When you grow up in church and you are around spiritual teaching often it can be very easy to become comfortable with the Bible. When I really read the Bible carefully and thoughtfully, it often does not make me very comfortable. Of course I find rest in Christ and hope in the gospel, but what Jesus has to say and the way the Bible calls me to live are pretty radical and I think growing up in church can sometimes make us callous to the radical nature of its teaching.
The Bible is a pretty wild book. And I think there is a danger when you grow up around it, to become cold or indifferent to the radical nature not only of Scripture but of the gospel itself. The gospel is pretty wild–think about it. The God of the universe became man, dwelt among us, ate with tax collectors and sinners, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, betrayed by one of his closest friends, is beaten within an inch of his life at the hands of his own people, dies a criminal’s death on a cross, rises again, and sends the Holy Spirit to empower those who believe in Him. And this death and resurrection redeems me, Jesus (as only He could do) paid for my sin on the cross and heals me such that I can personally know the God who made me.
That is wild and I fight every day to believe every word of it. And the more I fight to believe it the more clear it becomes to me that I am not a particularly good person. Certainly, like any other person, I am often tempted to elevate myself over others because of my percieved obedience, but the more deeply I understand the gospel, the less I cling to my own righteousness and the more I cling to Christ. And consequently the more I love people and long to point them to Christ.
So what does all this have to do with growing up in church? Growing cold to the radical nature of the gospel happens very subtlely. At first, perhaps, it begins by noticing the lost people in your community, particularly the one’ s caught up in particularly destructive sins. You see drug or sex addicts and you are noticably quite different from them. So as we begin to elevate ourselves over such people, it naturally follows that we begin to think ourselves to be deserving of some special blessing from God–becuase hey, by comparison to these folks, we look pretty good! God must really like us. So we begin to think that we deserve something from Him, whether it is some more respect, some more freedom, or some more money, or more something.
And what happens when we don’t get that freedom or that money or that respect? We begin to forget what God has done for us and question Him for what He hasn’t.
Perhaps this is why Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners and why Paul shook the dust off his feet and started taking the gospel to the Gentiles–because these folks didn’t have any false pretenses that they deserved something from God and thus were ripe for the gospel–I don’t know.
I do know this–God is not a tool for you to use to get what we want. Whether you know it or not, God is what you need. God is what I need–He is the answer to my heart’s deepest longing. What we think He owes us, we don’t actually need–what we think we need will only leave us empty and hungry. I need God. You need God. We need Him more than life.
Don’t think that God owes you anything because you are better than someone else, wake up and see all that God has done for you in Christ!
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)!