Watch That Trap!
I saw a social media meme recently that reflects a common error in how we relate to God. It is a photograph of a young man standing with an uplifting head as if looking to the heavens. The caption is, “The Lord is moved by the way you live. He is moved by your hunger for him and by your lifestyle choices.”
It is a trap! It is wrong-headed according to the gospel proclaimed in the New Testament. The perspective is one of a distant god waiting for us to make the right decisions before he moves in our direction. It leads to a belief in the transactional gospel of contemporary American religion.
In this religion, God is always the responder. We initiate the transactions by what we offer. We purchase certain blessings by something we give in exchange. If we want God to move in our behalf, we must find the key ingredient that moves him for the particular blessing we desire. It spurs us to value the discovery of the key principle above the relationship we have in Christ. The good news is often just another announcement of a new coin we can put into the vending machine (sorry for such an outdated metaphor).
The Initiative of God
He ascended to the right hand of God not by popular vote, but by the sovereign grace of the Father.
Contrasting such a perspective with the one of the New Testament, we find God always initiating the moves. He came looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden while they were hiding. He found Noah and made him a promise. He did the same with Abraham. He heard the cry of Abraham’s descendants in Egypt and acted to deliver them. He fed them, watered them and fought for them in the wilderness.
They were always moving away from him, and he pursued them with his persistent love. If God had waited for Israel to move toward him, they would never have been in covenant with him. He chose David as their king. He gave them prophets to instruct and warn. He moved Cyrus to release them from captivity.
In the fullness of time, he caused John the Baptist to be born as the forerunner of the Christ. He appeared to Mary while she was minding her own business. Jesus came to his frightened disciples in the storm. They were too paralyzed by fear to move toward God. He paid the unpayable debt without any contribution from us. He was raised from the dead with no assistance from the faithful. He ascended to the right hand of God not by popular vote, but by the sovereign grace of the Father. He sent the Spirit without any request from the struggling disciples.
He still comes to us when we can’t go to him. Even when our lifestyle choices have left us in complicated confusion, he appears and assumes responsibility for the chaos.
We Don’t Move God
We don’t negotiate for blessings. The negotiations are closed. God the Father promised blessings to obedient humans. Jesus the Son is the obedient human. We get any and all blessings based on our relationship with him. In Christ, we are blessed and can experience the benefits of the inaugurated new creation as we focus on what he has done. The more we look at the beauty of the Savior, the more our mouths water for him; the hungrier our hearts become for deeper knowledge of him.
We don’t move God. He has moved in our direction in Christ and continues to move toward us to open our eyes to the treasures in the Son. Stay out of the trap.