When I first entered into a relationship with God my life changed suddenly and dramatically. I found unimaginable peace and joy that I’d been searching for but could never cinch down.
I started attending a church and at first it was fresh and exciting.
But soon life filled up with all the things I was supposed to do to keep God happy and the blessings flowing.
Of course I needed to attend worship services but not just on Sunday morning. Come on that’s not enough. Sunday and Wednesday evenings also.
Then I needed to join a Sunday School class. Now that’s what a full time college senior is looking for. More class time.
And of course I needed to start tithing which actually wasn’t that difficult. As a full time student I was making like zero. So giving ten percent wasn’t a stretch.
After graduation I went to seminary to learn more and there the demands ramped up.
One of their favorite verses was a Jesus quote, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”*
With that the requirements expanded exponentially. They were open ended so there was no end to them.
Eventually I bogged down in all the legalism. I felt like I was drowning. And I slumped into depression.
What started out so beautiful had drifted into a nightmare.
I finally found my way out of the wilderness which I’ve written about before.
So when I read that verse today, as I researched this post, I winced even though those events happened years ago. Some things ingrain themselves in us don’t they?
Yet, as I read it, I realized the context reversed the meaning. Jesus answered those words in response to some religious leaders who condemned his disciples for breaking their rules.
It’s ironic to me how Christians look down on the religious fundamentalists of Jesus’ day for all their rules. Yet frankly, at least their rules you could figure out. Ours can be so nebulous you have no hope.
But I realized Jesus spoke from God’s perspective not ours.
What God desires is to give us his mercy not for us to earn it by sacrificing.
Wow! Talk about a shift.
Our part is to simply ask for that grace and then rest in it.
And God delights in that so much that he unleashes all of his blessings in our lives.
There simply is nothing more we can possibly do to earn it.
He cannot love us anymore than he does already.
Nothing we can ever do will please him more than simply accepting the love he offers.
Then when we’ve experienced that love it changes us. We begin to love those around us. Not to gain more of God’s blessings because we can’t. But simply to share the love we feel.
And that grows into the amazing life God desires each of us to enjoy.
Now that is the one thing God requires for us to enjoy all of his blessings.
How have you discovered this?
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*Matthew 12: 7 (NIV)