I would like to contrast Solomon’s words of wisdom with words of life from the new testament on the same subject from Hebrews…
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God” Solomon
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Hear a difference? Let’s continue our comparison between the spirit of the old and the new covenant..
“….and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” Solomon
“….casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Peter
“There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him ….bothering him, wearing him out.” From the Parable of the Importunate Widow
If I am really listening, when I read the scriptures, I hear a different spirit in the old verses the new testament. For example, when I read this passage, I hear truth but it is a more rigid unbending truth. It resembles the spirit of those authoritative words I grew up with which my ear eventually grew dull to. I ultimately questioned that voice’s true interest in me and I grew increasingly certain I would never measure up to it’s standards.
The spirit of this passage seems like that of a master to a servant as opposed to a father to a son. The words ring true but cold at the same time. They feel restrictive and formulaic. I have lived the christian life with this voice in my head and it made me feel as though I were walking a religious tight rope; ….If I say too much….too quickly….if I apply the truth and fail ….if I second guess myself….”Oh no, I have angered God”….Whack! “You fool, you didn’t pay your vow! You’ve blown it again.” I’m thinking, “Oh no! All I have done is for nought. I should have feared God!” This is the inner dialogue of a spirit in bondage. This tone of voice produces religion. I believe the Lord continually invites us to break free.
Why is it that we gravitate toward a God who is so quick with the rod of reproof? I hear it all the time, “I deserve that rod. I know what a wretch I am. But, I am so grateful. After all, I am just a sinner saved by grace.” When I hear this spirit, the shame typically outweighs the gratitude. It did for me. Being saved and tolerated may be a truth but it is a debilitating one in its incompleteness.
Is it possible that our consciences, which are not fully converted, seek an equilibrium where they feel more comfortable in their insecurity with an angry God (who we think sees us as we see ourselves – fallen and unworthy) than we do with a God who simply loves us as we are? (We need to keep in mind that he died for us while we were yet sinners.) While it is a scandal, it is nonetheless, the higher and essential truth that we must make our own if we are to go free.
I made a pretty good religious showing for years in my devotion to brokenness; “Oh Lord, my sins are ever before me!” Few people were as passionate as I was; If I could only repent a bit deeper…if I could only grasp a fuller sense of my depravity….then perhaps I would finally be honest with God and myself and I would finally discover the abundant life I have read of but rarely tasted. This is the tightrope I mentioned.
Religion prods from behind, saying, “Get back up on that tight rope and try harder! If you would just do what I say, you wouldn’t spend all your time on the ground licking your wounds!” Jesus, on the other hand, invites us, face to face, to come follow him along the narrow path. Yes we will fall but the process of falling and getting up is essential if we are to walk with Christ.
Because, I was a prisoner in the cell of performance for decades and have recently gone free, I am more diligent to keep my heart swept free of this religious spirit which robs, kills and destroys our birthright as God’s children. I do it frequently by simply telling my story…giving an account of this specific hope that is within me – pointing to the scriptures and prophetic words that have awakened and animated his Life within me.
Satan is a master liar. Master liars major on minor truths. The biggest one the Church has swallowed is that we are just poor depraved sinners destined mostly to withstand the onslaught of evil until Jesus comes back. Consequently our battle cry is; “Come quickly Lord Jesus!”
To believe that we are just sinners is a distortion of who we truly are in Christ. I believe the Father continually invites those of us who believe we are, by virtue of our sinful natures, destined to stray, to reread the new testament and lay claim to the new hearts and new natures that are ours in Christ now – not just in the sweet by and by.
Being saved is a thousand times bigger than just being forgiven and some day going to heaven. This line of thinking leaves out everything from Jesus advent to his ascension. He lived a life between those points in time. He was demonstrating the kingdom that he came to initiate. I believe he is waiting for us to dive back into the middle of the gospels and discover our kingdom birthrights as sons and friends and shed our old servant wineskins. He has new wine he is ready to pour.
Father, Crush performance-religion beneath your foot. Cut off all of our familiar pathways back into religious bondage. Help us to become more interested in the work of your hands than that of ours. Convert us from our stuffy elder brother hearts to hearts of innocent children who are weaned from works; who have responded to the invitation onto your lap. Thank you Lord that we are your inheritance. We love you!
Note; I have not thrown out the entirety of the old testament as irrelevant or uninspired. I am only wary where the spirit of the old testament’s words inspire the illusion that any kind of righteousness, blessing or favor with God can be secured by our labors. Our LIfe is purely a gift in Christ. Attempts at compliance (done consciously or not) undermine grace and inevitably stunt Life.