If I stare up into the sky above me tonight, I’ll be greeted by thousands upon thousands of stars. Each is an incomprehensibly massive ball of fire thousands or millions of times larger than the planet I live on. This little ball of rock I’m sitting on is currently traveling at around 67,000 miles an hour around one of those aforementioned giant balls of fire. But do you know what’s more amazing than all of that? I know the Creator of each and every one of those celestial objects. Not only that, but I claim I can talk personally with this Being powerful enough to speak galaxies into existence with a breath. I claim that He loves me individually.
Now hold on a minute. What?! How could a creature as infinitely puny as me even claim to be known by so immense and powerful an Entity? The idea is absurd! Yet in Scripture, we see that this Being not only knows us but also love and care for us. I don’t know about you, but putting it in a perspective like that makes the idea of claiming to be loved by God the most ridiculous and amazing idea ever to enter my mind.
So why do we treat it as common? When we get up in the morning, why are we more focused on the mountain of work to be done or the exciting adventures that await instead of the fact that the One who breathed life into the trees and the beasts and our own little bodies chooses to know our names? I think we have a much bigger idea of who we are and far, far too small an idea of who God is.
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” – Romans 9:20-21
Because if I only knew just how immense and incomprehensible He is compared to me, I wouldn’t dare question Him as much as I do. Not that questioning Him is bad. It’s amazing that so great a Being loves us enough to allow us to question His glory without annihilating us. It’s just one of the many things that makes Him as amazing as He is. Still, putting it in that perspective makes me much more hesitant to think that my way is right just because I believe strongly in it.
But what if I’m sure I’m right? What if I don’t like what I see in Scripture? Like I discussed in depth in What Else am I Supposed to Do? we are so much smaller than God that it is a joy for me to even have the opportunity to obey Him.
In light of the amazing grace we’ve been given instead of eternal damnation, it fills me with sadness every time I hear someone ask if they can do something and still go to Heaven. Why? Because that perspective is tragic! We should be more concerned with loving our Jesus with all that we have instead of asking how much we can get away with and still be accepted by Him.
Think of it like this: A husband and wife are newly married. The husband is madly in love with his wife in spite of all the darkness and pain he knows existed in her past. He’s forgiven her for her past mistakes and is just happy he has the chance to love her now. The wife, on the other hand, doesn’t care that much for her husband. She’s constantly skipping evenings with him to hang out with her friends, and often stays late into the night. She spends much of her time seeing just how much she can get away with before her husband divorces her.
I doubt any of you would be so bold as to say that the wife in this example truly loves her husband. Even if she verbally says she does, her actions tell another story. When we ask the question, “How much can I do and still go to Heaven” we are acting just like this wife. We don’t truly love God, only what He can get us. We don’t truly value what He says, only when it aligns with what we believe.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
Our concern shouldn’t be with how much we can get away with. No, our concern should be with how much we can possibly do to demonstrate our love for Christ. This isn’t easy, and it takes time. It takes all of us. However, time after time we see in both the Old and New Testament that God isn’t pleased with lip service. He doesn’t just want us to follow His rules. He desires a relationship based on mutual love. (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 6:5; Joshua 24:14; Psalm 139; Luke 10:27; John 1:12; Acts 17:27; Revelations 24:3-4)
In closing, I’d like to quote directly from the book of Isaiah, where God questions His people after they have turned their backs on Him yet again. This passage provides valuable insight into what the Lord desires:
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:11-17
Even during the time of the Law in the Old Testament, it was never the following of regulations that pleased God. No, it was the joyful service of His children. Here we see that He didn’t desire sacrifices or burnt offerings (two key elements of the Law), but desired a people who learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause. He desires a people that love as He loves.