This subject has been on my mind a great deal lately. Many of us were brought up in a works based faith. I know I was...and find myself struggling with the concepts of "how to love God", and "relationship over works". Relationship and works seem so intimately intertwined that it can become confusing. How does one love God? What is this relationship, and how do we obtain it? I realized that these seem like basic questions but I think often we struggle with application into our lives. During some of these battles within my spirit some verses we have heard many times came to mind.
Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
I think the first step is a desire...that burning desire for more of God. When that craving enters our lives our ground is fertile. We become willing to put aside every preconceived notion we have had about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, relationship, works, obedience, law etc. We approach the door, we knock knowing we have nothing in our hands to offer the host. We are no longer bound to old teachings, but with an open mind we approach the door. We come as a child, an open book eager and willing to learn. Doctrine is no longer our guide. We are willing to receive before understanding. Our minds are renewed. We are relieved of self. He opens the door and we enter his rest.
Matthew 25:40 The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
By entering into God's rest, we are relieved of several things that bind. One of these is self. We become less self focused and become more God focused. A natural extension, of taking the focus off of "did I do right today"? "Did I sin today"? "Is God pleased with me"? is becoming more Christ focused. His strength being sufficient we can walk in his mercy and grace. When we become Christ focused, we are naturally drawn towards the Father. During the drawing, we are placed on the path of sanctification. It's a natural extension, not a substitution. We are naturally drawn away from the flesh because the flesh hold less of our affections. Our focus is no longer on white knucking through temptation, but it's a realization that sin no longer holds the keys to our hearts.
Through this process a wonderful thing happens. We realize it's no longer about us, but Christ who lives within us. And through extension we love Christ, we love the Father and that expression is love for our neighbors. It becomes a concern for others that isn't earthy and isn't of the flesh. When we do for the least of these brothers we do for Christ. It's why faith without works is dead. A natural manifestion of true faith is fruit...love, kindness, gentleness, etc.
We get this all backwards. Some of us listen to a sermon through our doctrine impregnated filters, then become "convicted". We realize we are not showing fruits of the spirit, we know we have sin. So, many of us have turned towards "getting right", "doing right" and have lost focused on the fact that our best efforts are like filthy rags. This kind of thinking is merely a negative cycle that doesn't bring peace, relevation, or relationship. It's errant by design, because it's focus is on self.
John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command"
We often look at a verse like this and say see...that's how I love God! I merely need to obey him, and do good for others then I am right. I can sleep at night. But, if you read this clearly it doesn't say...by doing what I command you will love me. It's says if you love me, you will obey what I command. It's a natural extension of love for Christ. As our relationship grows we find ourselves just naturally staying away from the flesh. Because we love Christ, we are drawn to the light, led away from the darkness. This is no white knuckle, self control effect...it is a relationship effect that has little to nothing to do with us.
Letting go of old ideas, and old battles has been a true struggle for me. Why? Because, I am selfish by nature. In my natural, it's all about me. But, as I approach his throne I am learning, and seeing with new eyes. I can not save myself. I can not obey enough...or do enough good. But, Christ who lives within me can...and in order for him to have full reign of my heart...I need to move out.