Over the past few months I have ready quite a few books that have really got my brain thinking about how I view and interact with the God of the universe. I am afraid that the American church tends to paint Christianity as just any other religion, basically just a set rules to follow. Americans want a simple religion one that they can make a check list for and be done with it. In his book Mere Christianity author C.S. Lewis tells us that in reality there is no such thing as a simple religion. "After all real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not." He goes on to say that realty is also some things we could not of guessed. That is one of the reasons Lewis himself believes in Christianity, it is a religion that cannot be guessed. The problem that religion seeks to answer is not simple, so the answer is not going to be simple either. The one thing that Christianity offers that no other religion can offer is a personal relationship with the Creator. In fact as Lewis points out we were designed to run on Him. "He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other." The problem with making a checklist is that we think that if we do xyz then God will give us abc and we will be happy. This is not the case. Our happiness is Him. There is no such thing as happiness apart from Him. There is only one way out for a fallen, imperfect man, that is to surrender. This means that you must be willing to admit you are wrong (lay down your pride), say your sorry, and then be willing to start life over again. Lewis puts it like this:
"It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person - and he would not need it."
Jesus is that perfect person and He underwent a terrible death so that He could take our punishment. He did this because He loves us. So why is it that when we Christians are constantly looking for the easy way out? Jesus didn't take the easy way out... and thankfully He didn't, it would have put all of us in hell.
I ran across this statement in Philip Yancy's book Whats so Amazing About Grace?, " If we truly grasped the wonder's of God's love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6&7 - What can I get away with? - would never occur to us. We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God's grace." It is this question of what can I get away with that leads us to establish certain "rules of Christianity". We call it legalism. Most people hate this word and get very defense when people talk about it. There is always a way that we can justify our "rules" in order to make them not seem legalistic. However that is just what they are. We must get away from this idea that if a person breaks "the rules" then he must not really love Jesus. That is absurd. In fact it is this very act of judging others by our standards that exploits the grace of God. On the other hand those who try to stay far away from legalism think that their road is easier. After all isn't freedom always easier? Yancy says no. "At first glance legalism seems hard, but actually freedom in Christ is the harder way. It is relatively easy not to murder, but hard to reach out in love; easy to avoid a neighbor's bed, hard to keep a marriage alive; easy to pay taxes, hard to serve the poor. When living in freedom, I must remain open to the Spirit for guidance. I am more aware of what I have neglected than what I have achieved. I cannot hide behind a mask of behavior, like the hypocrite, nor can I hide behind facile comparisons with other Christians."
If Christianity was supposed to be an easy, simple to follow religion then the Bible would be shorter. To be a Christian is simple: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. The act of being a Christian: loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind is not so simple.
My prayer is that I myself stop trying to find the simple way to please my Savior. Getting up everyday and completing a checklist of doing good acts will not please Him. He wants my heart, a good and joyful attitude at all times. This seems impossible however I serve a mighty God. One who can do all things, even the things that seem impossible. He promises to give me the strength to do everything that pleases Him. The key is to look to Him for the strength. I cannot get through this life on my own. Oh how I wish I could learn that lesson and never try out branch out on my own. Thankfully He is also a forgiving and gracious God who always takes me back.