Last time we talked about how the gospel should not put on pressure, but bring relief. Too often the message we hear or feel tells us to be better, do good, improve, strive, such that people can worry they’re not doing enough in their relationship with God.
Of course the message of the gospel is just the opposite. We have sinned, rebelled, run away from God. We have done nothing and can do nothing to make ourselves right before God, but God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He has done it for us.
The gospel is good news that brings relief.
So where, then, is the place for action? Is there not a time to “do?” Should we not encourage one another to pursue godliness? Doesn’t the Scripture give us all kinds of instruction and admonishment? Aren’t reading the Bible, prayer, giving, being a good father or husband, good things that we ought to do?
Certainly. There is a place for action. We should pursue godliness and follow the instruction and admonishment of Scripture. Reading the Bible, prayer, all those things are important. The question, then, is not whether we should do them, but rather is one of motivation. Why do we do the things we do?
To me, a great example of motivation comes from the program Celebrate Recovery. (If you’ve never heard of CR, you can check it out here. It is a great program, one from which anyone can benefit.) One aspect of CR is something called an “inventory.” This is something you do specifically within the 12 steps of recovery, and also something you do regularly as you progress in your recovery. Basically it’s like a list of questions you ask yourself to see how you’re doing.
Maybe you’ve heard of something similar in church. Our church was working on some “metrics,” a list of questions people could use in evaluating their own relationship with God. Am I living like I need God? Do I have a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus? Am I serving? Am I giving? In church, though, at times I couldn’t help feeling that what the metrics gave me was either a feeling of pride at how good I thought I was doing, or a feeling of discouragement at how far I was falling short. Neither seems helpful.
In CR, however, the motivation to do an on-going inventory is entirely different. People in recovery have been down the road of sin and selfishness far enough to know it’s a road they don’t want to be on. And they know that if they don’t continually evaluate, if they don’t ask themselves the hard questions, if they don’t pursue recovery with a passion, they will end up back in a place that they know ends in death and destruction.
Should it not be the same for us? Maybe the path of sin hasn’t taken us down as far but we know that the path toward Jesus leads to life! Let’s run down it! Reading our Bible reminds us what God has done for us. Prayer is our petition of God and our recognition of our need of Him. We give because it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.” We selflessly share and do for others because “whoever wants to save his live will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
We don’t need to feel is pressure that somehow our relationship with God depends on what we do. What we don’t need to feel is fear that if we mess it up God may abandon us forever. We can feel relief at what Jesus has already done for us. We can feel peace and joy at knowing that God is with us forever, that we can’t do anything to make Him love us any more, nor anything to make Him love us any less.
And we can feel a desire to not go down the road of sin and selfishness, not because God will abandon us there, but because sin will leave you lonely, discouraged, and empty.
Whether you realize it today, tomorrow, or after you’ve “gone through hell” in this life or the next, Jesus is the path to life. Follow Him.
One day everyone one will.
And that is really good news, really.
Check out Celebrate Recovery! There is a meeting somewhere near you.