There is a bumper sticker that I see occasionally that says “Jesus is coming. Everyone look busy!” At first it annoyed me that someone was making fun of the second coming. But then I began to realize how much it might say about American Christianity and our busyness for God. Take this as an example.
There is a common trend in blogs, articles to focus on the 5 steps to something, 6 ways to get something or 10 ways get something done. I see this on Christian Blogs too. Who wouldn’t want to learn “7 Ways to Pray More Effectively” or “3 Tips to Finding Joy in Your Life”? Even I once wrote a blog post entitled “10 Things to Remember about Marital Conflict“.
It seems to be something with human nature. Many of us are curious to find some shortcut or easier way to do things. And many blogs/articles know this, so they offer you quick tips and solutions to attract your attention. However there are some situations where this approach just isn’t biblical.
Those situations are when the articles include subtle suggestions that biblical maturity or “sanctification” or your relationship with Jesus is all about finding and applying the right “tips”. Or maybe you just need to try harder.
More serving, more memorizing, more prayer, more bible study, more podcasts, more witnessing, more generosity, more Christian self-help. And who doesn’t want to have some of that? So, why can these good things go bad?
They go bad when they focus you and I on doing things that negatively affect our relationship with the Holy Spirit. We get so involved in doing good things for God that we really don’t have time to hear or meditate or confess or just be still and rest.
Plus, let’s be honest about these types of “more!” activities. All of them can be done by someone without any relationship with God. We know that because of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-33.
So suppose you see an article entitled “How to Love Jesus More in Just 7 Days!“.
Wow! I need to do whatever that article says! Especially if it comes from someone who has written some popular books! Even better, I might lose some weight too!
So I dive in and as I read the article, I find that there are 14 things to do. So I start applying those 14 things. By week one I’m actually doing one of them consistently. Good for me! Or is it?
Am I getting off-track when I approach spiritual intimacy this way? It’s one thing to find a better way to do laundry. Go for it (isn’t cleanliness next to godliness?). But it’s a completely different thing to apply this approach to our sanctification. Why?
The risk in doing something like this, is that it can result in us putting a veneer of godliness over our self-will and self-righteous living. Even if we are sincere, we will be prone to feel pride about our accomplishments and then deny the power of God to work in us.
So how do we filter out the “just try harder” meme that seems to be so popular these days? We would be wise to remind ourselves that we didn’t save ourselves.
It sounds great to tell others that “When I was 12, I decided to follow Jesus”. But was it really that simple and did you do the heavy lifting? The Bible says we are dead in our sins so I think it happened more like this. Ephesians 2:1-3
First, God chose you before the creation, then Jesus died for you and then the Holy Spirit used dozens of methods to get the attention of your cold, dead, hard heart. You were clueless. Heading to destruction. Not able to turn your life around. But, God was at work. Ephesians 2:4-9
He kept using various people, circumstances and His word to get into your heart. You may have thought you were doing well on your journey of self-expression, but you were headed away from God and His blessing. And then suddenly He stepped into your life and did all of the hard work to adopt, cleanse, forgive and fill you.
It wasn’t that much about you and me looking for new life. In reality, some of us didn’t really care what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, because we had it all figured out and didn’t need his help. And some of us had decided “Jesus was just alright!” and we were going to work hard for him and prove we were worthy of salvation and heaven. But most of us were gamblers. We hoped God graded on a curve and we would be better than Hitler when the final grade was awarded.
Regardless of your delusional thoughts, you were actually “saved” like everyone else. Like Paul on the road to Damascus. You were doing your own thing and God showed up. What happened at that unplanned moment was a miraculous rescue mission authored and empowered by God. So that means you and I get no credit and no room for boasting about our spiritual birth.
Despite our thoughts to the contrary, we weren’t smarter, more spiritually sensitive or more righteous than anyone else. You were just loved and pursued. So if that is the way our relationship with God started, how does it continue?
Maybe, now that we are saved it’s time to get to work! After all, “if it is to be, then it is up to me!” as someone once said.
Uhhh, not exactly… but that is a great question. So, let’s try looking at God’s word and see if we can sort this out.
If you need to be busy-busy for Jesus then we don’t want to hold you back. In fact, you are probably already behind on your quota and need to get started asap. Ephesians 2:10 Philippians 2:12
And if you just need to let Jesus take the wheel, there’s no reason to break a sweat when you can just “rest in Jesus” for the next few decades. Hebrews 4:1
And if there is a third way, we want to look at that too!
What are some ways I’ve been tempted to “work” for God?
What price do people pay when they get caught up in working for God?
What am I doing now that looks good, but might be motivated by fear or pride?
Is my intimacy with the Holy Spirit increasing, flat or decreasing?
Am I prone to working or resting with God?