How much do you love Me?
That's the question God has been asking of me lately. The Bible clearly shows how much God loves us. Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Most Christians are pretty comfortable with verses like that. We like to think about the love of God, don't we? I'm concerned that we often take truths like the love and mercy of God, and forget the rest of the redemption story - the power of His love to transform our lives. Whereas under the Old Covenant we were under the commands law as a means of achieving a right relationship with God, we can now enter into the New Covenant, bought by the blood of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
This Covenant was prophesied in Ezekiel 36:26-27. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." That newness of life requires the death of us. The old heart of stone that is bent on "my desires" and "my happiness" must be removed and replaced with the life of Christ planted in us. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Also see Titus 2:11-14 and 1 John 1:6-7)
It's a practical reality that you will walk in the direction you are looking. I know from experience that even if I have set out in a straight line towards my goal, when I begin to look to the left or the right, my feet will begin to unconsciously stray in that direction... and often end up entangling my companions. When something other than the goal catches your eye, it is all too easy to be enticed by it, even if only by curiosity. That's not always a bad thing when you're out for a stroll in the park, but if we're talking about a toddler who is blithely chasing butterflies near a cliff, that's another story.
Often when I write, I feel like I'm speaking to myself more than anything. So please realize that I'm not preaching as someone who has it all together (because that's far from the truth), but more to share what God has been placing on my heart. The Lord has been reminding me that my heart needs to run to Him, to cling to Him, and to esteem Him above any earthly treasure. This is all too easy to say, but far more difficult to accomplish because our flesh so often dulls the spirit's response to obey. Ah, yes, there's the important part! If we love Him, we will obey Him, as Jesus said in John 14:15.
Our postmodern society likes to live life on the fence. We look out at that expansive view and like to say we have it all. "Oh yeah, God's my buddy. He doesn't mind if I mess around a little - in the end I'm still a good person. He's a God of love, after all... He wants me to be happy." On that fence, we can look out and see a world that promises happiness and fulfillment... and a way to somehow get to heaven at the end of it all - and if not, at least to make our own heaven on earth. "Follow your heart" and "Follow your dreams" are the mantras of today. Those who preach one Way are dismissed and ridiculed as being judgmental and closed minded. Elisabeth Elliot sums up that worldly mindset in her book, Passion and Purity, by saying, "Everybody's equal. Everybody's free. Nobody is hung up anymore or needs to deny himself anything. In fact, nobody ought to deny himself anything he wants badly-it's dangerous. It's unhealthy. It's sick. If it feels good and you don't do it, you're paranoid. If it doesn't feel good and you do do it, you're a masochist." May it be that we would instead obey Christ's call to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
One thing that hit me a while ago is that the fence doesn't exist. Do we realize how eternally devastating it is when we are undecided about Christ? Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Matt 12:30) There is no fence... all too soon, those who make their lives there will find it dissolving into an abyss. The whole idea of justification has been turned upside down to mean that we can do whatever we want. Rather than being justified by grace through faith and entering into the freedom of being God's slave, many nominal Christians are "justifying" their carnal thirsts as harmless while claiming to follow Christ.
At the end of all this, am I calling Christians to work harder? To follow stricter rules? Certainly not! It's not nearly so simple or so difficult as all that. It's all about looking towards the goal of our salvation - our Savior Himself. The radiance of His glory is the only thing we should be running towards, and by His Spirit alone we can be freed from the desires and lusts of sinful flesh. We are redeemed to be pure reflections of Him. The question lies in our allegiance. We cannot serve two masters, nor can we succeed in obeying God while living as if He does not exist.
I know that I must continually put off attitudes of duplicity. More and more, God is teaching me how wrong it is to justify time spent in worldly pursuits and thought patterns, or time not spent renewing my mind in His word, in prayer, and in praise. Slowly, faithfully, God is turning me from my spiritual ADD to realize that I must continually be in a spirit of prayer, to be truly captured by His love so that my feet do not stray from His footprints. I cannot perfect myself, but He is doing the work in me. So I can joyfully say, "Living for Christ will be the death of me yet!"