Most people, regardless of their faith position, believe that God is angry and/or disappointed of them. But that’s not what scripture reveals of God, his character and his view of us. John 3.16 (and 17) states that Jesus was not sent to condemn the inhabitants of this world, but to give life to those who followed his teachings.
Now, it must be said that although God doesn’t desire to condemn us. It also doesn’t mean that he won’t challenge us about the corrupt nature of who we are, or how we are behaving. He desires to give us life, and most of our lives have been shaped around doing things that bring death (of soul, flesh, mind, etc.) That is hard transition to make. Some would say it’s impossible – and under our own will-power, I’d agree. But the transformation isn’t impossible – it’s possible and tangible. However, in order for change to be able to occur we are going to have to address some hard realities about who we are. That means God, Christ and his church are going to need to challenge us with hard messages. These are going to be life-rattling instructions that we are going to have to hear, accept and obey in how we stop acting and believing certain way IF we are going to allow the Spirit of God to shape us.
But we have to understand those messages aren’t condemnation…that’s so hard for us. Because we struggle with correction, accountability, submission – even if in doing so, we’ll be better off. Part of our hesitancy is because the story we have of God and faith is first that God is disappointed in or by us, and second, that his teachings deal with things that have an affect after this life not during it.
But if we can change that story – or the voices or narratives. Then we can begin to “live into” the way of Life that Christ taught and displayed, and invited us into.
As we continue through the Sermon On The Mount. May I encourage you to repeat often the two truths, stories or narratives that can help soften our hearts, minds and souls to more readily receive the teachings Jesus will share.
The first is: I am a spiritual being in whom God dwells and delights.
Paul wrote about “Christ in us” 89 times. His understanding of the identity of Christ follower was they were in Christ. It is Biblically accurate. It tells you of your sacred worth.
James Bryan Smith shares one of his favorite stories is John of Kromstadt, a Russian priest of the 19th century. Each morning he would walk to his church. On the way, he would see men and women in the street, drunk. Many of the priests would walk right by, sort of in judgment of them. Not John of Kromstadt. John of Kromstadt would lift them up and cradle them in his arms and say, “This is beneath you. You were meant to house the fullness of God.” I love that story. “This is beneath you. You were meant to house the fullness of God.” . . .The Inner Light gives dignity to all people. This is beneath you. You were meant to house the fullness of God.
The second is: I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God.
Jesus’s Gospel was the available life with him and his kingdom. That was his good news. Jesus did not preach a gospel of hell evasion. He gave us a gospel of heaven invasion. It wasn’t about getting us into heaven, as much as it was getting heaven into us…now!
The kingdom of God, which is God’s great plan, is, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, is grace. His kingdom is available now for us to step into. Here is the thing, the kingdom of God is never troubled. We struggle, we come and go, our churches have their days, but the kingdom of God (if we align ourselves) is always salvation. That is why I live in the strong, unshakeable kingdom. No matter what happens to me. . . “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” basically says, “Don’t worry about a thing.” Live in that reality.
Those two narratives, …they change your perspective. They make you want to meet with God.
May you become aware of God’s presence inside you and his delight over you as you live daily in a kingdom that can’t be thwarted.