Friday, March 27, 2015

What Must I Do for God? (part 1)

Question: What must I do for God?
Answer: Nothing!

How does that answer sit with you? 

All right, let me qualify it just a bit. More precisely, nothing except trust and receive Him.

Does that sound any better to you?

Probably not, if you are anything like I have been for years. You see that answer and wonder if it cheapens grace. You wonder where is the Christian responsibility. You wonder if such a "shallow" view of faith can be real. Of course, we have more to do than just receive from Him, you contend. Of course, we have to obey. We must serve. We ought to do good works. We should produce fruit.

You may even complain and question, Who are these "low-standard, anything goes" Christians who expect God to do all the work? What kind of relationship works when only one side does all the giving and the other side does nothing but receive? That doesn't sound very fair, does it?

Am I right? Are those some of the thoughts going through your mind?

I recently tweeted a bunch of insights from Steve McVey's book, Grace Walk (1995), which stirred the pot a little. I believe this sentence from page 129 captures the purpose and main point of the whole book: "If contemporary Christians spent as much time developing loving intimacy with Christ as they spend in defining proper Christian behavior, the world would be a different place."

Take a minute to review some of the other statements from Grace Walk:
  • "In the natural world, trying harder is commendable and often effective. But God's ways aren't our ways. Sometimes they seem to be opposite from ours. In the spiritual world, trying harder is detrimental."  (p. 17)
  • "We sometimes try to live for Him when He wants to live His life through us."  (p. 37)
  • "Resting in Christ is the sole responsibility of the Christian. Everything else flows out of that."  (p. 39)
  • "The Christian life is not about Christ. It IS Christ!"  (p. 71)
  • "Self-effort is the essence of legalism. It is pointless to pray for God to help you live for him. That may be your goal, but it isn't His."  (p. 89)
  • "God's life just naturally flows out of Christians who are abiding in Him."  (p. 106)
  • "God's will is not primarily a path, but a Person named Jesus Christ. As we abide in Him, it is impossible to miss the will of God."  (p. 145)

In the book, Steve McVey distinguished between a "changed" life and an "exchanged" life. It is one thing to believe that we have a life that God alters in some ways. It is quite another thing to wrestle with the Biblical teachings about dying to sin and self, and being "born again" to a new life guided by the Spirit. The clear message is that the Source of the new life is Jesus Christ. It is a different life. It is a divine life, though still expressed in a physical, imperfect body.

DeVern Fromke

This is a good time to introduce DeVern Fromke. He wrote a book 30 years prior to McVey's, called No Other Foundation. (I think the book is out of print, but you can find more info about Fromke and his other writings here.) I recently read this book and was struck by the following portion from a chapter entitled, "Why Does Humanity Exist?":

My concept of life had become distorted because I had been thinking, "There is love and faith and power and holiness in the Bible, and I'm sure God will kind of impart it to me somehow, so that I will become a loving person, a believing person, a powerful person." I could not see for the life of me but that I should become something.

This, then, was the first and greatest problem: a misunderstanding of what life is. I think we all start there. It is really a product of the fall: We interpret life as something that we live ourselves; so that even when we become born again of God's Spirit, and saved through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we still interpret life as something we are living right now. We have a job to do, a home to run, and so we seek to live a life in contact with God through Jesus Christ, so we can get assistance and guidance and leadership from Him.

I had to discover that this was not life at all, rather that life is a total reverse of it. Life is not an assistance or addition; it is a replacement. There is only one Person who really lives in the whole universe, and that is the living God Himself. He is the One who is the Three, who is self-giving love. He is the One who is the love of the universe. And we humans exist that we may be means by which He expresses Himself. Humanity itself exists to express Deity.

Hold on! It gets even better! He later adds:

So God created persons to express His own Person by them. The basic purpose of us human beings therefore should be to become the vessels that contain Him. That means our permanent habit has to become receptivity rather than activity.

...If you look at nature, you see that a tree does not produce one leaf by activity. Vegetation receives. It has sunlight and moisture poured on it. What it receives it uses, but activity is only a product of receptivity. Thus did I begin to learn the basic secret of life.

(To be continued...)

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