Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Danger of a Distant God

There is a sense among many Americans that God is there. He is real. Jesus died and rose again. And since I believe that, I'm a Christian.

How very, very dangerous.


As long as God is distant from my everyday choices and thoughts, He is manageable. I can appease Him with a certain level of moral living and keeping my nose clean, going to church occasionally (or, even better, regularly), and making healthy lifestyle choices. Sure, I have a bad day here and there--who doesn't?--at least I'm not going to hell...or so I think.

But something's missing. I'm not sure what. I'm not sure why. What I do know is that when things don't go my way I habitually fight or fly and feel like a coward, or worse, a failure. I see my inner evil but excuse it, ignore it, blame it on everyone else.

In my mind, God is there but distant. He knows. He sees. But Jesus died, so it's all good. Right?

No. Not right. Review the opening statements of this post: Do you believe God is real? That Jesus was a real man, the Son of God? That He died on the cross and rose again? That does not make you a Christian. That makes you a realist.

How? you ask. Think of it this way: Does Satan believe God is real? Yes. Does Satan believe Jesus is a real man, the Son of God? Absolutely. Does Satan know Jesus died on the cross and rose again? Of course. It's his living nightmare. Is Satan a Christian? Never. And he never will be. He is the enemy of the cross, the deceiver, the accuser of the brethren, a murderer and liar.

So what's the difference? I must believe Jesus died for my sin. I must acknowledge my failure and failing, throwing myself on the mercy of God because only He can save me. If I don't beg God to forgive me based on the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus for me, personally, I will bear my punishment in Hell for eternity. That sin is mine, really mine. I am responsible, broken, sinful, needy, unworthy. I cannot fix myself or make it go away. What I need is a God who is close, who not only forgives me but transforms me; a God who makes me a totally new person, inside and out. I can't live my old way of thinking and getting by. I have sold out to God. He is the only One with power and the ability to forgive. It's my way or His. And when I lay down my arms and surrender, I give myself wholly, freely, and completely to the God who made a way to restore and change me.

His good, His best for me, isn't stuff. It isn't happy moments or a sense of accomplishment and trophies on the wall. God's good, my best, is to look at life through His eyes. To see people and circumstances the way He does. To live life the way Jesus did. That is a God near by. That is a God who is intimate, who isn't afraid to get messy, who doesn't shy away from my failure and gross selfishness. This is the God who saves.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:1-13

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