Written By Ryan Walters
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out His anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
God “laid a good one” on my heart this past week while I was working. In fact, the thought and principle came as a result of a sin I had committed the day of. As someone who has a constant struggle with a particular sin, just as many of us do, I found myself in the usual “hot seat” feeling guilty as I often do deriving from a strong conviction of the Holy Spirit. Some of you I am sure know that feeling all too well and experience it all too often.
“Man, I suck”.
“Why can’t I just get this one area right for once?”
“I am never going to gain victory with this sin.”
“God, why do you even bother with me if I can’t ever get this right?”
However, the feeling I had last week was slightly different than ‘the usual’ post-sinning emotion. It really struck me in the moment that every time I commit that sin and others I almost instantly have the thought of, “Oh crap. Now God’s out for me. I can’t imagine how the rest of my day will go. Punishment is on its way I bet.”
But wow. Why in the world was I having this thought for all these years? I mean, I do have a human, sin-natured heart so I am liable to being quite eccentric in my thinking process. And after analyzing the whole situation I figured the enemy must have something to do with me incorrectly discerning the correlation between sin and consequences. But it’s SO MUCH MORE than that! I know I’m late but I am just so thankful God pulled me aside and clarified with me that I should never be processing my sin and disobedience in that manner! My main statement of this current blog comes down to this:
“Why do we feel threatened, afraid or scared to sin because of resulting punishment or God’s wrath when the sole reason He has demands (NOT suggestions) of us is because of how much He deeply, sincerely and perfectly loves us and desires for us to prosper and find joy that any person, object or possession of this world cannot supply.”
By now, I might possibly have your attention especially if you’re somebody who can relate to what I wrote above. I want to quote Jefferson Bethke, a 23-year old who I would say is a spiritual leader of my generation. I mentioned him in a recent post directing readers to his website and his recent book “Jesus>Religion”. It is the book I am reading now and will also quote from multiple times in this blog. In fact, I’d like to give you four solid quotes from him in a row that relate to the point I am trying to make.
“Avoiding sin isn’t about us not getting in trouble (fearful obedience) “ -JB
“There is no glory brought to God’s name when people are doing something because it’s an obligation, with no real enjoyment of their Creator” -JB
“Heaven isn’t a place for people who are scared of hell; it’s for people who love Jesus” -JB
“That is the essence of fundamentalism- living by the rules to stay out of trouble rather than seeing the rules as tools to bring us into intimacy and joy” –JB
I love the way he words all those statements. It is precisely my recent realization that Christianity shouldn’t be following or obeying God for the wrong reasons like not wanting God to allow your favorite sports team to lose, being worried He’ll allow your car to suddenly break down or perhaps being afraid that something awful will occur on your next shift. If we really think that way, we’re making God sound as if He is the enemy- this terrifying supernatural being who has the power to ruin our day due to our sin at any given moment if He so chooses. Our God may have that power but He certainly does not abuse it to make us miserable. Our God is not a god who is out to get us. It makes Him look like the opposite of who our God truly is- LOVE.
1 Peter 1:22 says, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth so now you must show love…”. It was an act of love through the cross that permanently removed our stains of sin. An act of love by a loving God. And because He loves us and sent His son to die for our sins, our lives should be a picture of service to Him but not out of obligation or fear of punishment. How about a simple: “I want to return the favor. I want to express my eternal gratitude to the Lord for saving and rescuing me from my sin. I choose to live and follow God and will do so by obeying His ways taught through scripture. And I make this choice out of love for my Creator just as He loves me.”
Do you picture God as a friend or dictator? Ever hear the song in worship that goes, “I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. He calls me friend?” So many non-believers view Christianity as a religion- an institution that basically says ‘do this’ and ‘do that’, no exceptions. But I tell people my Christianity- my being a Christ-follower- isn’t a religion; my faith is a relationship. I have an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father just as I have a relationship with my mother, coworker and best friend. Of course, it’s a different type of relationship in various ways.
But let me ask you this. Do you know anybody who purposely breaks their best friend’s heart? Purposely breaks their parent’s hearts? I wouldn’t say the majority of people on this earth do that. Sometimes it even happens incidentally. But very few people strive to break the heart of somebody that they are close to. So if I have a deep, authentic relationship with God, I am not going to try to break His heart. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what our sins do to Him. Read this quote from “Shepherd’s Notes”.
Disobedient children break God’s heart because they call his character into question. Every time we disobey, we are declaring our own uprightness and God’s moral deficiency. What makes this accusation so much more grievous, is the fact that God has adopted us into His family as beloved children and every time we disobey we make our Father out to be cruel instead of loving, a monster instead of a Savior, and a tyrant instead of a Dad.( http://shepherdsnotes.com/?cat=22)
I think a significant, ‘bottom-line’ statement to finish with is this: It is not expected for someone who doesn’t believe in God, or someone who does believe but does not live it out to actually want to obey or follow God. I mean, why would they want to? The reasons believers follow God is because Jesus died for us so now we live for Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 says, “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out His anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.”
And the key thing is: the more we seek a relationship with God via prayer, reading scriptures, fellowship with other believers and other forms of worship, the more He will reveal Himself to us in ways which will draw us nearer to Him. The more we draw near to God, the greater sense of freedom and of joy and of peace and of satisfaction we begin to understand and feel deep in our hearts. And this feeling builds our desire to want to serve and obey God more and more; not because of fear of punishment but because we’re driven by His love.
Ryan Walters. ’98.6 Too Cold’ Founder, Blogger