Having grown up in the church my whole life, I have always known to some extent that God is real. Though I lacked relationship with Him in the early years, to my knowledge I didn’t really have many moments of even questioning that there is a God because to state the simple truth, I was told there was a God. That was enough for me. I was raised to believe He is real. Raised to believe that church isn’t just something we do, but that there’s importance in it!
The struggle then began in that I had later found myself in a stream of Christianity that was well-intentioned but very much about rules, regulations and God’s judgement. The message being that I had no hope because I couldn't measure up according to all the laws that I was meant to uphold. I felt like I was going to burn in hell because there was too much I didn't have the ability to be, with very little freedom possible from it. At the time, I had many struggles that didn’t line up with what I was hearing, and it felt like I should spend every possible moment mercifully begging God to forgive me, though somewhere I believed He couldn’t. While it was true that elements of me didn't match up with truth, having that in-your-face-fire-burning-judgmental God didn't bring me closer to truth. It took me further away.
But then, later on I found myself in a different stream of Christianity that didn't lay down much in terms of standards or guidelines. There, though I had good experiences with God that radically changed my perception of what relationship with Him could be, I was no more grounded in the truth or able to live out a lifestyle that worked. Quite honestly, though I loved the grace, forgiveness, Jesus loves you, father's love message, it seemed unbalanced and unsustainable. I found myself looking for the next conference 'Holy Spirit high'. I found myself unable to shake everything I’d ever done by just saying that it’s okay because Jesus took care of it.
Now I don’t mean to say that that isn’t true. Jesus’ sacrifice did indeed cover a multitude of sins, but just saying that without real or true repentance didn’t seem to make sense in my heart. How could it be possible to live life the same way I’d been living without needing to repent or turn away or change? With battles and struggles, I was still in bondage, and this idea that I was somehow okay wasn’t convincing.
I knew there was an end and I knew there had to be more. Though they both meant well, neither extreme worked because they left me trapped, hopeless and directionless - on the one side, too boxed in by rules to live; on the other side, too free to know what to do - thus leaving me unsure of where to go and how to live.
Then in coming to The Father’s House, I began a journey of finding out that to have a Christianity that works requires both sides; knowing the standard and knowing there’s forgiveness available to those who repent because of having a loving God. I found out that believing takes what Jesus says at face value yet doesn't deny that there is a loving Father. It doesn’t deny that there will be an end, or that there is a standard, or that there is forgiveness, or that there is comfort, or that there is compassion. A Christianity that works aims to do just as Jesus said.
This revelation has left me the least confused I’ve ever been. It has helped me to understand that yes, love does look like something, and it also disciplines, speaks truth and stands for what is right. It is a high standard totally based on the words of Jesus, yet it is laid out completely as something that is possible in the context of being on a journey of salvation.
I have found that this releases some of the pressures I have felt in the past because though I know I'm not 100% where I need to be in terms of growth, this mentality actually gives me room to grow, and permission to not have it all together right now while still aiming at the mark. See, strictly being under rules and regulations without grace made me feel like I'd never make it, and the grace message without a standard or direction made it seem like I didn't have to aim anywhere in terms of working on my character or wrong thinking to be saved. Both extremes led me astray in terms of pointing towards the truth of Jesus.
Now this isn’t to say that either is wrong, but for me Christianity started to make sense when a middle ground between the two began to tie it all together. Suddenly, my beliefs gave me direction, purpose and a goal to work towards.
It has taught me what love in action actually looks like. It has shown me how God truly loves. It has shown that love is discipline when I need it; love is comfort when I need it; love is encouragement when I need it; love is hard conversations when I need them.
That’s why He isn’t just harsh or He isn’t just grace. To get me lined up with what He had intended for me from the beginning, it’s going to take the many facets of who He is.
I think in a lot of ways, we need Him to step in differently at different times. Take a parent for example - sometimes they are sweet, funny, and loving; then at times they are direct, vocal and straight forward about yes’s and no’s. We wouldn’t really make it with only a yes or a no.
This is like God in our lives. So my challenge to us today is what type of God do we love and serve? Do we know Him? Do we accept the many sides of who He is? Or do we put Him in a box because of what we think He should and shouldn’t be?
Let’s read what Jesus says. Let’s hear His words and live by them. Let’s let Him be who He is, and spend the rest of our days living a Christianity that works as we find out more of who He is and who that makes us.
What an honor and privilege we have to know Him, to see Him, to hear Him! Let’s be a people who go after Him.