WHAT DOES GOD ASK of ME?
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JUNE 18, 2016
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)
I’ve been plumbing the depths of some deep theological waters the past few days, and now, as my good friend Win put it, I’ve painted myself into a corner and need to write my way out of it. I thought the title would be, “What does God ask of us?” But then, I realized that it’s not my place to speak for God to you, nor yours to speak for Him to me. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. So, this is what I’m pondering and if it speaks to you, then we’re both blessed.
The impetus for this journey came from Richard Rohr’s Meditation entitled, “The Performance Principal,” posted 6/15/16, in which he commented: “Almost all of us start with a performance principle of some kind: “I’m good because I obey this commandment, because I do this kind of work, or because I belong to this group.”
Most of us came to Christ in the churches our parents attended, and if that seemed right to us, then we remained with that group. A number of us, however, did not find nourishment, encouragement, or inspiration in that beginning group, and so we sought to find something that “did it” for us individually.
Of that group, many of us left organized religion and have continued our spiritual walk outside the hallowed walls of church, sometimes prospering, sometimes floundering. This is true of Protestant groups as well as Catholic. What Rohr is talking about, of course, is trying to live by law in the age of grace.
Paul was indeed a radical when it came to this topic, because he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, a champion of law, and so zealously jealous to preserve it that he hunted Christians and turned them over to be imprisoned or worse. Yet, in spite of that ignominious beginning, he became a pioneer for the unmitigated GRACE of God! In fact, he wrote to the Corinthians that, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Ouch. We may well ask if that be true, what help is there for us who began in the law? Paul answers, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:56-57, NIV)
Pack your mental bags and come on a journey with me as we explore what God asked of men and women in the Old Testament, living under law. Of Adam and Eve, He required only one thing: Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, no matter how delicious it looks. They couldn’t keep even one law, which tells us how this story is going to proceed.
God asked of Abraham that he leave hearth and home, kith and ken, and follow Him on a journey to a land He would show him. I find it very interesting that God did not tell Abe to give up his moon worship, which was what the pagans were worshipping in Ur of the Chaldees back in that day. Abe didn’t have to clean himself up; he just had to pack up his asses and camels and GO with God!
Isaac had very little asked of him, and accomplished little else other than opening one of the wells his father had dug. I’ve always suspected that his near brush with death up on Mount Moriah, when his father prepared to offer him as a sacrifice to God, traumatized him for life.
Jacob was a con man, who cheated his older twin Esau out of his birth right. Jacob had to encounter the living God personally and have his name changed to Israel before he began to act like the man of God he finally became.
Moses was slow of speech and too afraid to go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh alone, so God allowed his spineless brother Aaron to accompany him. By God’s grace and His mighty power, they led Jacob’s progeny out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and the entire body of commandments known as the Law of Moses, which had 613 components. This Law was perfect (Psalms 19:7); however, it had two major problems. 1) No one could keep it, and 2) since it was but a shadow of things to come, it could not “make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1, RSV)
Yet, in spite of Paul’s assurance that we are no longer under law, but under grace (Roman 6:14), Christians today, who have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and called Children of God, still persist in trying to live by law, attempting to bind it on others, causing themselves and the ones they are trying to bind up with it to stumble. They are those who did not heed the Hebrew writer’s warning, “See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15, RSV) I submit that this “root of bitterness” has caused division, duality thinking, and pride with the consequence that many have failed to attain “the grace of God [which] has appeared for the salvation of all men.” (Titus 2:11, RSV)
For the past 18 years, God has given me writings to publish on The Glory Road, and later the blog, about the difference between religion (self effort) and Life in the Spirit (Christ within us, the hope of glory). This was the same message God sent Lenny to deliver to the Baptist men’s Sunday School Class. Some of the men were very upset with him at first because they thought he was taking away their pacifier (the law). Lenny never worried about that because the Lord told him that He would finish what Lenny had begun.
God lives in eternity and we work in time, so we have to learn to trust that He knows what He’s doing. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, RSV)
This is Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of the verse:
“..being persuaded and convinced of this very thing: that the One inwardly beginning (making an inward start; inciting; inwardly originating [note: in the context of sacrifices, this word meant “to begin the offering”]) a good work, a virtuous action or an excellent deed within you (or: among you folks), will fully bring it to the goal (will bring perfection upon it; shall continue upon it to the final act and finished product), until (or: right up to) [the] Day of Christ Jesus [with other MSS: as far as a Day which is Jesus Christ]! (Philippians 1:6)
I find it very comforting that even though we cannot see the end results of our labors for God, He has promised us that He will fully bring them to fruition. Whether the Day of Jesus Christ is what some refer to as Judgment Day, or perhaps the day when the people who’ve heard the Gospel come into the reality of it, makes no difference. If God is going to finish our works, then they will be done to perfection, for our good and His glory!
Richard Rohr concludes that in spite of our attempts to keep the law, to be good, to be justified by our works, what it boils down to is this:
“It’s not what you do for God; it’s what God has done for you. You switch from trying to love God, to just letting God love you. And it’s at that point you fall in love with God. Up to now, you haven’t really loved God; you’ve largely been afraid of God. You’ve been trying to prove yourself to God. Finally, perfect love casts out all fear. As John says, “In love there can be no fear. Fear is driven out by perfect love. To fear is to still expect punishment. Anyone who is still afraid is still imperfect in the ways of love.” (1 John 4:18) End quote.
Even Moses the great deliverer of God’s people, had to learn that our works count for nothing. Paul wrote, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:14-15, NIV)
Father, thank You for what you’ve done for us in Christ, and for the assurance that YOU will finish whatever good works You have begun in us. Nothing depends upon us really and that is the most amazing thing about our walk with you. Everything depends upon Your grace, Your mercy, and Your unconditional love. Hold us close, Father as we try to squirm out of giving up on our own righteousness, of which in reality, there is none. In love and appreciation, we join our voices with “the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Amen. To God be the glory, world without end.