Friday, February 24, 2012

The Letter Without The Lord

When I grew up I didn't have a set schedule to do chores. My parents just told me when to do them when they needed to be done or when they weren't going to do it themselves. If they told me to mow the yard I'd go mow the yard. If they told me to throw out the trash I'd take out the trash. If I approached this as some approach the bible I would think to myself, "One time in the past my parents told me to mow the lawn. I better mow the lawn every day just to be safe." I'd end up wasting my time and wasting mower gas. If that is not the case then I'd think of a time they told me to mow the lawn and feel bad whenever I'm not mowing the lawn. Instead of living by their real time guidance I'd be living by my perception of what it means to keep their past command and by my own feelings of obligation or shame that they never intended for me.

Sadly that is how so many Christians live and how I lived for years. "Spiritual" discipline with the wrong perspective will destroy you. Even reading the bible can cause you harm. Because of your feelings of obligation to read the bible and shame if you don't read it you are more likely to read something at the wrong time and apply it to yourself incorrectly. It is like a first grader trying to do algebra or calculus. If you don't understand the foundations & fundamentals of truths you're going to fail because you are trying to do something that was never meant to be done.

When we look at the bible as a "How to Make God Pleased with Me" rule book we miss everything God has already done for us. We are saved by grace. Grace is God's favor. Grace means God is not displeased with anyone alive because of what Jesus did for the world. God wants all to receive His initial gift of grace to be saved. Once we are saved God never is displeased and always pleased with us. Still He wants to make us aware more and more of His favor towards us.

If you don't know of God's favor for you then you will try to earn what you already have. Sadly most Christians are taught that they are saved by grace (without being told exactly what grace is) but they must live the Christian life by keeping scriptural commands. The Christian experience under this teaching is like this:

Your valentine buys the last box of chocolates from the store & gives them to you. You spend some time expressing your gratitude. Soon after you meet a new "friend" (the church, a preacher, etc.) who tells you that you need to pay your valentine for their gift. So instead of enjoying the many chocolates and the loving graciousness of you valentine you spend your time trying to pay for, earn, something that you already have. And I don't mean "pay back" I mean "pay for" meaning you won't accept a morsel until you feel like you've worked for it. So you have already been given the whole box and the total variety of chocolates. You can enjoy them right now but instead because of your wrong perspective of the gift AND the giver you enjoy little to none of them. You only reach for a piece that is being offered if you feel like you've earned it.

The love of Jesus is not self seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). He isn't looking to be paid or repaid. He is only looking to love and to give. It is not our obligation to serve Him like a never present CEO. It is our joy to work with Him as a son does with his father. The letter always kills without the Spirit bringing life to it (2 Corinthians 3:6).

The bible is a history book and love letter rolled into one. It is the history of God who is Love. We aren't supposed to "do everything by the book" but by the Spirit. The Spirit will use and point us to the book at times but we know the living God. He lives in us and goes through life with us.

"You search the scriptures thinking that in them you find life and how to live it. Those very scriptures speak of me. I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. Follow me." -Jesus

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