We are pleased to say that this guest post is written by Fraser Kay. He is the pastor of North Swindon Baptist Church and is a good friend to Cor Deo.
Why does trying to gain credit with God by keeping the law feel more attractive to us than simply walking with Him, by His Spirit (Galatians 5:16)? Poke around in the hearts of many Christians and I suspect that you will find an unhealthy amount of obligation to observe law. Perhaps less common is a heart that is alive to the love of Christ, desiring and enjoying intimacy with Him.
I don’t know about you but I feel this battle within me to engage in industry for Christ but without intimacy with Him. Of course the industry of serving for Christ is great and a privilege, but if it isn’t overflowing from intimacy with Christ (if the word ‘intimacy’ is a problem for you try ‘a personal relationship’ or ‘a heart united’) then we have a problem. It’s like a person giving their wife flowers on the morning of their 50th Wedding Anniversary but then going out for the day with his golfing buddies leaving her alone at home. Nice gift, but a token without the relationship. Serving God outside the joy of personal relationship with Him is just weird in the light of that illustration. Yet we lean to this perhaps more than we realise.
I wonder if part of the reason for this is that we want to keep God at arm’s length. Life is less painful that way. In effect we end up saying without realising it ‘I want a God that isn’t hurt by my sin’. Doesn’t it cost you more when a person you have sinned against finds out? If a married person (maybe you’ve been here) looks at online porn in secret they may feel bad, but you can guarantee that guilt is tripled if their spouse walks in the room! When the person we are called to love finds out about our failing we are much more likely to feel the sting of guilt. Shouldn’t this be even more so with the God who fashioned us for relationship with Him and who alone defines relationship? So why is it that we struggle to feel this sting of guilt in the secret place? I think it has everything to do with our keeping God at a distance. I want a God that isn’t hurt by my sin. It’s far less costly to have a God who is distant and who we see as merely disappointed with our sin. But who ever said God is like that?
The Bible tells us that in the beginning God walked in the garden looking for Adam and Eve because He cared where they were (Genesis 3); He was grieved in His heart with man’s sin (Gen 6.5); and He is a judge who feels righteous indignation with sin everyday (Psalm 7.11). In God we see One who weeps fountains of tears over His people (Jeremiah 9.1); Who is in furious jealousy in His married love for His people (Isaiah 54.5-8), and as He walked on earth ‘wept over those who resisted Him (Matt 23.37). This is the God of the New Covenant whose Spirit can be, at times, outraged (Hebrews 10.29) and grieved (Ephesians 4.30).
This is a God who, whether we like it or not, really does care where we place our affections. When they are not found in what He offers us (namely Christ, His beloved Son) then we ultimately find ourselves shunning God himself. Sin is not just the spoken temper or lustful look. It is first a slap in the face of God and a turning from His perfect love.
It’s uncomfortable to think of hurting God’s heart and causing His Holy Spirit to be grieved when we sin – part of sin’s grip is to lead us to think of God in less relational terms. I feel I have too often fallen for this lie and given in to thinking that God is more concerned about us keeping his law rather than staying close to his heart. It’s less painful that way.
But there is great reason for hope! The same heart of the Triune God that grieves over us is the One who became like us to win us back! We are undone without Him so He sent His Son, Jesus, with pure love for us running through His veins. He offered Himself for us at that glorious place of death on a wooden cross. We can know a relationship of adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ. When we turn to Him the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts to lead us to Christ and thus we can heartily pursue the ‘industry’ of holiness, righteousness and purity in Him. He made the way and leads us in the way.
We are those who are called to live for Christ by staying close with the person of the Holy Spirit. My flesh wants a God that isn’t hurt by my sin, but what an alternative we are offered! It is more costly to think of the Holy Spirit’s grief and the Lord’s broken heart when we sin, but the gain is far greater. It will lead to warmer intimacy with Him as we find our hearts living in true repentance, not towards a standard, but a Person. In Christ we see the loving gaze of forgiveness and offer of a closer, deeper relationship with him. He will lead us to a life daily sanctified by His Spirit