Just not “good enough”

Bill and Sue (pseudonyms) are good people. They are well-educated, productive, moral persons. They have well-developed social consciences, are sensitive to the issues of the day and are engaged with the world in which they live. They are a pleasant, engaging couple that I would welcome to be my next-door neighbors. I’ll throw this in – they are good-looking, too. Their lives would be the envy of many.  And, they are without any apparent relationship with God. Bill is an agnostic, Sue has no professed faith.

In days past, when Christians thought about sharing the Gospel of Christ with people like Bill and Sue, the approach immediately went to eternal destiny! 50 years ago, I was trained to find a way to put the question into the conversation – “If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?” I did not like it then and I dislike even more now. Trying to frighten people to know God by talking about death, doom, and Hell’s destruction does not really work. The question is brushed off by most today as irrelevant anyway. The idea of living forever is not at the forefront of the minds of people who have learned to ignore and sanitize death.  The Good News of Jesus is much more than a ‘get of Hell’ card so why make it about that?

Another approach is to try to get Bill and Sue to ‘go to church.’  “You’ll love the people.”  “It’s a great community.” “We have a great kid’s ministry.” “Our pastor is really caring and gives good sermons.” Hopefully all that is true, but we all know that the Church is not a perfect place. Flawed people go there, too. Like every other institution, the Church has been plagued with scandal for the last 40 years, too.  Getting Bill and Sue to church will be difficult and isn’t the answer. Millions of people sit in church buildings every Sunday but they are unchanged and untouched by the life of the Spirit. There must be more than ‘going to a church’ that bears a holy Name.

The Gospel of Christ Jesus speaks to our deepest human needs. Those needs are not more things, bigger bank accounts, or even a safer world. When we are alone with our thoughts, when we have reached the limits of satisfaction that can be found in another ‘thing,’ an experience that gives us pleasure, or even the love of another person – we long for more. Those questions that we manage to ignore in our youth surface more often as mid-life approaches. “Why do I exist?”  “Am I just a conglomerate of carbon-based atoms that is deteriorating slowly?”

The Good News of Jesus speaks directly to those questions. Hopefully, those of us who claim to be His followers demonstrate the reality of the faith by living differently as a result of knowing Him. If we are not authentic about who we are and who He is in us, if we are merely religious without a meaningful sense of worshipful relationship, whatever words we attempt to share with Bill and Sue will be, to use the Bible’s language, “meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Christ addresses the needs that are part of everyone’s life – even those who are affluent, who are living well, who enjoy health, wealth, and security. What are those needs?

Know God.

God placed eternity in the hearts of mankind. When we pause to think, when we shut off the noisy world,  we know that there is ‘more there.’ The cry of a baby, the majesty of the mountain, the roar of the ocean, the whisper of a summer breeze, the beauty of a flower, the exquisite joy of love, are all declarations that we are more than just a highly evolved natural organism.  Though Bill and Sue may not use the word, they seek to worship;  be it admiration of beauty or devotion to some cause. Christ satisfies that longing by opening the way to know God.

Find Freedom.

Nobody wants to feel that they are out of control, that something owns them.  But, we know innately that we are not completely free. We sense that forces bigger than ourselves hold sway over us. Christ Jesus offers freedom – the freedom of truth, freedom from habits that control, freedom from shame and guilt. The Christian community should be the most liberating place on earth, a people of God who are free to live ‘life to the full,’ as Jesus promised.

Discover Purpose.

Human beings want to live ‘on purpose.’  Christ teaches us that we are made to know, to love, and to serve God. When our efforts are formed by the desire to know Him and to make Him known, we become better people, better in our work, better in our love, better parents, spouses, citizens. As Christians let’s not allow our amazing purpose “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”  {Westminster Confession) to be turned into lesser things – like being political activists, or trying to advance the agenda of some party, or to elect a President. We have a high, holy calling to bring God’s Presence into the visible world with bold love. How that calling finds expression is amazingly different as the Spirit leads us and equips us to do the will of God.

Make a Difference.

People want more than a legacy, more than to be remembered as a ‘good person.’ And, through Christ, as He is invited to live in us, to change us into eternal beings of beauty and wonder, we find those opportunities. The awful tragedy of so much of our modern Christianity is that it is made into something far too small.  We settle for symbolism and tokenism, unwilling to make the personal sacrifice that allows God to use us to really make a difference in this world. But, where we abandon our love of Self to embrace Christ’s call we become people whose lives “spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”  (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Baseline, we can never, on our own, be good enough for God’s approval.
But, we can know the One who makes us whole, Who leads us to life – now and forever. His Name? Jesus.

Here is the word from the Word. IF you are a Bill or Sue (and you’re still reading, thank you) consider the offer made by God through His Son. If you are Christian (and you’re still reading, thank you!) do not live a lesser life than is offered us in Him.  These are wonderful words of life. 

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you.”  (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)

__________

Reckless Love

(worship with this song about His love)

Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me

You have been so so good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me

You have been so so kind to me

O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God
O it chases me down fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it I don’t deserve
Still You give Yourself away
O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God

When I was Your foe still Your love fought for me
You have been so so good to me
When I felt no worth You paid it all for me
You have been so so kind to me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Caleb Culver | Cory Asbury | Ran Jackson
© Watershed Publishing Group (Admin. by Watershed Music Group)
Bethel Music Publishing
Richmond Park Publishing
CCLI License # 810055

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