Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My conclusion

I've been putting off this post for so long, it's finally time I get it done.

In case you haven't noticed from other posts over the last year and a half or so, I've become disillusioned by christianity as an organized religion, or as a traditional institution. While I still cling to my Christian faith wholeheartedly, I've struggled for years with christianity as a religion. I've never really been able to appreciate the set-in-stone traditions. And I've always rebelled against the structural legalism of most churchs.
And what has this left me with?
A faith that, more often than not, judges others for their shortcomings, faults and favorite sins, condemns myself for my own favorite sins and leaves me feeling like I need to do better if I want to be in God's good graces - even though I've always known in my head that these things were wrong.
What has changed in the last year and a half?
Over the last year and a half I've had the opportunity to spend time with some rather unlikely friends. People, that had you told me a year and seven months ago I would be spending so much time with, I would have laughed in your face - just before I punched your lights out. And, yet, over the last year and a half, these people have become some of my dearest, most treasured friends. Any one of whom I would gladly sacrifice my own life for.
You see, over the last year and a half I have learned what it truly means to love unconditionally. I have learned what it was that Jesus wanted us to learn from His very life and death. I have learned to see the potential that people possess, not to see their flaws. I have learned not to judge people, because I can't know what they've been through, what they're going through, or what God might be dealing with in them in their own life. And it has shaken me to the very foundations of my faith. And that's a good thing.
I mentioned the legalism of the church above because this has always been my biggest stumbling block in getting to where I am now. I always knew so many super-spiritual Christians who seemed to never fail in their daily walk that I believed it was possible to live without sin in my life. And to listen to what so many churches teach, that's what we're supposed to believe. But this is a lie from the very lips of Satan himself.
As long as I believed that I should be living a perfectly, sin-free life, I believed that that was something that was attainable by anyone who was willing to really try - even though I never could seem to get it. So I always held people up to a standard that nobody could ever reach - not even me. And even though I knew I wasn't reaching that goal, I still expected others to - or to at least be trying as hard as I was.
It was killing me!
It was killing everything about me. My faith, my hope, my love, my relationships were all dying because I couldn't let go of the legalism that I learned from institutional christianity. And nothing I tried could restore life to these things because I just didn't have it inside of me.
What didn't I have inside of me?
God's love. The overwhelming, immeasurable, inconceivable, unconditional love of my Creator. But even more than that, I didn't have the grace to believe that He did love me with such immeasurable depth. I didn't understand His grace.
So, after a year and a half with some wonderful, dear friends, I finally get it.
What if Paul was right when he said that we're free from the law?
So, I don't have to worry about sin anymore. Not my sins, and especially not yours or anyone elses. If Jesus truly nailed them to His cross, then they're not an issue to Him anymore, either. So why should I allow them to get in the way of my relationship with God, or with my friends, or with you, or anyone else?
And what about the legalism of the church?
Didn't Christ come to set us free? How can we be free if we're going to bind ourselves up in the law again? Isn't that something else that Paul warned us about, that if we're going to get stuck on one point of the law, we have to obey it all? Can any of us do that?
Thank God we don't have to.
What I have learned is very simple, and some of you might disagree with me on some of the finer points of what I'm about to share, but I think you'll appreciate the jist of what I'm saying.
Sin is no longer an issue to God. Jesus died for all of our sins, all at one time. Past, present, future, all of them. They've all been nailed to His cross forever, never to be brought up on our account ever again.
The law no longer applies to our lives. We are still expected to be obedient to God. But I'm convinced now that He only asks us to be obedient to the specific calling He has placed in each of our lives. I am convinced of this because it wasn't for breaking any of the laws that Moses was forbidden to enter the promised land. I am convinced of this because it wasn't for any violation of the law that the kingdom was taken from Saul and given to David. It was because of their disobedience to what God had told them to do directly. I am also convinced of this by the simple fact that Abraham never had the law, yet he believed God and was considered to be righteous because of that belief. And I am convinced of this because, even amid their own sinfulness, the heroes of the Bible - people like David (who was an adulterer and murderer), Samson (who was a promiscuous drunkard), Peter (the brash loud-mouth who denied his best friend), Paul (who persecuted and approved the murder of the earliest believers) - all found themselves being used mightily by God any time they called upon Him. Just because they understood His love and grace.
Now I sit here and I contemplate what's next.

What if Jesus was telling the truth when He told His disciples, "Whoever is not against us is for us"?
What if Jesus was serious when He warned us that not everyone who calls Him Lord would see his kingdom, but only those who did His father's will?
What if God really meant it when He told the prophets that His will is for us to act with mercy, justice and compassion above all else?
What if He was serious about pouring out His Spirit on all flesh?
What if He intentionally left out any qualifiers so we would know He meant it for everyone - no matter what their belief system?
What if Jesus really seperates the sheep from the goats based on whether they've acted with mercy, justice and compassion towards others?

Where do I fit into all of this?
I have heard God's calling in my life for many years. I know that He wants me to act with unconditional love towards all those He brings into my life. And by unconditional He means that I should love whether that love is ever reciprocated or not. He means for me to love even if I never get to see the end result of my efforts - no matter what those end results are. He means for me to be Jesus to everyone I meet. So much so, that even if I never say His name, everyone will still know that Jesus was there - inside of me, acting in and through me.
I know that God has poured His Spirit out on me and upon the others of whom I've spoken. I have seen miraculous things happening in and around us. I've had glimpses of people, places, and things that God is planning on doing in my life, and the lives of those around me. And I've had people prophesy over myself and my dear friends for what God wants to do through us.
I will be obedient to my calling from now on.
I will love unconditionally.
I will give generously.
I will use the gifts that God has given me.
I will do my best to be Jesus to everyone, everyday.

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Blogger One Wink at a Time said...

I read a little more than half of this. I'll make it my nightly homework, if you will; read, digest, question.
For right now, I need a little more explanation of "legalism."
Hope you get some good feedback on this.
You should sleep even better tonight, having gotten this out!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Alpha-1 said...

not exactly the heretical preaching that I was promised!! not sure i agree with it all, but im not sure what you mean by some of it. you might be talking apples and Im thinking oranges.

Legalism like everything else is only bad when it gets between you and God. If you have rules (like I do) that put a hedge around you and God that is Good legalism, if you have a hedge that seperates you from God that is bad legalism. There are very few things in this world that completely good or completely bad. but then thats just my 2 cents. and like I said we may be saying the same thing just using different words. I look forward to talking about it with you.

11:12 PM  

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