I saw a statement on twitter yesterday that made me sad. Sad for the untold number of people who actually believe it. Sad for the preachers and spiritual leaders that don’t have the audience or the “reach” to combat it. Sad for Jesus, whose sacrifice is rendered useless if the statement is true. The statement?
God’s promises hinge on our obedience.
Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across a statement like this, or heard preaching with this slant, but for some reason today I felt like I had to write a response.
Praise and thank God that God’s promises do NOT hinge on our obedience. Our obedience has nothing to do with it. There is no quid pro quo with God. You see, that’s one of the basic differences between God and human beings. WE operate constantly on an “if/then” basis with one another. Many times we’ll only do something nice or generous if we’re going to get a public thank you – one of the reasons why so many churches are filled with plaques of folks who have donated stuff, and why a hospital I walked through the other day had a HUGE wall of names of donors. God doesn’t operate that way.
In reality, God’s promises are true and sure despite our LACK of obedience. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could perfectly follow God’s Will – he died precisely because we are NOT perfect and consistently sin and do NOT act in obedience. THAT’S CALLED GRACE. You and I don’t deserve a thing from God except condemnation. But what does God give us? GRACE. FORGIVENESS.
I’m wondering what this person considers to be “God’s promises?” Oftentimes when we hear phrases like this, what the people are really referring to are not God’s promises, but earthly “blessings.” If I follow rules A, B and C, then God will give me D. This my friends, is baloney (to put it nicely). There are many preachers out there these days who are spouting this nonsense because IT’S WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR. Of course we want to hear that if we play by the rules we’ll be rewarded. Of course we want to hear that if we’re good little boys and girls God will get us a new toy. We DON’T want to hear that bad things happen to good people. We DON’T want to hear that we can be faithful and love God and still have a life filled with hardship. We want to believe that we are somehow in control of our own destiny. The idea that we are NOT in control is downright frightening. But my friends, that’s the truth.
Another truth is that faith and material success or “worldly blessings” are often at odds with one another. They can be a trap, a very dangerous trap. If we’re not VERY careful our worldly blessings can become other gods for us. What we have is never enough – whether it be money, power, respect, popularity etc… And for every successful person who thanks Jesus in some television interview, there are MILLIONS struggling to get by – struggling materially, struggling politically, struggling in their careers, struggling in relationships. Does their lack of “blessings” signal that they are somehow disobedient to God or that God loves them less? ABSOLUTELY NOT. You know, the weak and heavy laden, the hated, the mourning, the sick, the little ones, etc…? Jesus constantly reached out to those on the margins, touched the untouchable, even ate with sinners. Our earthly blessings are not a sign of our obedience (or lack of it).
GOD’S PROMISES HINGE ON GOD’S PROMISES.
That’s the way it goes. God gave us some promises, and because God MADE the promises, God will KEEP the promises. You know why? Because unlike human beings, when God makes a promise God will never break it.
And what ARE God’s promises? LOVE, GRACE, FORGIVENESS, PRESENCE, REDEMPTION, ETERNAL LIFE.
God makes NO promise that we will be loved by others – only that GOD loves us. God makes NO promise that we will be wealthy. No promise that we will be respected. No promise that we will come first by worldly standards. No promise of physical health. No promise our relationships will be stable or healthy or even SAFE. But God DOES promise us that we are forgiven, that we have a place in heaven, and that while we’re still in this life on earth we are NOT alone, but are always held in God’s arms. And because of THESE promises of God we can have strength to cope with our challenges, strength to try to make our earthly life better, and peace that no matter what life throws at us, no matter how much we screw up, God will always love us, because the following is also true.