It seems that in our culture following certain principles of Christianity are more than acceptable, as long as Christ remains in the background. We want unrestricted freedom, but our very nature is restricted–we have limitations. Consider the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6, “…give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
Give us. Forgive us. Lead us. Deliver us. We need the Father to sustain us. We need him to keep us alive, keep us healthy, take away our sins, and keep us out of harms way. The beauty of the gospel is that what we need has already been bought for us. What we can’t do on our own, Jesus has done. All he’s asking is that we honor and love him in return. But we’re deceived into thinking that we don’t actually need what Jesus has done on the cross, so we tend to take his principals, but don’t take him…
For example: I will be kind (if the person I’m being kind to can help me climb a social latter). I will love (those who love me first). I will forgive (if it’s convenient and doesn’t cost me too much). I will go to church (as long as I don’t have (school) work to catch up on or I’m not too tired). I will pursue holiness (as long as that means I can still date who I want and do what I want with my body). I will pray (as long as God gives me what I ask for). All of these things are good, but going about them conditionally is just morality, which by itself is not the gospel. Morality points to our ability, it doesn’t point to Christ. We are more sinful than we realize and are therefore incapable to do anything good apart from Jesus. Without Jesus we cannot honor the Father.
This is no easy task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given into particular sins because I genuinely felt like following Jesus or pursuing holiness wasn’t worth it. But then I read Psalm 34:10- “The young lions suffers want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
I firmly believe that my generation loves authenticity. We love the idea of pursuing (seeking) something so true to oneself that nothing can stand in the way of going after our goal. We love it when what we’re doing or pursuing gives us a sense of fulfillment and is ultimately satisfying. So what do I do with this truth: Jesus is the most satisfying.
Initially, that’s a little scary because there A LOT of really satisfying things out there and sometimes Jesus feels so far away, so wispy, so tertiary. But in fact, He is central, sustaining everything good we could ever experience. You see, I think a lot of the reason we want Christianity and not Christ, the reason we want good things, and not the one who gives us good things, is because we don’t know how to properly look at Jesus. Further, we don’t know how to look at the Father, the giver of the beautiful gift we have in Jesus. We are afraid of what we may see, and even more so, we are afraid of what will happen if we give up “control” of our lives.
Even though I know it’s not true, I too often tend to believe that Father is out to get me, seeking to punish me. As His daughter, the opposite holds true. Luke chapter 12, verse 32 tells me that I don’t have to fear because “it is [my] Father’s good pleasure to give me [His] kingdom.” Ephesians chapter 2 tells me that even when I was dead in my sins completely ignoring God, He saved me and made me alive with him because he is RICH in mercy and loves me with a GREAT love. Romans chapter, verse 4 tells me that “God’s kindness is meant to lead me to repentance.” So you see, the Father isn’t out to get me at all, He’s not out to get any of us. He wants us.
We can’t have Christianity and leave Christ in the background because Christ is the very gift the Father has given us as a means to live out the principles of Christianity. Jesus is our example of how to love, how to pray, how to forgive, how to worship, and how to depend fully on the sustaining power of the Father. We need Jesus in order to have access to the Father. We need Jesus because we are too sinful to stand before the Father on our own. We need Jesus because with Him, we have something we cannot lose; we have something that is strong enough to gratify our deepest of longings: to be loved. We need Jesus because with Him, the Father looks at us in delight and says, “My beloved child. You are mine. I love you…”
[Father, thank You for the gift of your Son. Thank you for loving me enough to send your Son so that I might forever be united to You. It was a costly gift that has brought me to life. I don’t deserve it, but you are a good, good Father. Jesus, thank You for being everything I could ever need or ever want.]