Saturday, August 10, 2013

And the Pendulum Swings . . .

I grew up in a pretty legalistic environment. Everything was wrong from music that had emphasis on the wrong beat to skirts that were above the middle of the knee.  Strict, blind obedience was highly valued, asking questions to understand was rebellion.  So I played along, and I pleased the people.  The problem with this was that the goal they were shooting for was pleasing God.  I don't blame the environment too much because they were trying to create an environment safe from sin.  Unfortunately, God is concerned about our hearts.  He wants the behavior to be a result of a heart change not a rule change. 

When I moved to South Florida, I began to understand the freedom of grace and how much God loves me.  Without realizing it, I had developed an understanding of God being this big guy in the sky who loved me so much that He was waiting for me to step out of line so He could punish me. I began to learn that God really does love me.  He wasn't waiting for me to step out of line so He could punish me.  I began to grow in the knowledge of God's love for me.

And the pendulum began to swing . . . I went from a god waiting to punish my every move to a god that doesn't really care what I do.  It is funny how when the pendulum begins to swing, it is hard to stop it in the middle.  So it swung hard to the other side.

Over time, God has shown me that He truly does love me.  He is more concerned about my heart motives than my actions . . . however, my heart motives will control my actions.  He is concerned about my heart motives and the actions that result.  My pride will make me do things that seem good on the surface but are extremely fleshly . . . for instance, all of those years of following all the rules.  I wanted people to think highly of me, so I followed the rules:  pride.  I looked good to everyone around me, but it was all rooted in pride. 

The truth that I have to remember is:  GOD HATES SIN.  He cannot coexist with it.  He loved us so much, that He sent His son not only to die a painful death, but more importantly, to take on the sin of all mankind for all time.  He separated Himself from His son.  He put on His son the one thing that could separate them . . . so He could make a way for us sinful people to be with Him.  Jesus wasn't so concerned with the pain and agony of dying on a wooden cross (lesser men have sung praises to God as they were martyred).  He asked for the "cup to pass" (Matthew 26:39) to not have to be separated from His Father.  He knew what that really meant (Matthew 27:45-46). We don't get it. 

Side note: As I looked for a picture of Christ on the cross, many of the pictures were gorgeous with sunsets and beautiful clouds.  This painting seemed more realistic.  The sky was black in the middle of the day, and I often associate God's anger with thunder and lightning (though not necessarily; just an association that many of us make).

We sin and think little of it. Every time we sin, we should remember that Christ died and was separated from God for that "little white lie" or that slandering of another person or that envious heart, etc.

So what is my bottom line?  We serve a God Who loves us and demands holiness.  The love isn't all feel good, flowers, chocolate, cuddling . . . it is the deepest form of love there is.  Don't make God's love out to be similar to the way I love Reese's Peanut Butter cups or the way we see love on tv.  It isn't the same, but He does love you so much that He made a way for you to be with Him.

May you know the love of God more and more today and for eternity . . .