I was going to call this “Oops, I did it again” but that would have been too 90’s and would have sparked all kinds of unpleasant flashbacks.
Sometimes I envy people who have just given their lives to Christ. I mean, obviously it just gets better and in most respects I’m so glad I’ve known God for a few years. But when you just become a follower of Jesus, you have this…intense, vivid sense of his love for you. Nothing else matters and the world melts away because of the absolute clarity of his love. And you know that he loves you because of who he is, not because of anything you do – meaning you can’t ever do enough to deserve it, but you can’t do enough to make it fade, either. When you give yourself to Christ, and if your heart’s desire is to really follow after him, your sins are gone. When you come to him, he knows what sins you will still commit; he knew when he died for you on the cross and rose again; but he still loves and accepts you, because he is love.
But somehow I kind of forgot this. Or…not forgot it, but forgot how significant it is. I got caught up in the faith by works deal…which, aside from defeating the point, makes you burn out pretty freaking fast, because you’re trying to be perfect and only relying on human strength to be perfect. Which, as all of history and the Bible and everything in the world ever proves again and again, is impossible.
Doing good is good. But if doing good doesn’t flow out of your love for Christ, then it’s frankly meaningless except for short term results. And when we as Christians do this out of our own strength, after having tasted the energy and vigor that the Holy Spirit gives to us, we burn out. Really fast. As for me, when this happens, I tend to fall back. I’m not talking drug abuse or anything overtly, obviously, outwardly wrong. I’m talking neglecting to read my Bible, neglecting to pray, and bringing issues God has dealt with in my life back into existence – self consciousness (and therefore selfishness), apathy, and so on.
As Christians, the love and blood of Christ is everything. It is our food and water, the blood in our veins, the beat of our hearts, the breath in our lungs. We depend on it completely and all of our actions, thoughts, and words are influenced by it. By him. So when we turn away from that and start trying to do things in our own strength, it’s the equivalent of trying to run a marathon while holding our breath. In short, it doesn’t work. But luckily for us, God knew even this would happen; he knows that our society and the world since its beginning is based on earning and “getting what you deserve.” He knows it’s difficult for us to accept that his love is free; all he requires is all that we are. Which is probably why this little bit was included in the Bible:
“Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:34-35, 38-39
Jesus is probably the most radical revolutionary figure in history, because he wasn’t trying to overthrow one system within a system. He overthrew the entire order of the world. Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). The least will be the greatest (Matthew 20:16, Luke 9:46-50). No one can earn salvation or God’s approval by what you do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Infinite grace, and available to anyone, whether prostitutes, murderers, thieves, law abiding citizens, arrogant people, cowardly people, lazy people (Mark 2:13-17, Luke 7:36-50). He turned it all upside down. And he loves you more than anyone could ever fathom (Proverbs 8:17, 1 John 4:7-21, the whole Bible).
The point is, this is actually very simple. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27). The rest will flow from this, and God will work it out.
For more on this, check out all of Romans 8 and 9.