I am going to shoot some big ole, religious, golden calves here. It’s time to get your grill lit we are going to have sacred cow BBQ boys and girls! This has been brewing for a while and if you like your nice effort-focused religion, this is maybe not for you! If you like the idea that you are a terrible wretch who can do no good and that you must strive unsuccessfully for the rest of your life to please a vaguely disinterested God, then this will most definitely challenge and provoke you.
I am going to start off with a big one; The religious idea that we are miserable sinners who God merely tolerates, that He can’t look at us and must turn His face away from us because of our sin. I want to tell you the opposite is true. God likes you and you are important.
“Oh no! surely we are worms!” I hear you cry, “Are we not merely wretches unworthy to gather up the crumbs from under His table?”
Short answer – no!
Contrary to a lot of Christian teaching today we are not wretches, we are not worms, we are not the poor and lowly that satan wants to convince we are. We have been saved by grace and are wretches no longer. We were wretches before we knew Christ, but now we have been lifted out of the dirt, washed clean and we have been made kids of the Most High God! Isn’t that exciting? We are sons and daughters of the Most High! We are Kings and rulers in His Kingdom not poor starving beggars. As my good friend David Pinkerton, who is a missionary in Hong Kong so must be right, put it recently – “He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” He wants Kings and rulers to be the King of; not beggars and vagabonds. We have the hope of Glory living inside us (Colossians 1:27). We aren’t to cower in a corner in fear, we are the people who carry the hope that all of creation is longing for.
You need to know that God views you as worthy and is pleased with you. Yes that’s right God is pleased with you and he thinks you are pretty important. As Ferg Breen said to us in Cafe Church last month “God doesn’t have to put on His Jesus glasses every time He looks at you.” He is not scared of sin, He has dealt with sin completely once and for all. He looks at you and He likes what he sees. Now if you are in the middle of habitual, willful sin, then admit it and quit it. You don’t have to live that way for one second longer. You see we were made in the image of God, man was created with unlimited potential for love, joy and God-likeness. He was placed in a garden of pleasure and was given this earth as a gift. God made mankind to be important and God is very much in love with man. Adam was created to be an object of God’s intense love and to live in a wonderful place of union with Him. Adam walked with God and talked with Him, He knew God and God knew Him. Adam was given one simple instruction in the garden, not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I believe the purpose of this was to teach Adam that although he was important and God-like, he was still dependent on God and was to rely fully on Him, just like we are to rely fully on Him today.
The serpent however came and lied to Adam and Eve. It is the lie that he has been spinning ever since, “If you want to be like God you need to eat of the tree.” Hang on though, haven’t we just discussed how they, and we, were already like God and in every way His very image! They fell for it however, and there is a good chance that you have too! If you believe that you are a desperate sinner who is totally unworthy of God’s love and affection, I am here to tell you that you are denying yourself the very purpose of your creation. If you believe you are not important in God’s eyes, that you have to earn His favour and that God is only pleased with you when you are performing well I am here to challenge you that God is not looking for your performance full stop. God is fully satisfied with the performance of His Son Jesus who’s work has trumped all our efforts. His performance has made a way for you and we can neither add to nor take away from it.
You see the serpent lied to Adam and Eve with what is at the very core of all religious counterfeit, you have jump through endless hoops to become like God. The truth is quite simply that you don’t. You have been fully bought and paid for and you do not need to do one tiny thing to earn your salvation or God’s favour. God does not need your help in this regard, He has done it all. Religion always tries to tempt the believer in this way, it tells you that something else is needed in order to produce God-likeness other than child like faith. It tells you that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough and that you will need to do any number of ridiculous things to earn His favor and affection. God’s economy is not based on our performance, thank goodness, or we would never be able to make the grade.
You see although mankind fell from the garden of pleasure, God in His infinite mercy had a plan – a lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Christ’s death and resurrection is the only cure for humanities fallen state. As Benjamin Dunn puts it in his book, The Happy Gospel, “The wonderful news of the Gospel is that Christ, through His death, has lifted the curse on Humanity. How glorious a God we have, who does not leave us in this wretched condition, but makes a way back into the divine ecstasy of Eden.” He loves you, He likes you, He is pleased with you and you are important. You don’t need to do anything to earn your place with Him just simply believe and trust in Him as the one mediator between God and man.