Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Someone in my family has often told me "You are blessed, and you deserve it," but I respectfully disagree.

The covenant (promise) that God made with us through Jesus is simple: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26) That is to say, the promise between me and God is simple: I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I have made him the Lord of my life, and in return God will forgive my sins (which Jesus paid for). Yes, there is much more to it than that, but that is the Matthew's Quick Bible Translation version.

At it's core, it is as simple as "believe and you will be saved." You don't have to physically DO anything to be saved. You don't have to volunteer at soup kitchens once a month, or go to church every Sunday morning, or read your Bible on a regular basis, or even tithe, "for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine)

So why do I do the things listed above, like volunteer, go to church, and tithe? There is nothing in the covenant that says I have to, so why do it? It is because I want to. I have made Jesus the Lord of my life, which means that my only desire is to advance the kingdom. (I never did like the phrase "advance the kingdom", it always sounded churchy to me, but it best describes what I mean.) I want to glorify Jesus and God, I want to bring others to know the happiness that I know, so I focus my life on glorifying God. But I do these things with no strings attached. I don't do them so that God will give me blessings, I don't do them so that God listens to my prayers, and I don't do it so that I can get into heaven. I do it because I want to.

Similarly, there is no fine print in the covenant that says that God has to bless my life. No where in the promise does it say that God will make my life easy, or that the more I believe the more money I will have. (This is called the "Prosperity Gospel", and it is preached by many well-known Evangelical pastors and televangelists such as Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson.) This view is simply not biblical, as for every verse you can show me that supports it, I can show you two that argue against it. (The page linked to above has good for and against Bible verses.)

So if God doesn't have to bless my life, why does he? Because he wants to. He desires for my life to be amazing and blessed. But there is no guarantee of this, there is no promise that God will bless me.

This is the beauty of the relationship between me and God. We don't HAVE to do anything for each other outside of the covenant. Remember, the covenant simply says that I will always make him Lord of my life, and He will forgive me of my sins. Outside of that, everything that we do for each other is a gift, a voluntary blessing on the other.

On a side note: this argument could also be made for marriage. Too often people get married with conditions, for example: "I will love you as long as you love me and show your love to me." That sounds innocent, but the "show your love to me" is really a condition. It means "I will love you as long as you do things for me, as long as you cook for me and rub my feet at the end of a hard day." One person will often do things voluntarily out of love (say, give flowers), but when they do it they expect the other person to give something back. So the other person will do what is expected (a good foot rub, maybe), but then they expect something else back. (I will stop this story at the foot rubbing.)

The problem is that when things are done because it is expected, it is no longer done due to love. Love is not based on conditions or requirements, it is free from all small print. Instead of expecting a spouse to bring you flowers once a week, show true love and be grateful the few times that they do. And do things out of love, voluntarily, not because it is expected of you.

Back to the earlier topic: Just as I work for God because of my love for him and just as he blesses my life because he loves me, we don't do these things out of condition, we work free from any obligation. So no, I don't deserve to be blessed by God. I have spit in his face and gone against his will many times over, I have broken his laws and broken his heart, why do I deserve anything but for him to adhere to the strict letter of our contract? I don't deserve to be given anything except forgiveness. But he does bless me, many times over, because he loves me and he wants me to lead a joyful life.

So while Stephen picks apart the theology of this post, remember that God loves you and he doesn't bless you because of anything you have done or because you deserve it, but because he loves you and he freely shows this love with his blessings.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~1 Corinthians 13



Anonymous said...

you rock little brother!

Brigette said...

Great post Matthew! I enjoyed that.

Matt said...

Fantastic! I agree whole-heartedly. Very well said, and very truly spoken.