It’s easy to let your spirituality slip. We become so busy that the next thing we know we have stopped praying, studying, and sharing our faith. We have the name of Christian but in reality our outlook, actions, and belief system is not much different from our non-Christian neighbours.
Throughout the book of Judges we are constantly reminded that the children of Israel had forsaken their calling to be God’s witness in a pagan world, and instead had become like the people around them. Instead of reflecting God’s grace, love and blessings to their culture they absorbed the culture and “did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
As our Bible study groups wind our way through Judges it becomes clear that contemporary Christianity is the modern day equivalent to the Israelites. We call upon God when things go badly for us and as soon as things begin to turn around we go right back to the old practices. It unfortunately seems that we have a relationship with God as long as it is advantageous, but as soon as something comes along that catches our attention we abandon God.
As we were contemplating this we began to talk about the Gospel and the wonder of God’s grace. Let’s be honest, the love that we have for family and friends is conditional. No matter how much I love someone that person could conceivably do something that would eventually cause me to stop loving him or her. We all have a breaking point where we say enough is enough and move on. We might feel sorrow and despair but the love that kept the relationship together becomes so broken that it is impossible to heal.
Only the love of God is unconditional. Every time Israel stumbled, rebelled, rejected and turned from God they soon found themselves in trouble. Once in trouble they called out to God to deliver them, and God did just that—He rescued them.
Over and over they threw the garbage of their wasted and broken lives into the face of Jesus and over and over again He kept on loving them. Now here is the amazing news, even though we do the same as Israel God continues to love us and rescue us in spite of our rebellion and indifference.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Have you ever sat down and contemplated this verse? God “demonstrates” His love. He doesn’t just talk about it or say that He might love us if we are good enough or do all the right things, but He walks the walk. He demonstrates His love for us by trading places with us and taking the full weight of the wrath of God against sin upon His shoulders so we could walk free.
Furthermore, He didn’t do this after we got to be good enough to save, or based upon our repentance. He did this for us while we were still in rebellion. Can you begin to wrap your head around that?
Let’s put this into terms we might be able to grasp a little more fully. Say your neighbor who causes you no end of grief needs a transplant of some sort and by some weird coincidence you are the only person in the city that can be donor—what would you do? This person is ungrateful, hates everything about you, even denies your very existence as a neighbor and has never asked you for anything. Now here is the kicker, this neighbor doesn’t even know that you are a match for a transplant and would probably be mortified to think that he/she might have one of your organs transplanted into him/her. Are you going to donate the organ?
I’ve though a great deal about the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross for me while I was yet a sinner. But here is the point I want to make, I’m still a sinner and the cross still covers me. Have you ever thought about that? It is one thing to know that while I was in rebellion against God that Jesus died for me so I could have the assurance that salvation is mine if I simply accept it. It is another thing to know that now that I have accepted grace and live in the knowledge that I have a relationship with God that I am still a sinner and He still loves me unconditionally.
Let’s get back to my little analogy again for a moment. So you decide that you will go in to the hospital and have the operation and give the organ so that your hateful and despicable neighbor can live. Now for a few months after the operation he is somewhat modified in his/her relationship with you. The person even invites you over for a meal and thanks you for giving the gift of life to him/her. But as the weeks turn into months and months into years the neighbor slowly drifts back into the old habits of finding fault, lying about you, and of making your life difficult. To complicate things you have started having problems, an ache that doesn’t want to go away, in the place where your organ was removed. And your neighbor? Not a bit of trouble, the transplant was an absolute success for him/her.
Are you still glad you gave the organ so the other person could live? Israel would cry out to God for an organ transplant (in a metaphorical sense) whenever the pain of living their rebellious lives became too difficult. God would deliver them from the pain and suffering of their own making only to see them eventually turn away from Him and drift back into the old ways of sin and indifference.
That is us as well, isn’t it? We drift in and out of our commitment to God depending on everything from our mood, to how busy we are, to how well we are feeling on any particular day. But the wonder and marvel of grace is that God’s unconditional love never wavers like that—it is constant regardless of our response to Him.
I love Jesus with all my heart, but I am weak and easily drift away from God if I don’t keep remembering how much He loves me. When I read my Bible I am reminded of His love, when I pray I enter into that love, when I fellowship with other Christians I experience a sense of His love. But it is at the communion table that I acknowledge His love and my absolute need for His love. It is there that I recognize and admit my failures to be anywhere near the person I long to be, but it is alright because God acknowledges me, through His Son Jesus.
What a joy to know that it “was grace that saved a wretch like me,” and “taught my soul to sing.” When I focus on my failures or attempt to be the perfect person I would love to be I will always fail. When I turn my eyes upon Jesus my heart wants to burst with thankfulness, love, joy and wonder that He would ever love me—but He does.
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…