I remember befriending a catholic gentleman in southern California, obviously I was trying to get him to come to my church, but he was stuck. He had gotten divorced years ago and because of that he was told that he would be going to hell, but he couldn’t leave the catholic church otherwise he would also go to hell. I tried to tell him that he had nothing to lose, but his conscience just wouldn’t let him do it. A victim of a religious version of “Stuck in the mud”.
Look around on Sunday’s and you will see the same dynamic at work. Throughout the week we haven’t quite lived the “Life” that we should have, we screamed at the kids, maybe did a business deal that was a darker shade of grey, looked at a website we shouldn’t have etc. and now we are back at church to make right with God. We feel like we let God down or ourselves down and so we spend worship trying to get our priorities right, singing praise songs, giving thanks and then if we have engaged wholeheartedly we try to connect with God in that intimate moment during worship.
Then the sermon happens and we get tons of advice on how we should live, what we need to change and what we should be doing differently in the week ahead if we want to be world-changers. You go home hangout with family and friends and then Monday happens and the cycle repeats itself. How hard is it to break out of this cycle? Maybe you think I am a bit cynical, maybe, but I know this was true of my life and I think true of many other believers too.
Here is the thing, that cycle I described seems very similar to the way the Jews lived in the Old Testament. To add to that it seems to me that with all the gimmicks in much of Western Christianity that people are getting tired of the superficiality of those gimmicks and so there has been a real interest in returning to our roots. This is a good thing, but what I have seen is that instead of people finding Jesus in the Old Testament, they just seem to find legalism.
From my perspective this is one starting point, but there is another, rooted in the person of Jesus, his relationship to Father and his work on the cross. This second starting point could be called Grace, but I would like to call it Gift. You see the relationship we try so hard to earn in the first starting point, is given as a gift in the second starting point. Before the cross people called God “YHWH” not even being able to put vowels in his name, after the cross we are given Jesus relationship with God and we can call him “ABBA”.
To start living after the cross in the Gift of Jesus, is to not be disqualified from this intimate relationship with Abba. It means to live a life of not sacrificing for God but rather celebrating with God. It is to move beyond being moved by guilt or obligation to being moved by the tender whisper of Abba. To obey not out of duty but to obey because you have grown to trust the lover of your soul. To repent of sin not to draw close to God but because it is it’s own punishment, and to love not out of duty but because it is it’s own reward.
So these are my thoughts at the moment, would love to hear yours…