Wednesday, February 23, 2005

God or Santa?

I admit. I have a real problem with the following concept:

"Let's find out how to live as God wants so He can fill our lives with blessing!"

Many reading this already recognize it. Its quite popular. It is masked in many different marketable materials. Purpose Driven Life is one of them. I usually have a hard time articulating exactly why I have a problem with this, and other Christian invariable question me and probably think I am just being a stick-in-the-mud naysayer. I was pointed to a new conference coming out soon called "Reaching the Heart Experience" ( I don't know much about the conference, but I read this in the description and thought to myself, "YES!"

"Once we know God through Christ, the most natural thing in the world is to live in a way that we hope and pray will result in the blessings we want. We try to "get it right so life will work". But that's what Paul called the Old Way of the written code, and it's wrong on two counts: one, it values blessings from God over friendship with God, and that's idolatry. It's coming to God and saying "stack the presents under the Christmas tree. If you show up too, that's fine, but it's not necessary." Two, it cheapens the demands of the law into a set of principles; if we follow those principles "reasonably" well, we assume God will see to it our lives work "reasonably" well.

"But God's demand is perfection. Only Jesus passed the test. Now, in His death and resurrection, "...we have been released from the law to serve in the NEW WAY of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6). With the Old Way gone, we have the opportunity to know God better in the middle of every situation, good or bad, wonderful or terrible, and that is the FIRST THING desire in the regenerate heart. The longing for every other blessing (good kids, good health, good income, good ministry, good reputation, etc.) fits into the category of SECOND THING desires. Living with first things first and second things second is the New Way to live."

I think that is pretty dead-on. No, its not bad to want to live in a way pleasing to God. But it is very wrong to think you can or think that in so doing you can extract blessing from God. It is also very wrong to assume that "some" obedience to the Law is "pretty good". If we wish to be judged by the Law, then go right ahead. Paul reminds us that "cursed is everyone who does not obey ALL of the things written..."

To think that anyone should live, as a believer in Christ, expecting that if they try harder they can obtain blessings they desire from God is understandable, but still silly. This is not to say we should go ahead and live as we once did. No, we should live as new men because we are new men, as Paul tells us in Romans 6. We have died with Christ.

To those who still insist upon this type of thing, I ask one question, "if God declared that He would not grant us blessings at all until the day we die, would you still be so concerned with living in a way that is pleasing and Christ-like?" Shut up and accept the fact that any blessing we receive is a free gift from a gracious God. Accept the fact that you may love Christ as ardently as you can, but God may still send hardship your way -not to punish you, but to work "all things for good" (Rom 8:28), bring about His purposes, and conform us each into the image of Christ. Accept these facts and live in gratitude and joy because of it, with an eye on the prize that was won for us by Jesus our Lord.

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