I’ve invited people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
Today’s post was written by Norm Mitchell. You can connect with Norm via his email at norman.mitchell.iii [at] gmail [dot] com.
Mercy vs. Sacrifice (part 1)
God clearly desires a close relationship with people. Just like old testament Israelites fell back on their sacrifices and religious practices rather than pursuing a relationship with God, many Christians today do the same thing. They go through the motions of what He’s commanded without doing anything to deepen their relationship with Him. They listen to weekly lectures and sing along with the worship songs and put some money in the offering plate and think the’ve satisfied God’s requirements for us. Then they turn a blind eye to (or God forbid, even actively participate in) injustices, both in society and in the church. They look at fellow believers and at the non believers around us with a critical eye instead of a compassionate one while avoiding putting any effort into pursuing a close relationship with God.
Although it leaves us spiritually hollow, it seems easier to do the religious check-in-the-box thing and not put any serious effort into building our relationship with God. After all, relationships are hard work! I find myself doing this in my marriage at times. It’s easier to hand my wife my paycheck and say, “Here. Go to the grocery store. Get some school clothes for the kids, and I’ll go mow the lawn.” That seems so much easier than sitting down and listening to a detailed description of how my wife’s day went, and then taking my girls to the playground, and then having a tea party with them. But living that way isn’t really living. It’s going through daily motions that never provide satisfaction.
But didn’t Jesus say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light? I know it’s true, but it has seemed counter-intuitive to me and I’ve have a hard time believing it–or at least grasping the reality of that statement.
Remember what it was like to be in love? I mean really head-over-heels in love? Not the quick peck-on-the-cheek, “Have a nice day, Dear” kind of love. But a truly passionate, I’d-do-anything-for-you-and-want-to-spend-every-minute-with-you kind of love. With that attitude, is anything really difficult? Not one bit! In fact, I think we’d be willing to do anything at all just to maintain that sort of a relationship. Now I realize that no relationship can be based on feelings, but a truly deep relationship will manifest itself in every area of your life and will be truly satisfying.
I think that kind of mindset/feeling/lifestyle is what God desires for us. He has demonstrated the fullness of His love to us, and in return, wants for us to have a passionate love for Him. I think that if we loved Him like that, He’d fill us with an exuberance for life and a love for other people that would far surpass the feelings we have when we are in love with another human.
How do we get there? I don’t think that more effort is the key. I picture myself trying to patch things up with my wife and saying, “There! I washed the dishes and picked up my socks. Now what are you going to do for me?” You can’t build a relationship simply by service.
Several times, when I’ve said, “I love you,” my wife has asked me, “Why do you love me?” I’ve thought about it, and said, “I really don’t know.” She’s pretty, but I don’t love her because she is pretty. She’s a good cook, but I would love her even if she couldn’t cook. I like her fun, outgoing personality, but I like other people’s personalities also. All I could come up with, is that I love her because she loves me. True love is a really contagious thing.
I John 4:19 tells us that “we love Him because He first loved us.” The Bible makes 2 things abundantly clear:
1. God loves us.
2. We can’t have a relationship with Him without accepting His Son, Jesus Christ.
There was nothing we could DO (no sacrifice we can make) to enter into a relationship with God. He only accepts us because He looks at us and sees the righteousness of His Son that is now attributed to us. Even after we are saved, there is nothing we can DO to deepen our relationship with God. There is no formula. There is no checklist. There is the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Which falls right in line with God’s plainly-stated, old testament requirement to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.” Every other directive falls under those two commands. Do “good works” ever come into play? Sure. If you are truly IN LOVE with your Creator and Redeemer, the “good works” will be a natural part of your life as the love of God flows through you and spills over to touch everything around you. There would be nothing you wouldn’t do for God because you value Him so much that you wouldn’t think that any service done for Him is too much or unreasonable.
Romans 12:1 commands us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Paul tells us that it’s reasonable to give Him every part of us. At first glance, it sounds extremely difficult and costly. But if we look at this verse, and at God through eyes of love, then yeah, I guess it’s the most reasonable thing in the world.