Many of my friends have been talking and blogging about a recent sermon that was preached on 1/6/08 at my church – City Church of East Nashville. It involves Rachel and Leah, deception and intrigue, redemption and betrayal. It is a story from the Old Testament… but we find Jesus woven throughout every account.
There is much to ponder… which is why I am just now writing. And though I am still sorting through it all… there is one main thing I have gleaned from this so far: As a believer, I have spent so much of my time trying to prove that I love God. If I’m honest about it… and I’m compelled to be honest right now…. so I better write it down fast…. because in 30 minutes or so I may regress back to painting good pictures of myself.
As I was saying… I am a “people pleaser”. For me, it can be a profession, a science and an art. And that can be debilitating. Especially when I throw God into the mix. Not only am I trying to show people how “holy” I am… but I’m trying to convince God, too. Whether it be by my good deeds, or religious rituals, or spiritualizing my conversations, saying the right things at the right time, etc… all are an attempt to gain someone’s favor. All of this may simply be an attempt to get closer to God, to be thought of as a better person, to feel better about myself. Even a pursuit of spiritual maturity, if you may. There is nothing wrong with most of the above practices… until I’m doing them as a means to glorify my spirituality. Which is simply piousness.
Many Christian circles encourage us to go, “Whomp up a good love for God”. Sin less, do more good deeds, follow the rules, etc. But how is that possible? We will fall flat on our faces, even on our best day. But I have fallen into that vicious cycle… to which there is no resolve, and no end.
So yes, I’ve had it backwards. My holiness is a result. A fruit. It’s a response to God’s love for me. Or at least it should be. Genuine holiness will be. Because it’s not about how much I love God, but how much He loves me. He said it first and best. So, I’m not left hangin’. Have you ever been the first to say, “I love you” to someone? What’s supposed to be a statement, sounds more like a question. There’s usually that lilting sound in your voice that’s really saying, “Please say it back! Don’t leave me hangin’ here… I’m so vulnerable!” But, God has said it to me, first. So, I will never been left vulnerable. I will never be left hangin’. I will never have to wonder if He loves me back. I can only ever say, “I love You, too.”
Wow. If I actually lived like I believe that… imagine what would be possible? To quote Pastor Craig: “Show me a church that is committed to being loved by God… and I’ll show you a church that can make a true difference in the world.” Amen!
God’s love for me. A mind-numbing thought. Because one, I am totally not worthy. And two, it takes the power out of my hands. It really, with the exception of being a recipient, takes me out of the picture. I can get no accolades. I mean, I can’t show everyone how great I am because of the grandiose love I’ve concocted for God. No, it’s pitiful at best. And I can’t really brag that the Creator of the universe, the Lord of lords, the God of all grace loves me... because, well, I pretty much don’t deserve it. The only reason He loves me is because He loves and adores His Son… and His Son lived and died, and lives again… in order to eliminate all my crap and make me perfect, holy, blameless before His Father. Actually when the Father looks at me — He sees the perfection of His Son… and yeah, I so didn’t have anything to do with that… Jesus is the one who secured me… and carried me into the loving presence of the Father.
I’m not a resolution gal, really. But this year – the Great 08 – I hope to resolve to do one thing – above all other things. I want to persevere in good works, helping the poor, advocating for children, seeking justice… but to do all that in response to God’s love for me… not as a means to earn it. I resolve that I would not seek the accolades of man. That people would not look at me and think, “She must really love God”. But rather think, “She is truly loved… and man, so am I.”
If I keep going I will surely butcher this message even more – so please go give a listen… and be loved.