A Christmas devotional I read ended with a prayer for humility to remember God doesn’t owe us an explanation when he requires our obedience. An alarm went off in my head. Does he really require our obedience? And what happens when we fail?
For most of my life, I thought the most important thing to God was his law and the one thing he most wanted from me was obedience. I put a lot of energy into obeying God’s law and doing it to the best of my ability. The problem was that I knew I wasn’t obeying perfectly, and I often felt guilty. I even wondered if my eternal life might be in danger.
God does want our obedience, but he knows we aren’t capable of it. Jesus was the only perfectly obedient human being and his obedience had its source in the mutual love of the Trinity. Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we come to recognize and accept God’s self-sacrificing, self-emptying love. As we grow in Christ, his great love turns our hearts to him, and they become synced to his. He shares his obedience with us, and it becomes ours.
God doesn’t place requirements on our lives. What he wants is relationship, a relationship he has invited us into, in his Son, through the Spirit. He provides all we need to be, stay and thrive in that relationship.
Happy New Year!
I read another devotional with a statement that got me thinking. The author (whose books I generally enjoy) said God has given all of us a mission in life, and we will one day have to give account of our mission and can then rest from our labors. He said: “We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.” Another well-known author talked about the assignments we receive from God. These statements, along with the oft-used God uses us, make me uncomfortable and I finally understand the deep-down reason why.
Taken together, they pull me back to my past, when I lived and breathed legalism. Each of these statements implies failure – I might not discover or fulfill my mission; I may not complete my tasks or if I do, my work might not be satisfactory; if I am being used by God, I might not live up to his expectations. I could disappoint God, displease him (see my previous posts on these topics) and then I could be in danger of losing out on salvation.
I never want to go back to a legalistic view of God. I never want to sink back into separation theology – of believing anything I do wrong can drive a wedge between us, even a little bit. In Christ, we are as close to Jesus as we want to be, and he is as close to us as our own hearts. Any idea that we are only here on a mission to finish tasks for him or to be used for assignments diminishes the relationship God wants to have with us, the relationship he created us for.
For twenty-five years, the only relationship I had as a Christian was with the law; now I revel in a relationship with my Abba God and I’m thankful he doesn’t want to use me to fulfill tasks or assignments. He loves me more than that.