Monday, June 13, 2016

Getting a little too close to the edge...

It is important to actually understand what Christianity is and is not. I hear people say things like, "If I went to church as many days a week as some people do, I'd be very religious." This is a very truthful statement as "going to church" can make us quite "religious" while we totally miss out on relationship with Jesus! We are church "attendees", but that doesn't necessarily guarantee we are actually changing into the image of Christ, becoming more genuine in our "living out" of the character of Christ in us. What often happens is that we get more "staunch" in our beliefs, but less tolerant of the "real problems" people have to struggle through as they maneuver through life. Life which is just "religious" isn't going to embrace others when they are pretty messed up in life's issues. In fact, some of the most "religious" people reject people with very real problems, hurting hearts, and seemingly "irreligious" lives.

Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body. I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin.  
(Romans 7:22-25) 

Religious people focus on the amount of "good" they have done in life.  Volunteer here or there, give of your time to this charity or that, but the truth of the matter is that no matter how well we "perform", we are never going to be good enough for God!  Recently, I felt my spirit "drifting" a little and in truth, my communication was not only the first indication of this to me, but also to others.  You see, my words betrayed my heart.  My heart had become a little calloused by the things I have been seeing, hearing, reading, etc.  In turn, my speech was reflecting the "drift" from the place I know God really wants me to be. I am appreciative of the grace of God, but I don't ever want to presume upon the grace of God.  I needed a little adjustment in my attitude and behavior.  So, lest you think I can ever "improve" myself by just eliminating these things I see, hear, read, etc., I cannot.  Just keeping the "right rules" doesn't make me a "good person".  Grace and grace alone is what makes us right with God. 

Where there has been drift, the only way to get back on course is to prevail upon God to bring me back to center again.  I can desire to "do right" all I want, but where drift has occurred, I need God's help to get me back on course - and so do you!  Our nature only changes when God begins to influence our decisions, which impacts our actions, and in turn brings the evidence of a changed life. We have received the Spirit of Jesus - this is what changes things - not the "good work" we try to rely upon to make us "good again".  As long as we walk this earth, we will struggle with making right choices which reflect right actions which yield right results in our lives.  Truth be told, we can "try" all we want to be as "religious" as we might want to be, but in the end, all we accomplish is being more "religious".

If you have ever been behind someone at the store, running this credit card after that credit card through the machine until one finally "takes", you might have thought, "Wow, they must really have run up a lot of debt".  This may very well illustrate our lives - we have run up all kind of "debt" by the foolish deeds we have engaged in during our lifetime.  Try as we might (religious deeds), we aren't ever going to find a way to be out from under that debt just by "running another card through the machine".  We just cannot do enough to be right with God - no matter how many times we go to church in a week, or times we volunteer to move someone who needs help moving, or run clothing drives at the local homeless shelter.  Yes, these are all good "deeds", but they don't eliminate a debt we cannot pay back!  Grace is the only "payment" God desires - nothing else "works" to make us free of the debt we cannot pay.  These good deeds then can become ways of connecting others with Jesus - because they see how Jesus has finally made connection with us through grace!  Just sayin!