Read: Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68
Well, today’s the day we come to the passage of scripture that I’ve been dreading and looking forward to the most. It’s the if-then statement of blessings and curses. For anyone who is a student of ancient law you know this section very well… I know I do! This is the section of scripture that almost killed me. You see, I had discovered God, like, REALLY discovered Him; I came to the eye opening experience that God isn’t just some religion He’s REAL! The God I had learned about my entire life was, well is, real. I was so in awe of this creator God wanting a relationship with me that I was desperate to please Him. I was so in love with this man named Jesus that I wanted to DO something to gain His attention, His favor, His love and approval. Well, I’ve always been fond of the Old Testament, the stories, the people, the rules – so clear cut, like bold black and white drawings it was so easy to see who was in the right and who was in the wrong. I could read those rules and follow them and KNOW that I was pleasing God, right? I could do everything that everyone on the radio, behind a pulpit or behind a pen told me to do and I could know that I was gaining God’s favor right? Oh, so wrong! It makes me want to weep remembering the cords of religion that I tied around myself during that time in my life. I was trying so hard to please God and by doing so I was making Him weep. I was trying so desperately to be someone else when all He wants me to be is who HE made me to be – Imperfect ME.
I went to extremes to try and please God, I was exhausting myself trying to make Him happy with me and He lovingly sent me several messengers to tell me that He was happy with me and to stop trying so hard to please Him. But I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen because I was afraid. I was afraid that if I did something wrong, if I tripped and fell in my faith that God would get angry and curse me. I was spending so much time reading in the Old Testament without reading it through the filter of the cross that I was falling deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. It got so bad that I was constantly asking God to forgive me throughout the day, hardly an hour would go by without a sin occurring and that was on the days when I hadn’t even left the house. And then I heard it, the words that changed my life. Not instantly mind you, the Accuser would have none of that, it was a word of hope that God planted deep into my heart so that it would be rooted deeply enough to withstand the tugging and clawing of the Accuser. That word was “forgiven”, past tense, as in it’s done, finished, over, I have been forgiven. Not He is in a constant state of forgiving me, I have been forgiven. Everything that I will ever do that stands against me in the court of Heavenly Law HAS BEEN (past tense) forgiven.
You see the key to my dilemma was that I was trying. I was trying to be good, I was trying to do the right thing, I was trying to love others with my works, I was trying trying trying trying… But that’s just it! His burden is EASY and His yoke is Light! When we are in Christ there is no trying, there is only doing or not doing. When Jesus died on the cross He went through so much more than all the physical things that we saw. Jesus was fulfilling a supernatural law, supernatural things generally can not be seen with physical eyes. Jesus endured so much MORE than we even know about, things that we could never or would never want to imagine, and part of my prayers this morning I was thanking Him for what He gave up for us on the cross, so much more than we could ever imagine and you know what He told me “I gave it all”. Jesus was not born of man, He was born from the Holy Spirit of God, He was fully man and fully God – how, we will never understand this side of heaven, but He was. That day on the cross Jesus did something, He took upon Himself a task that no man before or ever again will ever have to endure, He took upon Himself total and complete darkness. By allowing the Father to pile upon His shoulders the entirety of our sins He was allowing the Father to completely cover Him with darkness. The One who is The Light was smothered in our darkness. And for that time the candle was snuffed completely out. In Matthew 27:50 it tells us And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. His spirit, THE Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and Love and Peace and Patience, the Spirit of joy and kindness, goodness and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; the Spirit that made Him The Messiah He gave that up – for us. For me. For you. He gave up His absolute most precious thing in life and in death, He gave up His Spirit. The essence of who He is, He gave that up for us.
So that we could continue to worship Him in lip service only?
So that we could keep following the same religious rules that had tied up all the Israelites for thousands of years?
He gave up that most precious Spirit of His very own so that He could share it with us!
On the day that Moses walked down the mountain with the Law written on tablets of stone 3,000 people died. The Law is referred to as the ministry of death. Yet on the day that the Holy Spirit came on Pentacost and wrote itself onto hearts of flesh 3,000 people LIVED! The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ spirit, is the Law of Life, it is the ministry of love! Following Jesus isn’t about following rules made up by men, it’s about following the man you love!
Almost twelve years ago I stood next to my Beloved in the front of a church filled with family and friends and bedecked with flowers, satin bows and plenty of tulle where I vowed to never leave or forsake him, the love of my life. A few short years later he decided that he didn’t want to work in a factory for the rest of his life and that he needed to go back to school to be a mechanic for Mercedes. In order to do this our little family of three had to move three hours away from our quiet little small town life in our huge rental house and live in a tiny apartment in the suburbs of the big city of Chicago for two years. We would be on an extremely tight budget that left no room for frivolities like trips to the zoo with a two-year-old, or even weekend movies. Those were two hard dark years, but we found ways to have fun and enjoy where we were at the time. And above all that, we got through it too! At no point did I ever consider not going to that hard place with my husband, not once. Was I upset that he asked me to leave the comforts of our hometown, the closeness of our parents and everything that we had ever known about life? Yes, yes I was. But did I believe that he was asking this of me because he knew that in the end having endured this time of difficulty would benefit our family tremendously? Yes, yes I did. As much as I hated the thought of leaving my home and family, the thought of leaving my husband was unthinkable. I was more than willing to go wherever he thought was best for our family, and I agreed with him.
Love isn’t about rules. Love doesn’t insist on it’s own way. Love is about being with the one that you love. My husband and I don’t have a set of rules for each other that we follow; you have to take out the trash for me to love you, you have to make sure my laundry is always done for me to know that you love me, you have to have sex with me everyday… love isn’t like that! We would never dream of treating our spouses like that… yet it’s OK for us to think that that’s how Christ treats His bride – the Church? Do we really see Him that way? I did. I saw Him that way for a very long time. And you know what the result of that was? The harder I tried to be the perfect girl for Him, the more I failed.
My husband is an absolutely amazing man. He does so much for our family, he sacrifices so much of his time and his own plans just for us; to make us happy. And yes, there are times when he has to stick to his guns and do what he had originally planned because he knows that its important. But whenever possible he is more than willing to bend over backwards to spend time doing something to help us because he loves us. This weekend he had plans of his own, I’m honestly not sure what they were but I know that they were plans to work outside. I wanted to paint the kitchen before our daughter’s birthday party this coming weekend. And while he certainly didn’t have to help me, remember he had other plans that didn’t include painting the kitchen with me, he spent hours taping the cabinets and counter tops for me (I’m horrible at this part of painting) so that the finished product would look just that much better. Folks, that’s love. That’s love in the deepest sense of love, giving of yourself and your time and talents for the ones that you love and care the most about. Jesus did that for us on the cross and He’s still doing it today. At this very moment He is sitting at the right hand of God talking to the Father about us and what He, our husband, thinks is best for each and every one of us. That’s love. Jesus sitting as our advocate in the courtroom of heavenly Law where the Father is the judge and Satan the Accuser stands against us trying to remind us of our continual sins. Notice I said trying to remind US of our sins, he knows there’s no point anymore trying to tell the Father because Jesus is there, sitting in His own finished work of ultimate forgiveness as living breathing proof that we have already been forgiven for what we do and say.
Do you feel like I do right now? Like you need to DO something to thank God for this ultimate forgiveness, this radical grace? I was praying asking God what He thought I could do for my husband to thank him for what he did for me this weekend and God said “ask him what he desires from you”. And it clicked for me, “OK Lord, what do YOU desire from me?” Now, get ready to be blown over by His response because I know I was.
“Uhhhh… try what Lord?”
“Try to be perfect”
“Um, Lord, haven’t we already been through this? I’ve tried that, I can’t do it remember the harder I tried to be perfect the more I failed miserably.”
“Beloved daughter, what is perfect?”
“Without flaw or blemish”
“and who made you?”
“Do I make mistakes? Did I make you flawed?”
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14
“So is there any part of you, physically, emotionally, or spiritually that I did not make? Is there any part of you that is flawed or blemished in MY eyes, your maker?”
“Remember, My ways are not your ways; My standards are not your standards. I don’t expect you to be Me! I expect you to be who I made you to be, YOU!”
1 John 5:13-17 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know that and to believe the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.
As Jesus is so are we. Love perfected with us. We KNOW that we are living in Christ because He has given us His Spirit! This is the LIGHT! Jesus gave it all on the cross, He gave it all to us and the all that He gave us was Himself, His Spirit. And when we choose to get married to Jesus, whether standing at an altar in a church or in our backyards or even in our cars; we receive the greatest gift of all time – His Spirit! God, the Spirit of the living breathing God comes and lives in your flesh. And that Spirit of God that lives in us is nothing less than the Spirit of LOVE. But that’s not all, there’s more, by God’s Spirit of love living within us, love is perfected… love is perfected with us… love wasn’t perfect without us. God wasn’t perfect, isn’t perfect without you and me living in Him. Woah! That’s huge! To say God isn’t perfect without little old imperfect me, well, that’s a mighty statement. But there it is! And think about it, it makes perfect sense, love isn’t love without someone to love! In Christ’s love we are made perfect, the unpalatable is made palatable. Like a strawberry protein shake, the dusty pink powder is made useable when it is mixed with the milk, through Christ our imperfections are made perfect.
As Jesus is so are we.