I’m back in Chicago now. I’ve left home and arrived at my apartment. Roommate reunion – check. Sweaty move-in – check. Furniture assembly – check. We’re still hanging pictures and figuring out the best places for our various whisks and such. I’ve realized that I left my mixing bowls at home, along with a few other things. Thankfully, however, those things are not the most urgent.
I’ve arrived. And the natural next step is to figure out what I’m doing here. Not that I don’t have a schedule for my week and certain responsibilities and jobs, but what am I doing?
My parents and I went to my Chicago church this morning, which is always some kind of a good experience. And my pastor got me thinking about obedience. He was talking about what kind of God we serve, what he’s like and the lies the world, our flesh, and Satan tell us about who he is.
He said something that put my brain on a loop for a minute:
“God is not holding out on you.” Repeat that abut ten times, then move on.
I don’t think I hear that enough. When people talk about how God has so many rules and stipulations, I think – well, yeah, that’s just kind of the way it is. It’s good to be obedient. But I forget why it’s important.
God is not holding out on me.
He has made it clear in his word that Christians are supposed to love, honor Him, honor each other, work for justice, save sex for marriage, live in a way that draws people to Him, not steal, not kill people, speak up for the voiceless and for righteousness, and in general, be holy.
It’s kind of a tall order, and it’s kind of a lot to ascribe to. There are parts of it that I’d rather ignore because it’s a lot of work and because it sometimes makes me butt heads with people I care deeply about and don’t want to offend. Also, my nature isn’t to be obedient. I like to question rules and ask if it’s really important. Like, why do I have to not do that if it won’t hurt me or anyone else?
But God is not holding out on me. The rules and the commandments and the advice and teachings aren’t to hem me in or to bind me to a legalistic type of relationship.
He’s a giving God. That’s his nature. Romans 8 says that if God gave his own son to die for the sins of the world, why wouldn’t he also give us everything else? Why would his rules be pointless and his guidelines be insignificant? If God is so loving that he’d sacrifice his own son in order to have a relationship with mankind, wouldn’t it be small potatoes to offer blessing and peace and joy and satisfaction as the result of obedience?
We’ve all seen some kind of movie where a man is being threatened at gunpoint. Give me the launch codes to the nuclear missiles, and I won’t kill you. Then, when the man refuses (so full of integrity and honor he is), they pull his little boy out from somewhere. Well then, we’ll kill him.
This is usually the part of the movie where the father says, NO! NO! ANYTHING BUT MY SON! The love the father has for his son is so powerful that now the fate of humanity is not as big of a deal.
Don’t get him wrong, he loves his son. Jesus is a part of him; it’d be impossible for him to hate a part of himself, the perfect God. But God so loved the world, that he gave. He gave. And gives.
So when he asks us for obedience, it’s small potatoes. It’s the key to living a life of satisfaction and peace and joy and etc etc etc. It;s not hemming in, it’s setting free – at the expense of Jesus, who apparently could handle it since he defeated death in the process.
I’m not being hemmed in when God commands me to abstain from something or to go out and do something instead of something I’d rather do. I’m not being corralled into a boring or rule-driven, legalistic life when I follow the God who made the rules. I’m stepping into abundance, accepting the grace that God offers and telling him that I think his love and sacrifice merits a response.