When you come to the end of your life and stand before God what question do you think He will ask? None of us know for sure, but I believe God will ask us, “did you believe that I loved you?” Now I know God doesn’t have to ask us anything since He is all knowing, but I’m simply trying to make a point. Our relationship between God and us is based upon His love and our acceptance of His forgiveness, grace and goodness.
Over the years I have noticed that most people who reject God reject a God that is man-made and not the God of scripture. Let me explain what I mean. I grew up in a denomination that had an overemphasis on Christian living and church standards. For many young people growing up within that church denomination all they knew about God was a series of rules and regulations. Most young people could tell you the do’s and don’ts of the church, but few could talk about their personal relationship with the God who loves them. When these young people grew older they rejected the church and walked away from it because they saw it as irrelevant and out of touch with their world. When I talk to those people who walked away from God in their teens I’ve noticed they are still frustrated and angry with the God of that particular denomination. For them God is still the God of “you can’t do that”, but the tragic aspect is that many of these people have moved so far away from God that they now are bitter against Christianity.
What would happen if, as Christians, we taught God loves you unconditionally? What if we could say to the broken and defeated people of this world that God cares for you and that love He has for you is not based on anything you can do or be, but instead upon His overflowing desire to see you happy and live for all eternity? What if we went on to tell people that this gift of being free from the burden of guilt and sin and the offer of eternal life are all free? What would happen if we said that all people have to do to receive these unfathomable gifts is to believe God loves them and took the penalty of sin upon Himself so they can have freedom and newness of life?
Since all the questions in the previous paragraph are true and we can state them in all honesty, then the greater question is why don’t we invite people to know the God who loves them with all His heart? Over this Christmas season I have been thinking about this question and I am not sure I like the answers to that question.
What if for some churches the desire to see people accept Jesus into their life is not as important as becoming a member of that particular church? The church benefits when people join because there are more offerings, the pastor has another baptism under his belt, and there are new workers to keep the church structure functioning. I know this is a bit cynical, but I believe it is true in many cases. Have you ever wondered why some churches have very distinctive doctrines, teachings and standards? Is it because their church is more blessed than other churches, or the people of those churches are smarter than other people? I don’t think so, and regardless of how dedicated the church is to those distinctive teachings those teachings keep people from church shopping, because the member in the pew believes that only the church he/she is attending now has the truth.
I don’t think any of this is intentional or planned but the very nature of how churches function causes the problems. When we tell teenagers that wearing jewelry is displeasing to God and makes God sad what kind of message are we portraying concerning God? The young person looks around and sees everyone else wearing jewelry and comes to the conclusion that everyone else in the community is either hurting God or there is something wrong with what the church is teaching them. Either way the person is left confused and upset with the church and God.
Let me ask one last question, what would happen if our goal in life were to introduce people to the God who loves them and that they could love back? I know there are people who are reading this and are jumping up and down in frustration with me for making the gospel so simple. They are saying that I have cheapened the Gospel and made it sound like there is no need for Christian growth. What I am saying is that when a person knows the God who loves them their heart is filled with joy and they live a life that is not rule based, but Christ filled.
This coming year l am going to encourage as many people as I possibly can to get to know the God who loves them and that longs for their love in return. I want to introduce people to the God of the Bible who died for them that they can have eternal life. Is there anything so horribly wrong with that?