to ceasar

This week I was reading 1 John 1. This is what hit me, verse 6.

We are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. NLT 1 John 1:6

You’re lying! You’re lying if you say you love God, have a relationship with God, and continue to make decisions to lead you to stumble into spiritual darkness.

It reminded me of Romans when it talks about how God gives us grace and spiritual freedom but we, through our choices, can destroy the very freedom God gave us.

You’re living in the freedom of God…   Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. MSG Romans 6:14-18

The State of PA has given my daughter a driver’s license. The other night, she announced that she wanted to take my van to the dollar store. Her mom and I said… sure. She left and came back safely. I asked her what it was like to drive without a mom or dad in the car. She said it was pure freedom. She said she could have just gone for a long trip.

I thought about that. She was going to the dollar store in the ‘grace of dad.’ To drive my van is to enjoy the ‘grace of dad.’ If she would have taken my van on a long trip, say Maryland, without my permission, it would have ended the ‘grace of dad.’

That’s our story. We live in the grace of God but we can make choices that lead us to ruin that grace.

1 John 1:6 impacted me. I started journaling about this and praying about it.

Why do I have all of God’s grace and spiritual freedom and yet feel tired and at times exhausted? Why do I have all of God’s grace and spiritual freedom and yet feel like I stumble around spiritually at times? And there it is, the answer: we are not practicing the truth.

Then I thought, if I know the truth, why don’t I live the truth? Why don’t I make the decision, the choice and just do it? Doesn’t it sound obvious? How stupid is it, to know how to live in freedom and not do it? Scripture puts it like this.

As a dog eats its own vomit, so fools recycle silliness. Proverbs 26:11

Think about that for a second. Don’t leave this moment. Visualize a dog licking its vomit. That’s us every time we know the right decision and decide not to do it.

And it hit me. Many times, I feel like, I’m in survival mode. I just want to make it through the day. I’m tired, there is a lot going on, I can’t do it all. Do you realize the decision you make when you are in survival mode? It’s awful. It goes something like this, “I feel so beaten down, I don’t care anymore, just get me through the day.”

When you live like this, you forfeit everything God has for you. His grace is there for you but you take the spiritual freedom He has given you and waste it. It becomes our last free act. We live in a self-made prison. And we are the ones who go to church.

Here is what happens when you live in survival mode.

Church, God and all that stuff becomes a burden. In the beginning, it’s new and awesome and life giving. Over time, if we slip into survival mode, it becomes a weird to-do list that you have to bang out. And you feel miserable doing it. Volunteerism. Making to church. We make it so hard.

Has God’s grace and mercy become a weird to-do list for you or is it your reality every day?  The point of Christianity is to EXPERIENCE HIS GRACE. Is that your reality every day? Or has Christianity become a list of rules and regulations that you have to bang out? Has it become that thing where you ‘know what church is supposed to look like?” What has Christianity become to you? Grace or a weird to do list.

Life becomes about position, power, prestige. Our image is everything. It no longer is about allowing God’s grace to smash your heart and sharing that grace with everyone in your life. It’s about doing the least possible and protecting your territory, your spot, you position. Making sure you protect your success image.

Does God’s grace continue to smash your heart or are you becoming critical of others? Romans 2 teaches that criticism is a well-known way to avoid dealing with the junk in your heart.

When the pastor asks you to read scripture, pray and journal about your heart, we hang our heads and say, “Ya, I need to do that.” We think, oh, when will I ever bang out that task? What a burden!

Does the suggestion to be with God sound like climbing Mount Everest to you?

In your relationships, you focus on what people are giving to you. You don’t have the margin in your life to think, “How can I serve them?” So our marriages are stale. Our families fall apart. Our friendships are shallow. And we desperately want intimacy and friendship but we never do a thing to engage it and make it happen.

Do you expect others to serve you, engage you, build a relationship with you? Or do you expect that you would do that for them?

This condition of survival mode will kill you. Here is why. We take God’s grace and spiritual freedom that we are supposed to experience and make it into a religion of things we have to do and we hate it. I call it, being a zombie. We are physically alive but spiritually dead.

Today I am closing the money series. I wanted to talk about this because here is the bottom line about money. Until God’s grace radically smashes your heart, the money talk is dumb. Why? Because we can take God’s principle of giving 10% and turn it into some weird task we have to bang out and it’s miserable struggle. We either feel proud of what we do or we feel guilty about not doing it. Or better yet, we create scenarios as to why that doesn’t apply to us.

What have we done? We have taken God’s grace and spiritual freedom and turned it into a religion of things we have to do.

If you are in survival mode, Jesus has a message for you.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” MSG Matthew 11:28-30

Give your life to God and take the next 30 years to learn what it means to walk with God.

My frustration I have in sharing this, is I know someone hearing this or read this and will now hang their head in guilt and say, “Yeah, I need to do that.” If you said that, you have missed God’s grace.

Listen, the whole money talk is pointless until God smashes your heart.

When my daughter came home from the Dollar Store, do you know what she did? She took her money that she made and bought ice cream for the family. Out of the purity of her heart, she wanted to love her family back. Did I require that from her? No. Did I demand she give me 10% so that she has the right to drive my van and for me to continue to love her? No. Why did she spend her own money? She knows what is mine is hers. It was out of our relationship. It was out of the purity of her heart. She gave because she loves.

Listen, God never made money a weird thing. We do that. We become proud if we give, guilty if we don’t and some even create scenarios as to why scripture doesn’t apply to us. We make it weird.

About money, do you make it weird or to you give out of the purity of your heart that has been smashed by God’s grace?