I'm going to CBS (Community Bible Study) this year, and we're just finishing up a study on the book of Hebrews. So the question asked us to write out some differences between the covenant of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament. Of course one of the differences is that the priests of the old covenant had to offer sacrifices repeatedly for sins. Jesus, on the other hand, offered one sacrifice, Himself, for all sins for all time. And somehow the words came out of my own mouth to add to the discussion, "It's done. He has done the work."
How obvious is that? How many times have I heard that before? How many years have I taken communion to celebrate that very truth? And yet when I said it aloud last week, it hit me anew. It's done. He has done all the work. There is nothing left I can contribute to the relationship, except to rejoice and love Him.
How is it that we manage to make this simple, glorious thing hard and burdensome? I don't memorize verses. (Bad!) I don't pray enough. (Bad!) I don't wake early to have regular quiet times. (Bad!) I am not in a small group. (Bad!) I am not involved in Christian ministry. (Bad!) I don't share the gospel enough. (Bad!) I don't give time to the prison ministry. (Bad!) I don't tutor underprivileged children. (Bad!) I don't visit nursing homes. (Bad!) I overeat. (Bad!) I under-exercise. (Bad!) I drink Diet Coke. (Bad!) I eat sugar. (Bad!) I don't give enough money. (Bad!) I don't keep a budget. (Bad!) I do use credit cards. (Bad!) I like Harry Potter. (Bad!) I listen to deep theological types and I come to understand how deficient I am in my understanding of God, yet my obdurate heart refuses to yield to any broader understanding. I remain common and stupid. (Bad.)
STOP. Please stop. It is finished. HE has done the work. Let us rejoice and love Him.
I reread a post I wrote last July called "Beauty." Wow, was it good! (Did I write that?) You should go read it! ;-) But I ended it with a challenge: do I dare to believe how He loves me? It will change my life if I allow myself to believe it. He loves me and He has done all the work to make a way for me to be with Him. Dare I believe it? Because that's the whole enchilada. That's what it's all about. It's not about how I love Him, it's about how He has loved me. And it's not about how others love Him, it's about how He loves them. If I understand that, everything else, my love for Him, my actions, my understanding, my love for others, will all fall into place of its own accord.
Our pastor, Bob Shirock, spoke on a similar theme this morning at church. One thing he talked about was how we Christians have a well-deserved reputation in the world as harsh, condemning and unloving. We're known more for what we oppose than Who we support. As a result, the unchurched of the world have less a problem with Jesus Himself than they do with His people. (After you read my post, you should go listen to Bob's teaching: oakpointe.org, teaching from February 5, 2012.)
But I would take it even one step further: not only do we Christians beat up unbelievers, we beat each other up just as soundly. I'm a believer, and I find Christians hard to be around. Of course I have Christian friends, a hand chosen, rather select group. But, sadly, for better or for worse, I've been much happier since I've learned to steer clear of Christians when they collect en masse.
One step further yet? Many of us beat ourselves up! What does that tell the world about the attractiveness of Christ?
Where am I going with this? I am only trying to say that all this mess falls away when we remember, it is done. He has done it all. Let us celebrate HIM wholly, forget ourselves, and more importantly, forget passing judgment on others. Again, it's not about how I love Him. It's all about how He has loved me, and how He continues to love me everyday.
Here is Charles Spurgeon's devotional. It is wonderful. Take the time to read it!
The love of the Lord. ~ Hosea 3:1
Believer, look back through all your experiences and think of the ways in which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness -- how He has fed and clothed you every day; how He has tolerated your bad manners, put up with all your grumbling and all your longings after Egypt's pot of meat; how He has opened the rock to supply you, and fed you with manna from heaven. Think of how His grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles -- how His blood has been a pardon for you in all your sins, how His rod and His staff have comforted you. When you have thus looked back on the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ's covenant and blood have something more in them than the past. He who has loved you and pardoned you will never cease to love and pardon. He is Alpha, and He will be Omega also. He is first, and He will be last. Therefore, remember, when you pass through the "valley of the shadow of death" (Ps. 23:4), you need fear no evil, for He is with you. When you stand in the cold floods of the Jordan, you do not need to fear, for death cannot separate you from His love. When you come into the mysteries of eternity, you do not need to tremble, "for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). Now, soul, is your love not refreshed? Does this Scripture not make you love Jesus? Does a flight through the unlimited plains of heavenly love not inflame your heart and compel you to delight yourself in the Lord your God? Surely as we meditate on "the love of the Lord," our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.