Are we teaching this enough in our congregations?
Are we teaching this enough in our congregations?
Here is John Powell on our relationship with God. I was totally smacked down with this.
Each of us has a unique and very limited concept of God, and it is very often marked and distorted by human experience. Negative emotions, like fear, tend to wear out. The distorted image of a vengeful God will eventually nauseate and be rejected. Fear is a fragile bond of union, a brittle basis of religion.
Those who do not reject a distorted image of God will limp along in the shadow of a frown. They certainly will not love with their whole heart, soul, and mind. A fearsome, vengeful God is not lovable. There will never be any trust and repose in the loving arms of a kindly Father; there will never be any mystique of belonging to God. People who serve out of fear, without the realization of love, will try to bargain with God. They will do little things for God, make little offerings, say little prayers, and so on, to embezzle a place in heaven. Life and religion will be a chess game, hardly an affair of love.
(Why Am I Afraid to Love?: Overcoming Rejection and Indifference*, John Powell, Tabor Publishing, Allen, TX, 1982, pp 5, 8)
I guess it’s time to quit playing chess with God.
*Yes, that is an affiliate link. Here’s another one:
For a long time, I’ve misunderstood Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
I’ve treated that verse as if what it said was I needed to work really hard to put one foot in front of the other on God’s narrow way to show God how pleasing I can be to Him. I felt as if the narrow way was a test for me to show how good I can be. If I follow it close enough, God will deem me worthy of heaven.
I think I was wrong.
God has not established a narrow way in order to test my goodness. God wants me to have life and not destruction. He established the narrow way because it works.
What does this mean on a practical level? It means God hasn’t established His commands to make eternity hard for me to grasp. He has given His word to shine a light on the way and make it easier. Psalm 119:105 says God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. He didn’t give His word to make it harder, but to make it easier. How hard would it be if I was left on my own to figure out how to journey into eternity?
Isaiah 50:10-11 talks to those who are walking in darkness and have no light. God says two things. He says they need to trust and rely on Him. Then He talks to those who light their own fires, that is follow their own ways. The end result, He says, is torment. Then there the two proverbs: Proverbs 14:12; 16:25 say, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
This is the point, if I want life, I can’t achieve it by being good enough. I can’t achieve it by earning it. I’ve already lost that. What then am I to do? Whatever God tells me. His way works. My way will just lead to death. If I go my own way, it’s not that I’m falling short of earning life, I’m simply not walking the path that leads to life. Think of it this way. I live off I-65 just south of Nashville, TN. If I wanted to go to Indianapolis, I’d hop on I-65 and drive north. Why? Why not turn onto I-40? Why not go south? Is it because going north on I-65 will earn my way into Indianapolis? No. It’s because that way works. When mapquest tells me to turn on to I-65, is it trying to stifle my expression, my creativity, my own strength? No. It is just telling me how to get there. It’s making it easier for me.
But God’s narrow way seems so difficult? I seem to keep falling off the side and into the ditch. I can keep getting up and getting back on the path because I know I’m not alone. God is working in me and through me (Philippians 2:12-13) and He is able to keep me from stumbling (Jude 1:24).
Today, instead of trying to earn your way into heaven by working hard on the narrow way, just do what God wants. His way works. Yours won’t.
Yes, you read the title of this post properly. I’ve decided I’m going to quit trying to go to heaven and I urge you to do the same. This has been a bit of a process for me. I’ve been struggling with this concept of going to heaven for a while now, but I’ve finally come to a conclusion.
I can’t do it, so why bother. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get myself to heaven. I can assemble with the saints every time the doors are open. I can give all my money into the collection and anything that is left over to the poor. I can sing all the songs as beautifully and meaningfully as possible. I can avoid big sins like adultery, murder, homosexuality. I can work on the sins I’ve struggled with like lust, angry outbursts, materialism. I can teach a person the gospel every day. I can build a huge tower reaching up to the heavens. It doesn’t matter. I can’t get myself to heaven. In fact, when I do all of that, it seems more like I’m just trying to make a name for myself.
So, I’ve decided to quit trying. I’m giving up on trying to go to heaven. If I go to heaven, it will be because God decided to take me there. I’ll leave my eternal destiny up to His decision. I’m no longer going to try to manipulate His decision.
Instead, today I’m going to work on connecting to God, getting closer to Him, and glorifying Him. Why would I do anything else? This is the God who created a world perfectly suited for me to live. This is the God who gave me life and a body (and the more I learn about this body, the more amazed I am at God’s wisdom and majesty). This is the God who has given me food every day of my life. This is the God who has clothed me. This is the God who has provided me shelter. This is the God who has given me family and friends. More than all of this, however, this is the God who sent His Son to die for me that I could be forgiven of the horrendous sins I’ve committed. This is the God who sacrificed His Son not only so I could be forgiven, but so I could be set free from the enslavement of my sins. This is the God who is sanctifying me and making me righteous because I hunger and thirst for that. How could I do anything but get connect, get closer, and glorify Him? I love Him. How could I not? Look at how He has loved me.
On a practical level, here are ten things this means for me today.
I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Today, I’m going to put my eternal destiny in God’s hands. I’ll let Him decide what to do with me for eternity. I’m no longer trying to manipulate Him, impress Him, or earn anything from Him. Today, I just want to get close to Him. I hope as I spend time with Him, I’ll see you hanging around with us.