Every Christian knows we are saved by grace, that we can’t earn righteousness in God’s eyes. We know it, and we laugh at the silliness of someone trying to work their way to heaven.
But then, far too often, we catch ourselves trying to earn favor with God, trying to earn God’s approval, striving to work our way into God’s good graces. Ironic, isn’t it?
Brennan Manning, one of my all-time favorite authors and speakers, gives us some critical insight into this.
(Transcript below the video.)
In the 48 years since I was first ambushed by Jesus, in a little chapel in the Allegheny Mountains of Western Pennsylvania, and in literally thousands of hours of prayers, meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced that on Judgment Day the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question,
“Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?”
The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus, I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it.”
But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our churchgoing, are gonna have to reply, “Well frankly, no, sir. I mean I never really believed it. I mean I heard a lot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact, I gave quite a few myself. But I always thought that was just a way of speaking, a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on.”
And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land.
No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love, but at the same time no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us.
Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.
Remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in His own image, and man returned the compliment.” We often make God in our own image and he winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow-minded, legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, and unloving as we are.
In the past couple three years I’ve preached the Gospel… (all over the world) … and honest to God, the God of so many Christians I meet is a God who is too small for me, because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says,
“I have a word for you.
I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now, I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship.
And my word is this:
I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never gonna be as you should be.”
This is our rendition of the Lifehouse “Everything” drama our youth performed for the wonderful people of the Dominican Republic. Not so easy to see what’s going on, but they did a great job!
Can you identify with any parts of this girl’s story? Have you run to Jesus for rescue?
What an amazing way to take in God’s creation. Captured as a time-lapse movie, this is absolutely breathtaking. Be sure to watch it in full screen.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
Psalm 19:1-6 (NLT)
What message has God’s creation spoken to you about your Creator?
This should give you some warm fuzzies or goosebumps…
Here is a succinct summation of what really matters:
Now if you and I can just unpack what that means in our moment-to-moment daily lives!
This was one of the last songs they did at the Orange Conference last week. Beautiful.
What lyrics do you find most powerful?
I love this clip from the movie “Hoosiers.” Coach Dale wants his assistant coach, Shooter, the town drunk, to be ready to step up in case he ever gets kicked out of a game. So Coach makes a risky move: when the game is on the line, he puts Shooter on the front line, forcing him to make the calls needed to win the game.
This is no practice. This is the real deal. Shooter fails; team loses. Shooter succeeds; they get a ‘W.’
You can see almost see the thoughts forming in Shooter’s mind when Coach gets kicked out: “How can this be happening? Again? I can’t handle this. I failed miserably last time. I’m not Coach. I’m not able to do this.”
It’s almost identical to what I imagine was going through the disciples’ minds as they watched Jesus ascend to heaven. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives his disciples their final instructions: carry on his mission of making disciples. And then he leaves. He takes himself out of the game.
Why would Jesus leave the most important task in human history in the hands of… humans? We are unqualified and incapable of carrying out this mission on our own. We are the town drunk, sitting on the bench, afraid to speak, afraid to move, watching the final seconds of the game slip away, putting our head in our hands in defeat.
We may look in the mirror and see the town drunk, but Jesus Christ looks at us, His Church, and sees potential and promise. And he did not leave us on our own, he left so the Holy Spirit could come. The only thing that’s changed is then the disciples walked alongside God-in-the-flesh and now we walk with God-inside-us.
This is no practice for us either. This is as real as it gets. Success for us is walking in step with the Spirit, being obedient and faithful to what He calls us to do. Let us do our best to succeed because there is much more on the line than a simple basketball game.