Okay, before I even begin this next post on grace, I have a confession. As we continue to explore the concept of grace and all of its applications in the life of a Christian, we’re naturally going to be going down the path of some pretty intense theology. Yes, that’s my confession. This series on grace is actually something a lot of us don’t even consider… theology.
So what is “theology?” It’s simple: the study of God. The very idea of it is offensive, isn’t it? After all, how can we mere humans begin to comprehend the incomprehensible? Who are we to put the divine under a microscope? But wait, dear friends, there’s hope. You see, I’m a blonde. That means for me to even begin to write on a topic, I have to have a grasp on it… and if I’m a blonde, then it’s got to be pretty simple.
For a moment, let’s adjust that definition of ‘theology’ for a moment. If we were to replace “study” with “fascination,” all of the sudden the concept of theology becomes a lot more palatable for the rest of us. It ceases to be something that only those who have advanced degrees debate over behind lecterns in academia. With this series, I hope to bring the topic of the theology out of the libraries and into the playgrounds… after all, Christ has called us to be like children, hasn’t he?
The Church has really complicated the idea of grace hasn’t it? Please note that whenever I capitalize the word “Church,” I’m referring to the entire collection of churches, denominations, and sects that call themselves Christian. I’m not referring to any specific institution, but rather a collective (Star Trek fans will recognize that word all too well…trust me…the apparent allusion to the Borg is quite intentional).
However, the Church claims it hasn’t complicated anything at all. After all, “grace” means “unmerited favor,” right? Isn’t that pretty simple? Well, of course it is, unless of course you start throwing up the asterisks and fine print. We’ll have “unmerited favor” as long as we dress like 1950s conservatives, never drink, sleep in twin beds, drive five miles under the speed limit, and never, ever discuss anything to do with sex. But they’ll watch hockey, boxing, and football… sports that are sometimes as violent as any barroom brawl. Go figure.
Unmerited favor, indeed.
Previously, I asked the question of whether or not grace was a “license for sin.” I touched on something that I want to spend a little more time on:
With grace, it’s not the law that keeps us from sin, it’s love. If we truly love God, then our desire is to show our love for Him in all ways. If we truly love Him, then we love those whom he loves. Grace then takes its full effect. Liberty then takes root. Yes, we have complete freedom in Christ. But when our hearts are so captured by grace and love, then our desire is God Himself.
In the midst of a long discussion of whether or not grace is a license for sin, this point has gotten completely lost. Most of us have been told that ‘desire’ is a bad thing, and that we must squelch any and all desire that would dare creep up into our lives.
But what if desire was actually a God-given…well… desire? Okay, now I’ve confused you. Let me ask it a different way. What if God planted in us that “God-sized hole” in our lives that he is indeed the only one that can fill it? Sure, we’ve all heard that we’ve got a “God-sized hole in our hearts.” Yes, it’s simplistic. But what if it was actually true? What if it was true in every sense we can imagine… and then some?
Our idea of God has often been this high and lofty glowing white guy on a big throne ready to pass his holy and righteous judgment on us. It’s an image that invokes all of those things that seem to bring cold sweats down our backs. It brings up hate, fear, anger, bitterness, and ultimately, rejection. Many of us grew up with a picture of God with a great big mallet ready to smash us out of existence if we ever did anything wrong. It’s an image that was encouraged by legalistic teaching and bony fingers that were shoved in our faces.
I submit that while there is an element of truth to this image, it’s been so grossly distorted that all we have left is a kind of cold, calculating supercomputer villain from Star Trek ready to zap our heroes into oblivion for defying the Prime Directive yet again. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” You know the drill.
Ah yes, desire. It’s a powerful thing. We all desire the wonderful things in life. For me, I desire a good steak, a fine glass of wine, a great book, a hot bubble bath, and a moonlit walk on the beach. Of course, I don’t desire all of these things at once. I imagine that nearly all of us have some kind of desire that we would love to achieve from time to time. Does that mean we’re wicked, sinful hedonists who are lusting after all of the wrong things in life? Of course not.
Let me explain.
Jesus made a powerful and profound statement in Matthew 7:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)
What would happen if we made a clear and conscious choice to have as the object of our desire, the very one who gave Himself for us? Jesus said it himself here that everyone who asks will receive, anyone who seeks will find, and anyone who knocks, the door will be opened. These are promises that are kept. We will find that which we seek.
If we look for the law, we will find the law. If we look for rules, we’ll find those too. If we look for death, we’ll find that. This, I believe, is one of the greatest principles in all of Scripture. We’re all on a quest of some kind or another. I believe that if we can modify our quest from only looking for those things that will fail to the One who will never fail us, then we just might find something that’s truly wonderful and incomprehensible.
To illustrate this point even more, there’s a wonderful gem in the already illustrious 11th chapter of Hebrews, which tells of the great men and women of faith all throughout the Bible. In this great chorus of faith, this great truth joins in its song:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)
When most of us read this verse, we often stress the first part which says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. But that’s not the point of this verse. The writer of Hebrews says that we must believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
How does He reward those who seek God? Especially those who seek God with all their hearts? Does he reward with gold or silver or even with great jobs or ministries? Of course not. That would be against His very nature. Let’s break it down.
If a person is seeking God with all of their hearts, then he will reward them… with Himself.
Their heart’s desire—their asking, seeking, and their knocking—will be met with the greatest and most complete resolution imaginable: intimacy with the living God who created the universe. With that kind of reward, the complete, perfect, and life-giving love and grace that comes only from God, there’s something that we never expected: complete contentment.
This kind of contentment doesn’t come from doctrine, theology, or even from studying the Bible. It comes from fellowship, genuine fellowship, with the one who loved us, and gave Himself for us. It’s the greatest quest that a man or woman, or even a child, could ever imagine. It’s the kind of quest that fills the adventure novels over and over again: a quest for true love.
When we are confronted with the sheer radiance of the awesomeness of the living God, everything else pales by comparison. His glory, or rather his presence, will fill our lives from every pore of our skin to the depths of our spirit. His living water will rush over us like waves of love, and His love will shine in and through us, and our eyes will be fixed squarely on Him.
It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “I’m thirsty,” doesn’t it?