He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 8: Do I Have To?
Those who seek to follow God only because they don't want to go to hell, never discover how incredible a Father he really is. They see Christianity as an onerous burden and don't want to do one bit more than they absolutely must. I've heard the question literally hundreds of times. Struggling with sin, or desiring something that Scripture marks out of bounds for the believer, they'll ask what I think they should do. When I tell them what Scripture seems to say, I see the look in their eye-gears turning hoping to find a loophole so they can still have what they desire and not end up in hell.
From the lips of a woman wanting to marry a man who doesn't share her faith, "Do I have to, to be saved?"
From the angry man who doesn't want to forgive the person who cheated him, "Do I have to, to be saved?"
From the person who wants to justify the habit God wants to free him from, "Do I have to, in order to be saved?"
How does one answer that question? If you say yes, then you emptied the cross of its power by substituting human effort. If you say no, they will use it as an excuse to indulge themselves in a false notion of what it means to live in God. I finally discovered that the question itself is unfair, and shows how far removed Christianity has become from its central purpose. Instead of desiring to walk in friendship with him, we are only preoccupied with securing his goodies. It's his blessing we want not him! How painful that must be for him.
True, God has the best goodies in all the universe, but the person who seeks those without desiring to know him misses out on the real life of the kingdom. That's what people are saying who wonder if they must do something or risk losing their salvation. They don't want one drop more of God's life than the minimum required to escape hell. How tragic! No wonder they missed the best gift God could give them, and why Jesus wanted so desperately to free them from the tyranny of trying to earn eternal life by their own religious efforts.
All this is not to say that hell does not exist, nor that those who refuse God won't end up there. Scripture is remarkably clear on that point. What I am saying is that when we use the threat of hell to motivate people to come to God, we are using it in a way Jesus never did and in a way he never intended. In doing so, we push people further away from God's greatest desire, not invite them closer to it.
Jesus compared this life to a treasure discovered in a field; something so valuable that you would give up anything to possess it. His life is not something you have to follow. He is worth knowing just because of how incredibly awesome he is. If you only want his gifts without wanting him you cheat yourself out of the best portion.
Here the fear of hell is no use to us at all. The insecurity it breeds only takes us further from him and makes us uncertain about who he is. Jesus wanted us to be very clear about who his Father is because we only grow in him to the degree that we trust his love for us. There will be no one in hell that he did not love with all his heart. His love reaches to every person across every sin and failure, hoping that at some moment they will come to know just how loved they are. There is nothing more important for you to know.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. -Matthew 13:44