God: What are you Expecting?

Expectations do not dictate reality. I’m going to start off with a short passage of scripture. My dad shared this with me the other day, and it sparked these realizations in me.

John 20:15-20, “‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said, ‘Mary.’ Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘[Teacher].’ ‘Don’t cling to Me,’ Jesus told her, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them what He had said to her.'”

Now, based on my first sentence, most of you could probably guess where I plan on going with this. I was to focus on one word: SUPPOSING. Mary just assumed that Jesus was an ordinary gardener because she was expecting him to look and be a certain way. Mary expected Jesus to be dead and buried, so she did not even see Jesus when he was right in front of her face.

Although it may not be in a physical sense, we do this too. We expect Jesus to appear to us a certain way. We expect God to be a certain way. And those expectations built around human understanding and our own knowledge are often what lead us to miss God. Sometimes we are looking for God so hard that we miss what’s right in front of our faces. I am not by any means suggesting that it is possible to seek God too much. I am simply stating that sometimes we are seeking our own image of God, and that can make us miss the real one.

I am going to take this even a step further. Is this not a form of idolatry? If we are seeking our own image of God, is that not the same thing as not seeking Jehova God? If we start giving God characteristics that we simply wish for him to have, we are creating god. There is a quote that was shared in my philosophy class a while back that has really stuck with me, and it goes along perfectly with what I am talking about. Voltaire said, “If God has created us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” That hit home with me. It still tears my heart up when I read that and meditate on it.

We earnestly and desperately reach for a God that is not the God of the Bible. We simply give him the same name. We reach for a God that doesn’t send people to hell. We reach for a God who does not punish our sins but punishes everyone else’s. We reach for a God who will bless us. We reach for God who does not ask anything of us. We reach for a God who is easy to reach for. We reach for the God that will get us A’s on tests and help us win basketball games. We reach for a God who we have constructed in our own minds. We reach for us and call it God.

If the God that you are seeking is not the God of the Bible as he describes himself, you are not following the God that will redeem you. We need to stop getting so wrapped up in our theologies and our hopes of what God should be like. We need to read the scripture and find out who God is. God will reveal his character to us, but first we have to let go of all of our presumptions on how God really is. We must stop worshiping ourselves.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I certainly do. I have prayed about this for years, and I feel that this is a righteous anger. Sometimes this anger is even directed at myself, so it’s not just me bashing the church. I get angry when I hear churches worship sometimes. I listen to the lyrics of certain songs, and all that runs through my mind is, “This is not the gospel.” If a visitor came to your worship service or to your church, and all that they heard was your music, would they be lead to Jesus or some worthless construction of a god? When they listen to your songs, what matters more, how you sing it or what you are singing? I am sure that God cares more about the words, the meaning behind them, and your heart when you sing them. I get passionate about this. It almost makes me sick sometimes when I listen to certain songs in the church because I will put myself in an unbeliever’s shoes and know in my heart that they are not being lead to the God of the Bible.

We often seek to draw people’s attention to God with how pretty our voices sound or how great we play guitar. We focus on making everyone stand up and sing these songs we have created. I feel like often times we worship the song more than the God who the song is supposed to be about. This could honestly be an it own post altogether, but I will stop ranting now. I think my point has been made.

To sum this up, though, what I am getting at is that in everything we do, we seem to be creating God in our likeness, rather than being molded by him for his glory. Just because we expect God to be a certain way doesn’t make him change. It just draws our attention away from the true God and his glory, and on onto ourselves and our own glory. I know I went off on a mini-tangent there, but I will tie this all in. Just be patient with me.

The point. Whether we are singing songs or just living life, we must ask God to reveal his character to us, not suppose God to be a certain way. Our human minds cannot comprehend the true nature of God. We have to stop filling in those empty spaces with our own thoughts, and instead fill them with faith that God is good.

God is. We must let him be.

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Unclean Hearts: What Can Wash Away Our Sins?

If you have grown up in church, you were probably absolutely bombarded with the message that Jesus washes away sins. We’ve all heard the lyrics, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That’s all good considering that’s the gospel. However, there has been something that I have realized recently that has changed my perspective completely.

What is it that has made us dirty? Any good church-going Sunday school kid would say “sin.” This is where the problem comes in. We cannot believe that what we do is what makes us unclean. Before you start screaming heresy, please continue reading.

It is not our actions that have separated us from Jesus. It is our sinful nature. We are inherently sinful. You may be thinking that there isn’t much a difference between those two things. Everyone sins, so it works the same to say that the sins we commit separate us from Jesus, right? So wrong.

The problem with this thinking is that it leads to shame rather than freedom. If we believe that what we do is what dirties us, then every time we sin, we are going to feel like we have dirtied our holiness. We were never holy. We were born into sin. We were born dirty. We were born unclean and unworthy. Even if we never sinned in our lives, we are still not holy.

I have found that every time I sin, usually the “bigger” ones, I feel like I have somehow spotted my perfection. I feel like I’ve messed up some sort of “I didn’t sin for this long” streak. This is a huge issue because instead of focusing on Jesus in sin, it makes us run from God. When we think that we have somehow failed God by sinning, then we fear God in an unhealthy manner. We run away in shame.

We have to understand these things:

1. God knows that we are going to sin. We aren’t failing him by sinning. He already knows we are going to, and his grace is bigger than any sin.

2. We are not perfect. When we mess up, we don’t suddenly make ourselves unclean. Yes, we should repent and feel conviction, but we must understand that we were never holy to begin with.

3. Although we are striving for perfection and holiness, we aren’t there yet. We are going to sin. We are going to lie to ourselves. We are going to justify the things we do. Sin isn’t always going to be subconscious. We are sinful in our hearts. We are going to blatantly and consciously sin at times. God still forgives that.

The most important thing to realize is that the condition of our hearts is what has separated us from God, not our moral imperfection. Our moral imperfection is what shows us that our hearts are inherently sinful. We are unclean in the very fibers of our being, completely separate from our actions. Our actions and failure to adhere to the moral commands of God are simply to show us that we are not holy and that we need Jesus. That is the purpose of the law: to show us our need for Jesus. It is not to try to live perfectly in order to not spot these perfectly white robes that we seem to think we wear. That leads to legalism, not to Jesus.

Following God should lead to guilt that pushes us to repentance, not to shame that leads us to run from God. We must realize that God’s grace is bigger that ALL of our sin. Our sin does not continue to separate us from God. Once we are made new in him, we can never lose that. God sees us through the lens of his perfect grace. We are to strive to be holy, but at the same time we must realize that we are not there yet, nor have we ever been. We are not in the process of trying to stay holy. We are in the process of trying to become holy.