"But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith."
At the moment I am taking a breath after spending the better part of the last week and a half leading a mission trip for a youth group from New York City and for the most part I have been encouraged by the desire that I saw in them to dive deeper into the things of God that most people fear to look into. To be honest, the only person who didn’t want to lay it all on the line and dig into the hard parts of God’s Word was one of their leaders with a Bible College Degree, but that’s a different story for a different day. We spoke of the Sovereignty of God; the return of Christ, the role of the Church, asked who are the Beloved of Christ, and much more.
In all this I was deeply moved, but there was one thing that was said that I couldn’t shake. It’s something that I have said myself and something I’m sure that you have uttered if you have spent anytime around the church. It’s a saying that is meant to be beautiful and loving. It was said the first night when we gathered together for the first time as a team to worship King Jesus and to talk about why we were there. One member of the group spoke up and answered the question, “I’m here so that I can get closer to God.” An answer that sounds so right, but couldn’t be more wrong. To be entirely honest I would even go a step further and say that such a statement is a direct attack upon the finish work of Christ
We love such statements, but if we listen to their words they sow lies into our hearts. Lies that if left alone will fester like an open wound and bring forth disease and even death. I could rant and rave until the cows come, but if there is no Scripture that stands in agreement with me I am just as guilty as the people who twist words and change discussions away from the words of Christ to their own emotions and thoughts that warm their heart and harden the same. For it must be understood that no man or institution may hold the power of God, only the words that He gave us can truly tell us who He is and who we are in Him.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to his purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
-Ephesians 1:3-14 (emphasis mine)
Do you see what the Apostle Paul is doing in the verses above? This is the opening of his letter to the Church in Ephesus and he starts with who we are in Christ. So often in the modern Church Age we mix up the order of the Gospel message. We stand to tell people what to do, how to act, and once they seem to have a handle on this we tell them who they are and how God views them. This can result in either moralism or dead orthodoxy that brings forth destruction. Many in the world today see the God of the Bible as either a loving grandfather in the sky who forgives all and looks past more or they see Him as an unruly taskmaster who drives us harder that wicked captains sailing their slave ships across the Atlantic.
All this because we have changed the God given order of the Gospel message and made more of ourselves that God has told us to. If we believe the lie that if we work hard enough we’ll become close to God, that our standing with Him ebbs and flows like the tide we will never be able to walk in the fullness of what God has called us to be, or even understand the God who has called us. For time and again in Scripture we are told that our righteousness depends not upon who we are or what we can do but upon Christ alone and what He has done already on out behalf.
If we believe the lie that we much grow closer to God and can drift away from him on account of our sins let us at least say it in an honest way. Let us say that our good deeds bring Christ closer to the Father and our sins drive Christ from His Fathers presence. That sounds crazy and almost infuriating. But so does the phrase “I just want to get closer to God.”
Let us begin to bask in the presence of the Father understanding that there are only two places we can stand with God. We are either entirely far from Him or we are completely immersed in His presence. Our righteousness is not one that comes from the sweat of our brow but one that come from the blood of our King. Let us learn to run to God when we do well, and run to Him when we fall. For this is the gospel, that all those who Christ brought to Himself will always be His. Not because we were great but because Christ placed within us the greatness of Himself.