I'm reading a book called "Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge, about reawakening the soul to the real story God has for us, the real life God intends for his people to live.
In one passage, where the author is talking about the importance of the heart, and how it is the heart where we really do our deep thinking about what what's important to us, and how the heart is the connecting point, the meeting place between any two people, he writes, starting with a quote,
'By worshiping efficiency, the human race has achieved the highest level of efficiency is history, but how much have we grown in love?' We've done the same to our relationship with God. Christians have spent their whole lives mastering all sorts of principals, done their duty, carried on the programs of their church....and never knew God intimately, heart to heart.
In the heart is where we cherish the things we love. The things we feel and hold to be true in our heart override the cold logic of reason. Its in our hearts where we fine the things that truly motivate our lives. Our hearts need to be alive, not cold and dark.
This past week I spent with Alene in Mendocino has been very motivating for me. The Christian men and women we met, and the way the Holy Spirit moved in our hearts, all served to reignite in me a love for God and a love for my fellow travellers in a real, deep, heartfelt way.
I'm weary of programs, techniques, regimines, and rules designed to help me "experience God". I'm weary of the performance we often put on for each other, the game faces, worrying about whether I'm good enough or doing enough or reading enough or staying out of trouble enough. I'm tired of the barriers and borders we place on ourselves as we seek God.
Helping each other be 'better Christians" does no good. Obeying rules of "Christian living" is useless. Clearing our lives of "wordly things" is a waste of time. We can never be 'better Christians" by doing any of these things. We may have a clean house, but that's about it. These rules and regulations do no good, because they wrap us up in exactly what Jesus was trying to get us out of .
Instead, Jesus came to set the captives free! He came to bring living water to those who thirst! He came to bring full and abundant life, not just in the next life, but in the life that NOW is, here, on earth. Mind you, not an easy life, not a simple life, not a perfect life, but an abundant, meaningful, adventerous life!!
That life is found not in "being better" or "avoiding temptation", or "reading my bible every day, and having quiet time with Jesus". These are all things that have a place in our lives, but they are NOT OUR LIVES!
That life is found in loving God, and allowing what it means to let Jesus be "Lord of my life" to get down deep, into our hearts, and then letting that heartfelt passion change our lives! Paul said, if you believe "in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead" you will be saved. Not an intellectual belief, which is actually only an acknowledgement of the information we've been given, but a heartfelt passion which changes your life.
The rules and regualtions we pile on ourselves keep us in Christian bondage. Freedom in Jesus means leaving those chains behind, and living in the full-on freedom Jesus gives us. Freedom to do good instead of evil (if you fill your days going good, evil will be left behind). Freedom to love instead of hate (if we all loved each other, who would there be left to do any hating?) Freedom to live fearlessly, instead of living in fear (perfect love casts our fear after all, right?).
What we think about God in our hearts - not intellectual thoughts but those gut wrenching, real, deep down in our hearts where we don't talk about it much thoughts - how we imagine God really is, affects everything about how we act, how we think, and how we live.
If we really believe in our hearts that God is a loving God, then we will be free to love. If we really think in our hearts that God has given us eternal life, we'll be free to live unafraid of dying. If we really think in our hearts that God will give us "our daily bread" then we will be free from worrying about tomorrow. If we really believe in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins to make us right with God, and was actually, really ressurected from the dead, and is now with God preparing a place for us, how can we ever live with fear, doubt, or uncertainty about our life again?
If we really think in our hearts that God is distant, not really interested in me, and I don't think I'm good enough to do anything for God, we will live our lives feeling discontent, unmotivated, and unloved.
Freedom! Can you see it?
That's what I want, and what I want for every person!
Freedom not just to be kind and gentle, though those are good qualities. Freedom not just to be patient and faithfull, though I should strive for those. Freedom not just to have peace and self-control, though these are the wonderful fruit of a life lived in freedom. No, the "fruits of the spirit" are not things to strive after, things to grasp, because in trying to exhibit those qualities in our lives, we remain in bondage to the effort, one which we can never accomplish! All of the things we're told to avoid, and all of the good we're told to do are unobtainable on our own!
The fruit of the spirit, and the absence of those things we're encouraged to avoid, are all evidence of a life lived freely in Christ! I don't want to be better, I want to be "good", the way Jesus is "good", looking like God and living in freedom from sin, but a slave to "goodness". I want to live a life unable to do anything but what is good, because that's what God created us all for. All my efforts to "do good" count for nothing, but living with passion for God, loving Jesus from my heart, will change and reorient my life so that "goodness" is all I can do! That goodness comes only from God, not from my own self, so its nothing for me to boast about. But it IS something for me to take great joy in, joy in the gift of freedom from my very loving, powerful, wild, untamed, uncontainable, but very GOOD God!