As usual, this 21 day fast has rendered some amazing self-reflection and correction in me. Throughout this period, I read a book by John Bevere, Killing Kryptonite. God has used John’s message to flat out correct some of my personal theology. Primarily, as John intended in the book, killing the idols in my life. An idol is truly anything that we give our attention to or allow to steal our attention from God…ALL of God and ALL of His characteristics. Like so many of us, I like to focus on the characteristics of God that suit me and make me feel the best about myself. That my friends, is a false Gospel, an incomplete Gospel, and quit honestly not the Gospel at all…that is heresy on my part.
John brings up a story which caused me to see something in my own life. Exodus 32 is a story we all know pretty well…it is the story of the golden calf. The Israelites had just been miraculously rescued by God from the Egyptians. God had taken care of His people by providing divine direction through the wilderness, feeding them with heavenly manna and miraculously providing quail, because the people wanted meat. As Moses was on Mt Sinai encountering God and being given the Ten Commandments, the people were down below trying to fit God into their personal-sized box; one they could comprehend with their own limited minds. Aaron and the people took all their gold jewelry and formed the golden calf. In Exodus 32:4 Aaron says, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”. The word “god” is actually Yahweh. They were not necessarily creating an image to wholly replace God with a golden calf, they were simply fashioning an image of God…the golden calf…something they could see with their own eyes. They were trying to focus on a single characteristic of God, His image. They lost their faith and created an idol.
And did you know that God’s grace could become an idol? I have allowed over the years, mostly because of mainstream teaching and my own desire to not “offend” anyone, to accept God’s grace in favor of true repentance. It is much easier to talk of God’s grace, rather than about the fact we should turn from our wicked ways and live a holy life. Paul says,
“So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 5:21 – 6:2)
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
I will be honest, as I was reading God’s word, a holy fear struck my heart. I had allowed God’s message of grace to overshadow all his other characteristics. I have allowed my thought process to be that I would simply allow the Holy Spirit to speak to that person and deal with their sin. While there is not anything inherently wrong with that, I was making the assumption that only the Holy Spirit can speak truth, when in fact God gave us His Word to speak. The Holy Spirit speaks to people through the WHOLE WORD of GOD, not just the message of grace. When all I do is speak of God’s grace and not repentance of sin, I risk seeing someone who I thought was my brother or sister turned away at the seat of judgement. That hurts me even typing those words…
Here is my problem…my brain likes to focus on one thing at a time, it gets stuck in the this OR that mode. But when we are talking about the character of God, you cannot focus on only this or that. It is not either grace or repentance, it is both. It is both turning from our sin and accepting the grace of God. It is speaking the TRUTH of the Word of God, as Paul was doing to the Corinthian church, in a compassionate way. Do you think Paul was speaking those words in a demeaning way, talking down to them, speaking in a hateful manner, telling them they were going to burn? Absolutely not, Philippians 3:18 says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ”. Paul called people to repent, but he wept for them at the same time. He loved them so much that his conscience would not allow him to only speak of God’s grace; it mandated him to talk about repentance of sin.
God is changing me in some pretty crazy ways, challenging a lot of what I believe, but leveraging the compassion and love for His people that he built into my DNA. My challenge to you is do not run from that which makes you uncomfortable. Back to what I said in the last blog post, do not allow a short-sighted perspective to cause you to forget that we are dealing with eternity. When we choose to not talk about the whole Gospel message, we are risking someone’s eternity. Love dictates that we push through discomfort to deliver truth with a compassionate heart just as Jesus did.
Blessings while you seek out the whole character of God!