Is God your Spiritual ATM?

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Is God your spiritual ATM? Has it sometimes (or often) been your pattern to come to God only when you need something? Has confession of sin been like entering your PIN, something you do to gain access to what you want? At this point we’re slipping out of an authentic relationship with God and into a manipulative religion of convenience. Our god is reduced to a robot dispensing grace when we want it, resources when we demand them, and instant circumstance gratification. Sound good?
The problem is a machine god that does our bidding is an illusion. In this scenario we’re a little too clever. We’re not smart enough to know when we need grace. We have very little imagination when it comes to our resource needs. (Similar to the limited balance in our bank account.) And circumstance manipulation is a pipe dream. We lack control and our machine god is powerless to move others. (Remember it’s merely doing our will.)
What Jesus offers us is radically different than religion as usual. There is no guarantee of material comfort. There is a near promise of human rejection. In fact, sometimes Jesus seems really bad at marketing:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)
Religion of convenience is out the window. But in return:
We get a dynamic relationship with a living God who has walked in our shoes and overcome every trial we face. We lose automation. We gain relationship. We lose cheap grace and gain costly but infinite grace. We lose the illusion of control and gain the reality of trust. We lose material comfort and gain communion with God. We lose the world and gain The Kingdom.
In short, we follow. We lose. We find. We are kept.
In this scenario, forgiveness is something we ask for quickly because we want the relationship to be restored. Because we love someone and genuinely grieve over our own selfish actions.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
He’s not a machine. He is the righteous judge of all the earth. He is the God who loves us, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the jealous lover of our souls.
Gut check. Is it time to walk away from the machine god of our own making? Is it time to take up our cross and follow Jesus? (Hint: this works a lot better in community with others, called church.) He even promised to reward our new way of life when our journey comes to an end…
It’s Holy Week. Never a better time to get in step with Jesus on the way to Golgatha, where his cross was lifted up with Him nailed to it. He gave up everything. He gained even more. He invites us to follow

Good Friday Service: 7pm
NewHope Community Church of the Nazarene

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Posted on April 18, 2011, in CotN, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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