It’s starting to be that time of year with all the commercials for gyms and exercise equipment. Whether it’s the Bowflex, Mirror, Tonal or something else, they’re great at speaking to something deep within us that wants to improve. They show images of people who are very fit and strong using the equipment. They promise that we can look like that too if only we will commit to a few minutes a day. We identify with the end result of how the person on the screen looks, so we purchase them. We start out with great intentions of using it, but by a month or two in, it becomes a very expensive clothes hanger. We loved the end result, but struggle with the daily application.
One of the scariest Bible verses to me is Matthew 7:22-23. Jesus said, “On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’” (TPT) My immediate thought when I read that is, “Lord, I don’t want that to be me.” He describes someone who acts like a Christian and does things for Jesus, but in the end, they missed something. He then goes on to tell the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders to illustrate this point, and it all comes down to application.
Jesus said in verse 24, “Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation.” just like the exercise equipment there’s a big difference between the person who identifying with the end result and the person who applies the exercise daily to their life. Those who identify with Christianity (the morals, good living, etc.) but never apply the Word of God to how they live are like the foolish builder and are the ones whom Jesus will tell that He never knew. The ones who don’t just have a form of Christianity, but have the relationship with Christ through prayer and spiritual disciplines will be like the wise builder with an unshakable foundation whom Jesus knows and recognizes. Each of us have the daily chose of identification or application. Choose wisely.
I’ve studied and taught DISC for years. When you see a DISC logo, it’s usually in a circle. It’s broken up with lines going north and south, as well as east and west. The letters on the top of it represent outgoing personalities and the letters on the bottom are indicative of people who are introverted. On the left side, the letters are personality types that are task focused, and on the right represent people focused individuals. My letter falls on the top right. I’m an extrovert who is people focused. I get my energy from being around people and enjoy working with a team rather than individually. What my wife has found is that I will sacrifice tasks if given the opportunity. If she needs something done, she makes a to-do list and I’m pretty good at knocking it out. Tasks are easy for all of us to relate to. We have a set of things to do. It’s defined, clear and appeals to our goal oriented nature.
In the Garden of Eden, God had a relationship with Adam and Eve. They walked in the garden and talked, but when they sinned, it hurt the relationship. Fast forward to when the Israelites left Egypt and were in the desert. When God met with them on Mount Sinai, they preferred not to have a relationship with God even though He had just rescued them. Exodus 20:19 says, “They pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, ‘You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die’” (MSG). They were afraid of relationship. Moses went up to talk with God and came back down with the Ten Commandments. It was a task list of how to behave. We, like them, tend to gravitate to a check list approach to Christianity instead of the relationship God wants to have. We often pull back from Him and try to make it into Heaven by following the checklist of behaviors we’re to exhibit forgetting that the work has been done and a relationship is all God wants.
I wish I had space to incorporate all of Galatians 3:11-12, but here’s a portion of it. “The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way…Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping.” Task oriented Christianity does not lead to relationship. You can’t sustain any relationship by following a check list. You must know the other party in the relationship, know their heart, understand their motives and be vulnerable if a relationship is going to be healthy. For these reasons, many of us allow our fear to have us pull back and stand at a distance from God, but He’s still there waiting for you to enter in. He’s waiting for you to draw close. He tore the veil when Jesus was crucified so that you could enter in and know Him yourself. Spend time in prayer today building that relationship rather than offering God a checklist of things you want. He prefers relationships to tasks.
I’ve had some very different bosses throughout my working life. Some of my bosses could be referred to as micromanagers. They would give me an assignment, then breathe down my neck the whole time. They wanted it done their way or I would get in trouble. It was stressful and not very fun to work for them. Contrast them with some other bosses I’ve had that were overseers. They would hand me an assignment then back up and let me work. If I needed anything, they were always available to answer questions or give me feedback. I always felt like I thrived in that environment. I knew what was expected of me and I was able to do the work in a way that made going to work fun.
When Jesus walked on the earth, the religious leaders had made following God a lot like those micromanagers. They had a set of rules you couldn’t deviate from or they would call you out and embarrass you. They had their interpretation of living for God and forced everyone else to try to live that way too. It was burdensome and difficult. Contrast that with Jesus who took all their regulations and said they could be summed up by loving God and loving people. If they did those two things well, the rest came pretty easily. He removed the burdensome yoke of the law from our necks. In Matthew 11:28-30 He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear” (TPT).
God is not a micromanager giving you a heavy load of regulations that’s impossible to bear. Christianity is not a bunch of “Thou shalt not’s”. Instead it is a spiritual oasis where we join our life to His and learn to love Him and others. He forgives your past and has given you permission to heal from it. You don’t have to live under the constant condemnation of you you were. In Him, you are a new creation. The old life is gone and He has created a new life in you. I love that He said in these verses that He’s easy to please. You don’t have to live under the stress of constantly fighting for His approval. He loves you, approves of you and has lifted your old burden that was weighing you down. It’s time to live in that approval and enjoy the relationship with Him that He offers.
One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.
One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.
Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.
We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.