A couple of weeks ago I went into the gym for a quick workout (They’re always quick!) and realized I had forgotten to swap out my gym clothes from the day before. Needless to say they were “ripe”! But, I was at the gym and really needed to workout so I decided to press forward and workout anyway. Maybe you have had the experience of being able to smell yourself? Well, I could smell myself and it wasn’t a pleasing aroma!
However, after I got my shoes on, got my ipod tightly fixed around my arm (It makes your arm look bigger if you pull it tight. It typically causes numbness to your fingers and hands but it’s all about how you look and not how you feel…right?!), and filled up my water bottle I realized the smell had gone away! Or, at least, I didn’t smell it anymore. The truth is, of course, that the smell didn’t change. I just became conditioned to it! Thank God! The stench still existed but I had become so used to it that I didn’t realize how obtrusive it was to those around me!
I really believe that this ability to be conditioned to things that should be repulsive also takes place in our relationship with God. I believe most of us fall into one of two categories. The first are people who have never realized how repulsive our sin is to God and how great the divide is between God and us! This happens because the only standard we’ve ever compared ourselves to is what exist in other flawed people around us and have never looked at ourselves in light of God’s perfection. My goodness! Look around you! We can always find someone who appears to be more screwed up than we are! However, we have to realize they aren’t God and we aren’t held to their standard or even our own standard! We are held to His standard which is perfection!
The second category of people are those who have simply forgotten who and where they were when God rescued them! Because we’ve become comfortable with our salvation we have now become conditioned to our own stench! I would relate this to pealing an onion. As long as you don’t remove the outer layer there is nothing repulsive to smell or make you cry like a middle school girl who lost her Justin Bieber tickets! But once the layers begin to be removed the fumes and aroma are pungent! For many in the church it’s been far too long since we’ve granted access to the Holy Spirit to remove a layer of religiosity and reveal the great chasm that exist between our nature and God’s!
We must realize that a perpetual deepening of our understanding of God’s perfection and the greater realization of our own imperfection go hand in hand. The greater our understanding of God’s perfect nature (Which indicates a growing, healthy relationship with God), the more we see our own imperfections and the more we become aware of the great divide that exist between us and our Creator! The opposite is also true. As our awe of the holiness of God begins to wane, either through comparison to worldly standards or by becoming comfortable in our salvation, this chasm seemingly begins to shrink! The result is minimizing the chasm that our sin has created until we come under the illusion that we, somehow, could bridge the gap!
An illustration of this would be to picture yourself standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon on a foggy day unaware of its enormous size. Through the fog you swear you are able to detect the other side only feet away and because the fog has covered the canyon floor it appears that not reaching the other side is no big deal! So you step back, get a running start and leap with your best effort! Your problem? You underestimated the size of the chasm that existed between you and the other side as well as the price you would have to pay for not making it!
My fear is that the American church has offered such a false hope to people! We water down the truth in hopes not to offend but it only serves to leave people in condemnation! If we are honest the truth is uncomfortable! The truth isn’t easy! BUT…the truth when heard through spiritual ears and seen through the eyes of faith will set us free!
The truth today is that the chasm, or divide, between us and God is far too wide for us to think we could somehow earn our way across or even somehow build our own bridge to the other side! To think that we could somehow do enough to buy God’s favor with our behavior is an eternal mistake that many make! Does it seem crazy to think that we could somehow work our way to God? Does it seem odd that we would think that we could somehow buy our way to God through some religious act or manmade tradition? Then why do we do it? ALL OF US!? Why do we set aside the grace of God for a religion of works based righteousness that even in and of itself is an oxymoron because our works and true righteousness have never coexisted?
Don’t think you struggle with this? Don’t think it robs you of the joy of your salvation? More than likely, in some way, you are trying to buy God’s favor with your behavior rather than living in the abundance of God’s grace! We’ll unpack how we attempt to buy the free gift of God’s grace and how we overcome this trap this Sunday! See you then!