I have to clean myself up. I need to stop sinning with as much effort as I can. I need to press deeper and further towards God so he will accept and love me more. So that my salvation will be assured. That I may be presented holy and blameless before God.
Am I clean enough?
Gee, I wonder if I will be presentable? I wonder if all I am doing is enough? Am I cleansed of all my sin? How do I know? What if the end comes and I still have some bits and pieces I forgot about? Have I saved enough people? Have I dropped the 'G-bomb' or 'J-bomb' enough for it to be counted as acceptable evangelism?
But I'm scared to share the gospel. Love God and clean yourself up or else? Is that the real gospel message? That's not good news. That's awful news.
As Jesus entered the rabbinical arena, people noticed something unusual about this teacher. He kept teaching the law, but he smacked the 'law ball' out of the proverbial stadium. He was offending the Rabbis and Sanhedrin left, right and centre.
For example, Moses told people not to commit adultery, but Jesus said even if you so much as think a lustful thought regarding another that you've already committed adultery in your heart. Are you going to clean yourselves up from sin? OK, chop off your hands and pluck out your eyeballs. This is the basic message Jesus brings—thrilling!
Help! This sounds too hard!
Was Jesus making this really difficult? Was he attempting to frustrate us so that we would try and act perfect? Or, that we might purge ourselves until we are perfect? Was he revealing to us a God that cannot tolerate mistakes? He sounds terrifying and unpredictable!
Jesus is letting us know that our efforts, our walls and our self-purification methods are futile. You cannot clean yourself up before God. Try as you may, you will never meet the assumed standards. That sounds depressing right?
Jesus meets the standard for us. He is the final word on the law and has become the completion in our complete inability to meet the standard. Within God's overwhelming love for us, he makes us aware of his infinite grace and forgiveness through Jesus.
The Law says, 'You cannot do "this"'
Jesus's love and fulfilment says, 'You won't want to do "this"'.
The exhaustion of works is the start of revelation
Robert Capon writes:
'We slip into the stupor of imagining there are things we have to do—some additive of religious works we have to put into the gasoline of grace – if the gift of God is to get its work done in us. And the sad thing about it is that we'll scour the New Testament... for every moral requirement and religious 'condition' we can find in order to slap a behavioural surcharge on our free acceptance in the Beloved'.
I was hearing 'God is love. Jesus loves you'. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I understood it to some degree, but I didn't really feel it. Somewhere along the road of faith, understanding God and the development of my own personal doctrine I thought I had to clean myself up, which in turn led to false repentance out of fear and necessity: Works. Legalism.
Perhaps I was taught that salvation and God's love and acceptance of me could be 'on the line' if I stepped a foot wrong. I believed God would be angry with me if I didn't behave myself and be a good girl.
This led to self-effort and fear, and eventually led to me giving up almost entirely out of exhaustion and frustration. This was the fruit of works and legalism displayed in my life.
When I realised God's love for me it was overwhelming. It came as a gradual revelation only around nine months ago. It took my breath away for weeks and it still does!
But it had taken my whole life, thus far, to realise it in its fullness. God had to slowly deconstruct my false understanding of him before he could unveil me to his love and acceptance, no matter what I did. God is still revealing the fullness of his love to me. So far, that's a 37 year journey.
God pours out his love constantly
Dan Robins writes in his book, 'When I was walking (home from church) I asked God what would happen if I experienced His love, but forgot by lunch time. And He said to me, "If you forgot my kiss by lunch then I would kiss you again and again and again!" God loves to pour love on you again and again and again'.
I commit this little story by Robins to my heart. God never stops loving for one moment to be angry with you. If you've been taught about an angry, impatient and vengeful God who wishes to punish you, I pray that God reveals to you his never ending love and always proactive passion reaching towards you.
The flavour of faith is rest. Resting in his love and acceptance of you: just as you are.
Then, watch what God does in you.
Belinda Croft has been writing for Press Service International since 2010. She lives in Melbourne with her husband Russell and their three children. Her passion for understanding the things of God in simple ways, social justice and news issues influence her writing style.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html