In The Thick Of It

Galatians 5:4-6 (the message)
I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

Ever read a verse and it hits like a punch in the gut?

Earlier this morning I was reading in Acts chapter 8 about this wizard named Simon. He was a big celebrity in his community until Philip came along and preached the gospel. Many of the people believed and were baptized, including Simon!

What caught my attention in the story was how Simon, after himself believing and being baptized, followed Philip around so fascinated with the miracles and signs he observed. Eventually Peter and John came to pray for the people and as Simon witnessed the Holy Spirit filling believers he offered money for their “secret”!

Immediately Peter scolded Simon for thinking he could use God to make money. Peter told him:

I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust. (Acts 8:23 the message)

I’m sure the big bite here is disrespecting God and His Spirit. Attempting to use God for selfish gain.

But the Bible clearly says Simon believed and was baptized.

So…instead of seeing Simon as the immature, greedy bad guy (not saying he wasn’t!), I see him as vaguely familiar. A shadowy reflection.

We see him struggle with old habits because really, Simon doesn’t know any better. Yet. He approaches his budding belief with same-old, same-old. With what he knows.

I might want to shake my head and tsk tsk, but I don’t think I can.

See, this morning I’m thinking about depth.

Something far more interior.

Sometimes I approach God-believing and Jesus-following kind of like Simon. I nip at Him like a puppy because of the things I want for myself. My needs.

Sometimes I’m a taker.

Sometimes my heel-nipping and formula-working may even mask itself as good religion. But Creator knows when His children are living like takers. When our prayers and hopes and scripture searches are completely self-centered. When our religious performance is offered up as collateral for what we want Him to do for us.

He loves us, though. Absolutely loves us. So thoroughly. So faithfully. Like the growing little children we are…

This blows me away:

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters most is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

Paul, the writer of Galatians, cuts us to the quick. My heart bleeds a bit this morning…so painfully and refreshingly clear.

I suppose we all start out somewhat like Simon, you know. Our Jesus-following probably begins with a need…for peace, for absolution, for a miracle…and we find Him willing and eager to touch us, meet us, love us.

In time, though, if we are to follow in the thick of it, we’ll look past the exterior of met needs and provision and even fulfilled dreams to the deep, interior places of our lives.

When I wonder about myself, my doing…my religious plans and projects…I realize the depth of my faith is revealed in my motives.

Mixed as they are.

I want my willingness to attend, serve in my church, talk about Him and even write about Him to be the proof of my faith.

But it’s not.

Love is the proof. This something far more interior.

See, I can do religious things and still be lost to grace. They do not, in and of themselves, prove anything about my faith.

Sigh…and that is hard because I really want them to.

The truth is far more interior. Harder to face. To work out in real life. The question that begs an answer…the answer that reveals the giver or taker in me…is Why I do what I do.

There can only be Jesus. Only His grace.

The texture and depth of my faith in Him is expressed, only felt, when I love.

Jesus, I don’t want to write another post without stopping to acknowledge my taker’s heart. My susceptibility to let things be about me. I don’t want to type letters and form words and sentences with a gleam for what it means to me or about me. I don’t want to filter serving and friendships and marriage for the sparkly parts that make me feel good about me. I want to be a lover, a giver and gratefully take all that You offer with a humble heart. I want to sink deeply into Your grace. It doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do unless it’s a response to Who You are. What You’ve done. What You are still doing. Help us all, Jesus, to see You with fresh eyes. Help us drink in the freedom You mean for us to have…to love fully and extravagantly because that is how You love us. Help us to feel Your love today. Give us the eyes to see it all around us. In Your name I ask.  Amen.

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