Some might claim there is an alarmist flare to this week’s title…they’d be right…I did consider other titles but settled on this one hoping it might draw an extra set of eyes or two. But, it is real. There is danger lurking out there for followers of Christ. It is often lurking right around the corner. Here at Crossroads, as we begin our study of spiritual disciplines, the chance of that danger rearing its head in the next few weeks will increase…probably exponentially.
Before getting to the danger, though, let’s look something that happened back in the Garden of Eden:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day… Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 1:27, 31, 2:1-2)
In the book “Subversive Sabbath,” A. J. Swoboda points out…”Humanity was made on day six of creation. Day seven was that day in which God, Adam, Eve, and the whole garden ceased from productivity and effort. Striking as it is, Adam and Eve’s first full day of existence was a day of rest, not work…Adam and Eve had accomplished nothing to earn this gratuitous day of rest. Sabbath is, in my estimation, the first image of the gospel in the biblical story.”
Swoboda uses this to discuss Sabbath rest and its importance. My mind, as I read this, was taken a different direction. The topic of this post was already fermenting in my head (has been for a few weeks) and Swoboda’s point brought my musing to fruition.
The danger I referenced earlier is one all followers of Christ face, it is typically self-imposed. We try to earn something from God, we try to DO to get something…or to prove something. I’ve written about it before…but as we (Crossroads) prepare to spend several weeks studying spiritual disciplines, I felt lead to call out a trap one may fall into. “Checklist Christianity”…doing things to get them done, or as I mentioned earlier to earn or prove something.
God’s love has been showered on us…not because of what we’ve done or who we are…but because of who He is. I’d never noticed that Adam and Eve’s first full day was one of rest…nor had I considered the fact they had no opportunity to earn such rest. Add to that list the fact I’d never even thought about the passage as our first glimpse of the gospel. But, pondering on it, I agree with Swoboda. Grace is never earned…and we’re saved by grace not by works (Ephesians 2:8). While we were sinners Christ died for us because God loved us (Romans 5:8 and John 3:16)…in fact all of us reading this weren’t even breathing when He died for us…how could we have done anything to earn that? Salvation is not earned, God loved us first…as we are…not because of something we did.
Prayer, worship, meditation, giving, service…none of these make us more saved, none of these earn us more love from God. Right about now I picture someone shouting at their monitor…”James 2:17, James 2:17 – faith without works is dead.” I agree wholeheartedly, but context is essential. Our works should flow out of our love for Him…not in an attempt to earn or prove. Grace leads us to obedience (Titus 2:11-12) not the other way around.
We must remember we are already pleasing to God and do not need to “perform” for Him, what He desires is our devotion and from that, we become more like Him as we desire to reflect His love back to Him. “Checklist Christianity” is not about reflecting it’s about marking our progress down a man-made path. Sanctification (being made Holy) requires us to respond from surrender and love…any attempt to make it a to-do list to get (or prove) stunts our sanctification and leaves us stale, faded, dissatisfied, empty, and possibly even bitter.
Let us remember who we are in Him…and let His love bring us to a place where we’re doing things for Him, because of who He is…
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19 ESV)