What if, instead of stressing the magnitude of our depravity, he'd emphasized God's enormous goodness?
What if, when quoting that biblical passage, he'd included the preceding words of that verse, "God proves his love for us" (Romans 5:8 NRSV)?
What if, instead of intimidating us with the threat of torture, he'd approached us with the assurance of God's protection?
What if the "gospel" he preached had actually been good news?
Tragically, as a needy ten-year-old I didn't hear or see the good news in the religion that was offered. Instead of leading me to realize that I was God's beloved, he led me to believe that I was God's biggest disappointment.
Have you longed for the warm embrace of God, only to get slapped down harshly by religion? I urge you to trade the rigors of religious performance for intimacy with Jesus, whose astonishing invitation is simply "Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you" (John 15:4, The Message). Jesus' home is a place of welcoming love, unconditional acceptance, and endless assurances of affection.
I introduce an alternative path—the beauty of brokenness—using the Mark 14 story about the woman who captured Jesus' heart when she broke an expensive jar of perfume to anoint him. An uninvited dinner guest, this woman valued intimacy with Jesus over her reputation among the religious leaders of her day. When they leveled the charge that it was a waste, Jesus elevated its value by decreeing that it was a beautiful thing. Although Jesus never made breaking the rules a worthy goal in and of itself, he made it clear that rule keeping is pointless if it's not an expression of something deeper. As we give up striving to fix ourselves, we find that the cracks in our fragmented lives become illuminated with the power of God's love, which shines into others' lives. Those who are filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their own broken existence.
Jesus said, "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners" (Matthew 9:13 NLT). When we understand what he meant by this, we find courage to confess our fears and insecurities, and plunge into the depth of God's love for us. Quit trusting in your own ability to live for God, and simply trust God instead. After all, he's the home you've always longed for.
Adapted from Fil Anderson's book, Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God (IVP, 2010). Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.
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