Sometimes, just sometimes things come together in such a way that they zap you between the eyes...
Today I saw this from Naked Pastor;
I am left wondering how many of us see God like this, as a manipulative and controlling selfish deity who demands too much from us. Certainly I know from simply chatting with folk on a daily basis that this is how the message of the church is often heard.
Yes, yes I hear the cries of protest, but just stop and ponder the image for a while ask yourself why guilt or transferred guilt are so often expressed or worse suppressed within the culture of church, and that feelings of guilt and a sneaky suspicion that they aren't healthy are amongst the things that drive people away from church. So I found myself left with a question, do we substitute performance for sacrifice?
Let me unpack that a bit, do we feel that we have to live up to a certain standard, do we strive to do it and feel guilty when we fail, do we attempt to look right and be right and "do" right? Do we carry in our head a list of expectations of what it means to be a good Christian? Do we feel that in order for God to accept us that we must live up to these?
Now I know again that there will be cries of protest and people will point me to Jesus sacrifice on the cross and declare all of this unnecessary... BUT I want to suggest that what we know and how we behave don't always match up, and that there is something about our human condition that wants to "get it right" and refuses to accept that we can't do it. Worse still corporatelywe subtly place demands upon one another to conform to what we understand a good Christian should be, and worse still so often it is so much a part of us that we don't know we are doing it...
Then I saw this:
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
11 The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But Christ offered himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now he is sitting at God’s right side,[a]13 and he will stay there until his enemies are put under his power. 14 By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God.
15 The Holy Spirit also speaks of this by telling us that the Lord said,
16 “When the time comes,
I will make an agreement
I will write my laws
on their minds and hearts.
17 Then I will forget
about their sins
and no longer remember
their evil deeds.”
18 When sins are forgiven, there is no more need to offer sacrifices.
Encouragement and Warning
19 My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place 20 by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself.
21 We have a great high priest who is in charge of God’s house. 22 So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24 We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.
I was reading in preparation for preaching this weekend when vs 18 18 When sins are forgiven, there is no more need to offer sacrifices... quite simply leapt out at me!!! Of course I know it, I preach it, but how often I have to ask myself do I accept and live it. I realise once again that on my own I don't and can't live up to or into the person that God calls me to be, but the wonder is that with him and by the power of the Spirit I can.
Now I don't want to turn this into a full blown preach, but I ask the question about performance and sacrifice simply because I think that we cannot truly get our heads around the amazing truth that God is for us. I think we want to earn our way into God's affections because we too often want our own independence and we want to say that we have done it. How challenging is it to let go secure in the knowledge that we are loved and there is nothing we have to do but receive it? I suspect we find it very challenging, but there lies the way of freedom...
God does not say I love your therefore, he simply says I love you....