Getting caught up in desiring to be righteous can be a very tricky thing. What I mean is, wanting to do what is right simply because it’s righteous isn’t going to get us very far. Believe it or not that’s exactly what the religious leaders of Jesus’s day were doing. If we are going to have genuine and pure righteousness we must first understand what Godly love is, and once we learn to apply this love, then righteousness will flow freely from us.
As crazy as this may sound, many people try to belittle themselves into being righteous, but obtaining righteousness this way will be short lived and never enjoyed. Negative never produces positive. First, you must KNOW that God loves you both deeply, and immeasurably. Then, learn to let that love flow from you to others. Once we can make these two steps a part of our daily routine, we no longer beg God to make us righteous because it will be an automatic byproduct of our peace, and not something we are trying to beat ourselves into.
Our faith is directly tied to our love for one another. The simple truth is this, If we don’t love others, we can not say that we have a deep rooted faith in Christ. Paul, in 1Cor 13:2 reminds us, “Even if I have the faith to move mountains but I don’t have love, I am nothing!” So as I ask God to increase my faith, he asks me to increase my love for others. By “others” I mean, those who are different than you, not just those in your religious circles or neighborhood.
Some Believe They Are Saved Simply By Keeping Religious Laws
As tough as this may be to come to grips with, of those who kept religious laws in order to be saved, Jesus asked these questions; “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36.
Perverting The Message Of Love
Some believe that loving others means, “to accept their lifestyle”, no matter if the Bible declares it a sin or not. This is simply not true love. Godly love is intended to turn us from a life of sin, not accept it and then call it Godly. Paul, in Romans 2:4 said this, “Can’t you see that Gods kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” To love a sinner is to help save them from their sin, not cover it up with justifications. This outrageous sin has crept into the church and perverted the message of Love. There are those among us, as good intentioned as they may seem, that have slowly perverted the message of love by accepting sin and calling a Godly lifestyle. Again I say, this is not Love! Jesus refers to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” Matthew 7:15. The true message of love is this… “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. Don’t let yourself believe that you are helping someone by justifying their sin, or they will only continue to stay isolated from freedom. However, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Love Leads To Faith
So faith is the result of love! And why is that? 1 John 4:19 sums it up by saying this; “We love each other because he loved us first.”
In Luke 14:28 we are told that before we set out on a journey it’s always a good idea to, “count the cost”. However, at some point we should move beyond “counting the cost” and start allowing the relationship to driven by love, trust, and respect.
If in marriage of 20 years either the husband or the wife are still counting the cost and asking themselves questions like, “am I still willing to be in this marriage?” Or, “am I willing to no longer be with someone else?” Or, “am I ready to start trusting my spouse?” There’s a problem! Love and trust don’t ask these questions, inexperience does.
If you’re still at the place where you’re counting the cost, it’s time for a love and faith adjustment. We need to let go of trying to see what we can get out of this relationship with Christ and start truly giving back to him. Healthy relationships trust. Do you trust God? Healthy relationships respect. Do you respect God?
Stop counting the cost and start enjoying the relationship.
I believe one of the biggest problems the unchurched have with religion is all of its rules. And let’s face it, if us Christians are being honest with ourselves, we know what they’re talking about. In my morning men’s group a friend of mine said something that really resonated with me. He stated, “Irrational changes only lead to regret”. That is so true. I’ve seen countless people come to Christ, make changes or give things up because someone else is telling them to, and then, because of the pressure to follow the rules, they end up falling away from Christ. Which leads us to this question…
Is it reasonable for God to have expectations?
In every healthy relationship changes are always necessary. These necessary changes are not, “The Rules of Relationship” but rather, the willingness to love the other person in they way they need to be loved. The same goes for our relationship with Christ. But again, is it reasonable for God to have expectations? Yes, because all love relationships do, and if we love him, we will be willing to grow into change with him. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Maybe it’s that we don’t like the word “commands”. Before getting to hung up on the word “commands”, ask yourself these questions; “what are the commands, why are they made, and are they reasonable”? When Jesus was approached by a young lawyer and asked “what is the great commandment?”, Jesus simply replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” To me, that sounds like something every good parent would require of their children. The reason it’s called a command is that it’s not optional, ever! Some say though that they want nothing to do with God because he’s an irrational tyrant. If we really look at the Bible and the requests God makes in it, his commands and punishments are really not any different than most parents. In all good parenting situations the punishment typically fits the crime. If you were to come home and find that your children had not only neglected their chores and homework, but also had gotten into a huge fight and during the scuffle broke several valuable items around the house, would you be considered an irrational tyrant for being upset and giving your children strong discipline? Of course not! When you’re in a loving relationship there’s not one scenario when love doesn’t have expectations, and when those expectations are not met, adjustments and correction are needed, and in extreme cases, demanded.
How To be a Good Christian
I will admit though, being a good Christian is easier said than done. As odd as this may sound, it’s due to the fact that God doesn’t punish us in the moment for our wrong doings. As it turns out, he typically allows the consequences of our poor choice to deal out their own blows. If we lie and get caught, people no longer trust us. If we get angry and hurt someone, we go to jail. Life punishes us when we misbehave, not God. At some point though, we just decide to stop being selfish, buckle down, and do the right thing, because that’s what the relationship is asking for. There’s an old ancient Chinese proverb that says this, “The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step” and that’s what many of us need to do, just be willing to take that first step towards a healthy relationship with God. Not based off of fear, but love. Jesus said in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Letting Go of Fear
The best part of letting go of fear and living in love, is that new ministry always becomes available to the willing and obedient. Not because obedience makes God happy, but rather the desire to be close to him will produce changes in you that will inevitably make you more healthy, and that makes God happy. There are so many people trapped in fear who don’t know how to be set free. God is needing those who understand the freedom of love to help set those captive free. Will you be one of those or will you continue to allow fear to control and dominate your life? “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8.
The Bible tells us pretty plainly, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32. However, it’s been my experience that, “sharing the truth” is not always so cut and dry. The Bible says about itself, “The letter kills but the spirit gives life” 2 Corinthians 3:6. So in other words, be careful how you use the truth because sometimes, it can do more damage than good. Not that the truth should ever be denied, but that when it’s given it’s only out of love, and meant to heal. Yesterday, I had a young man as ask if he should tell his catholic grandma that the pope isn’t really the mouth of God. I asked him, is your grandma asking you questions about God, or saying that she feels like she’s missing something? He said no, so I said then you’ll only be picking a fight if you say such things. The Bible also reminds us to “be as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove”, Matthew 10:16. It’s impossible to be harmless when your tearing people apart with the truth. If there’s ever a question in your mind as to when and how you should share the truth, remember this, the truth will always display the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.