *not* the same.
  4. It’s a core weapon of the Enemy. It is key to Satan’s manipulative schemes; a tool used to distract believers and get them out of the game. Granted, there are a ton of tools in his toolbox – discouragement, depression, anxiety, fear, to name a few. But when you think through it, don’t these all trace back to our self-perceived inability (or anticipated inability) to measure up? In other words, don’t those things often (always?) come back to us thinking we’re not doing enough to keep our scorecard in the positive? And the more he can keep us focusing on what we need to do to earn God’s love, the less we’re focusing on showing God’s love to others.

Those are just a few thoughts. I’m sure there are more (feel free to share yours in the comments).

The truth is there will always be this draw to come back to what we’re doing and where our win/loss percentage stands. But all that is a lie and a distraction.

True, prayer and obedience serve a purpose.  It improves the quality of the relationship in that it brings you closer to Him.

But it does nothing to bring Him closer to you.  He already loves you infinitely.

So put the scorecard away, and live like you’re already loved. Because you are.

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joy

Religion 260

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

Take another look at that verse, and think about this – what was the joy that was set before Him?

Was it Heaven? No, I don’t think so. Jesus was God in the flesh. Philippians 2:5-8 tells us that He stepped away from His throne temporarily so that He could come to earth, and did not feel His throne was threatened by doing so. He had left heaven to come here, so getting to heaven was just a return trip home.

Was it His throne? Again, He was God, and at no point was He ever not God. He created the universe. He ruled completely. His place in Heaven from eternity past was not jeopardized by His leaving it (again, back to Philippians 2), so why would He consider it a joy to attain what was always His?

Was it a sense of accomplishment? Maybe. When He said “it is finished” from the cross, it was the completion of something God had promised thousands of years before. It was a long-awaited promise fulfilled, a long-anticipated task finally done. So if anyone ever had reason to feel accomplished over anything, it was certainly Jesus in that moment. But I don’t think it was that either.

I think it was something much more personal.

I think it was us. You and me. Humanity. “The joy that was set before Him” – the thing for which He was willing to endure so much pain and humiliation – was the opportunity to have a relationship with us!

That opportunity for true community with God had been lost thousands of years before. Our sin prevented us from having a relationship with Him. We could not be righteous enough to have a true relationship with God. And the intensity of the purification that would make us righteous enough would have turned us to dust – there would have been nothing left of us for Him to have a relationship with!

But Jesus could endure the purification that was necessary on behalf of all of us.  And that’s exactly what He did!

He willingly went through a horrible death to make possible the relationship that He longed for – a personal relationship with you and me.

Isn’t it awesome that a perfect God would consider a criminal’s death worth the cost, to obtain the joy of spending eternity with us?

I think it is.

 

The Freedom to Resume

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I confess I lost my way.

When I started this endeavor, it was with specific intent. It was to bring encouragement to fellow believers and show the path to a true relationship with God to those who didn’t know it.

It was to represent grace in today’s world and in today’s church, where it’s often lacking. Lacking not because people are cruel, but because they don’t always understand how to display grace in the tough situations. Or sometimes because we’ve been conditioned to react in ways that – while commonly accepted as Christian – are far from what Christ taught or modeled.

It was to speak freedom to people who were caught in a cycle of hiding and dragging their chains with them because they felt too ashamed or hopeless to stand up to their jailer – a jailer that takes various forms:

  • Our past – shame over the things we have done or people we’ve hurt.
  • Current struggles – things like addiction, unwanted but seemingly inescapable habits or desires, negative mindsets, poor self-image.
  • Our spiritual Enemy – Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, whatever you want to call him.

(I personally believe that ultimately the jailer that holds the keys to every chain that binds us is this Enemy. Yes, I believe he exists. And I believe he is active. He doesn’t want us to live free, because it scares him! A world full of free-living people could bring the roof down on all his hopes and plans, and he knows it!)

Whatever or whoever the jailer is, the truth is that we have a Savior who brings freedom which transcends all the brokenness. A God who represents everything the Enemy doesn’t want us to realize.

That message was my motivation. But I lost that. I got caught up in lies, and allowed the lies to derail me from these truths. As a result, I lost my focus, and then the path. Until the next thing I knew, I was in the thickets not even sure where the path was or when I had left it.

I had allowed exactly what Paul warned the Galatians not to allow – “do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

The result – a year of almost total silence.

But praise God for the freedom to resume. The freedom to get back to the work when we realize we need to re-center. The freedom to shake off the chains, and engage afresh.

Let me encourage the reader: if you’ve lost the path – if there is something that God laid on you and you got caught up in distractions or discouragement or apathy – God is still calling you to serve Him. Pick it up, whatever it is, and serve Him. You will not be happy until you are serving where God has called you to serve.

Eternity starts today, and in God’s economy the game never times out. No matter how long it’s been paused, we have the freedom to resume.