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.”