Get Out of Hell Free…Really??

Posted: April 23, 2014 in Christ, Community, Disciple, Discipleship, Focus, great commission, Jesus, Mentor, mentoring, Re-Focus, Relational

This is a post I had written several years ago on a previous blog.  Great reminder that God desires a relationship, not simply our begrudging obedience!

 

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What a mixed message!  Is this what we teach?

I have to say that I love a good fantasy or sci-fi flick!  “The Lord of The Rings” Trilogy is one of my absolute favorites!  I love to watch them with my wife and kids and if the film is good we watch it time after time after time!

We watched the movie “Bridge to Terabithia” quite a while back and it was pretty good…a fantasy tale by Disney.  I’m not here promoting the film, but this one scene nailed something that I’d like to share!

One day, while I was watching it once again with one of my daughters, a scene that was familiar just about jumped off the screen.  A poor “picked on” farm boy and the new “weird” girl become friends and as the fantasy unfolds they are playing and the little girl (Leslie) asks the boy (Jess) if he wants to play again on Sunday.  He said he couldn’t because they were going to church.  Leslie asks if she could go and eventually they are set to go to church.

In the church, Leslie is in a dress with high-top sneakers singing “The Old Rugged Cross” and smiling – taking in all the wonders around her with the stained glass windows, singing, and such – all of which are new to her.  Sad thing I observed was that in that scene she is only one smiling!  Sound familiar?

After church, Leslie, Jess and May Belle (Jess’ little sister) are in the back of the pick-up truck going home when Leslie says, “I am really glad I came.  That whole Jesus thing…it’s really interesting, isn’t it?”  May Belle answers quickly with; “it’s not interesting…it’s scary.  It’s nailing holes in your hands.  It’s because we’re all vile sinners; God made Jesus die.”  Leslie says, “You really think that’s true?” and Jess says, “It’s in the Bible, isn’t it?”  Then Leslie has that Ah-Hah moment of freedom when she proclaims “You have to believe it and you hate it.  I don’t have to believe it and I think it’s beautiful.”

May Belle then states, “you gotta believe in the Bible, cause if you don’t believe in the Bible, God will damn you to hell when you die.”  Leslie retorts, “Wow May Belle, where did you hear that?”  May Belle looks at her brother and asks if it’s true and Jess says, “I think so.” Then Leslie says “I don’t think so.  I seriously do not think God goes around damning people to hell, he’s too busy running all of this”  And then she spreads her hands out and the picture pans out to God’s creation all around them.

This little girl goes to church with her big imagination and mind wide open and the Creator of the Universe shows her a glimpse of Who He really is…and the two other kids, thinking of themselves as “Christians”, are closed minded and focus on the condemning and spiteful God they heard about in church who is scary to follow!  All the while, believing that if they can “do all the right things” they might be able to get the desired get out of hell free card!  Who in their right mind would want to dedicate their lives and follow a dictator God that uses fear as His only means of developing a relationship?  That’s not a relationship at all!

But isn’t that what many have come to believe?  If you don’t say “the sinner’s prayer”, go to church, read your Bible, and pray every day then you cannot be good enough to gain the Father’s affection, can you?  I mean, you have to do those things, don’t you?  We may never actually say those words, but the actions or results of our lives tell a different story.

When we get stuck in thinking that we must DO something in order to be loved by God, we lose the thought that He loves us for who we are not what we do.  We can never do enough to gain His love.  He offers that freely and gave us a beautiful gift in the sacrifice of Jesus to bridge the gap between our broken selves and His perfection.  You cannot DO a relationship.  You have to BE in relationship.  It’s not what you do but who you are that counts!

For a while though you may feel like you are truly “doing” the will of God by working hard to get closer to Him.  But eventually, you’ll either burn out or simply give up as it is impossible to work our way to God.  We then begin to fill that huge God-sized void in our lives with “stuff” that does not come from God.  We run from our image of the angry, condemning God that will send us to hell because we are not good enough for Him.

But, if we can grasp that our Father in Heaven truly desires to have a real relationship with us, not force us into obedience to do anything, then we are able to choose to follow Him because of the beautiful gift of Himself he has offered each one of us.  When that happens, it is no longer a chore to read about Him and what He is saying to us in the scriptures because you are getting to know a friend.  It is no longer a “discipline” to pray to Him daily as you are building a relationship with someone who deeply loves you and desires your love in return.  And church doesn’t become a monotonous duty because you soon discover that you are the church, not the building you may or may not attend on a given Sunday morning.  The church building is not a place for us to get “fed”, it is a place for us to gather in community as the true church in total worship of our awesome God!

So it is up to you!  You can decide to keep the rules to avoid hell and in turn begin to resent God, or you can accept the wonderful gift He has given each of us in Jesus and build a relationship based on love for Him and His love for you.  Like a true friend, God will never force you into a relationship with Him.  However, He is always willing to accept us in love as we grow to accept His love for us.

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