Honestly, I’ve always shied away from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in a direct and specific fashion. I talk about Him (when I’m actually talking, which in some situations is very little) a great deal of the time. I tell people about His latest revelations, or the working out of impossible circumstances, or that week’s theme of instruction coming from disconnected and coincidental sources plied together by His Spirit and directed to my attention. Or how He brought clarity and healing where I needed it most. Yes, I talk about those things (without hesitation) because I’m simply telling people about my life.
When it comes to reciting what was once known as the four spiritual laws, something inside me pulls back. It isn’t in my personality to recite four basic points from a tiny pamphlet and expect the person I’m with to be ravished by the presence of the Almighty. All I know is that if someone had recited the four spiritual laws to me thirty-two years ago and in response I made the decision to join up, I most assuredly would have embarked upon a rigorous path of rule-following and adherence to “right” Christian behaviors and rituals. Thank God, that didn’t happen.
I was very screwed up back then (not that I’m not screwed up now, but it was a different flavor of being screwed up). It was best that my issues be surfaced and dealt with: healed, matured, corrected, removed, and aligned with His image and His will. If I hadn’t begun by simply getting to know Him, I might have tried being “good” by my own effort. I would have failed even more so than I did, and probably left utterly hopeless. That wouldn’t have been “good” at all.
God is so gentle. From the moment of my conversion, there was something invisible present with me. I sensed things. I recognized movements in me and in my circumstances. I knew things. There was more to my spiritual life and faith than being a golden ticket-holder, assured of receiving an angelic nod as I one day pass through the pearly gates. There was and is Someone in my life Who wants to live it with me. It’s a dynamic relationship; a unique relationship; and a relationship rooted in, filled with, and encompassed by love. God’s love. Agape.
There’s a life beyond the golden ticket.
For those of you wanting to check out at this point because I said there was something invisible present with me, etc., etc., etc., don’t leave town. Let me ask you this. Do you think a God Who is infinite (and so Holy that if we were to see Him in His full and unhidden glory we would fall dead where we stand) would limit His plan to a contract that promises entry in exchange for the golden ticket? Did you say “no?” Good. I don’t think so either. Jesus promised life and life abundantly. He also said He is with us always. Have you thought about how He might interact with us in the here and now if we chose to pursue Him?
I dictated this into my phone a few days ago:
We need to deed the space of our personal kingdom to God, and trade in our sorry selves for the new experience of life in His kingdom space, over which He has all “say.”
In those moments, because that’s what it is…moments…, when we deed the space of our kingdom, (in other words, relinquish our “say”) we catch a glimpse of Him. Philippians 4:8-9 says,
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul is telling us to practice dwelling on Jesus. He tells us to think about Him, remember how He loves us, remember Who He is as deity and creator, and to meditate on His character. It’s amazing how quickly all the anxieties about life fade away as the peace of God moves in.
Colossians 3:1-4 says,
1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 [a]Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Notice the word “keep.” That means now…practice seeking the things above where Christ is seated. We must evermore frequently and consistently look for Him. We ought to set our minds on Him and not on our own performance and adequacy as Christians. Believe me, it’s much easier to focus on one thing or one Person than to keep up on my progress against a list of standards or rules.
John 14:21 says,
He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Yikes. There’s that word. Commandments. I don’t like it either. But I definitely want Christ to show Himself to me. Just like most things in God’s economy (upside-down, inside out, and backwards from what we think), it isn’t what you think. During His ministry, Jesus taught in parables. You may not have noticed. He routinely challenged the conventional wisdom about what it was to be righteous. The Pharisees and the Scribes were all about adherence to the law. So much so, they’d lost their heart’s understanding of God’s intent and had turned the law into a regulatory system to control and rule over people, forcing compliance through fear of condemnation. Dallas Willard once said there is a large contingent of “mean Christians” out there who do the same thing.
Obviously, they’ve got it wrong.
But what’s right?
Beginning in Matthew 22:23, Jesus is fielding questions from the Sadducees. They were testing Him. After answering one of their convoluted questions about marriage in heaven, Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God….”
See? Our human effort to become good isn’t always in line with what God really meant in His word. I think we need to get some understanding, don’t you? It sure would be a lot easier to ride on the wind of His power instead of exhausting myself in a futile attempt fueled by my own abilities, talents, and determination.
Anyway, back to more of the story. At that point, after Jesus shut down the Sadducees, the Pharisees gathered themselves together and one of them asked a question. Matthew 22:34-40 says…
34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, [n]a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [o]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
I need not say more. I’ll just tell you a story.
My co-worker and I sat down at our table as the hostess walked away to tell the server of our arrival. My lunch partner looked troubled. I asked him if there was anything wrong. He began describing a situation with his son, a situation that challenged his ideas about what it means to live a Christian lifestyle. I could tell he was torn as he told me about the practical steps he was taking to get his son back on the right track.
As he did, I felt my diaphragm constrict. I thought about how his son might have felt as his father suddenly intervened and made huge changes to his routine. As my thoughts converged and I sought to understand, I suddenly remembered the answer.
“What do you think I should do?” my lunch partner asked.
“I think you need to look at this from a place of love. Then you will know what to do.”
I’ll never forget the look on his face. For a splinter of a second, he was poised to protest, and then he stopped and settled back into his chair, silent.
He knew what to do.
This is life beyond the golden ticket.
Andrew Murray is one of my favorite authors. In his book Abide in Christ, he writes (in the Notes at the end of Chapter 29):
Thus they endeavour to reform their old state, and to be made perfect in the flesh, instead of putting it off and walking according to the new state in Christ. They trust on low carnal things for holiness, and upon the acts of their own will, their purposes, resolutions, and endeavours, instead of Christ; and they trust to Christ to help them in this carnal way; whereas true faith would teach them that they are nothing, and that they do but labour in vain.”
Abide thus in Him; He has promised to abide in you. He will teach you to be humble and watchful. He will teach you to be happy and trustful. Bring every interest of your life, every power of your nature, all the unceasing flow of thought, and will, and feeling, that makes up life, and trust Him to take the place that self once filled so easily and so naturally. Jesus Christ will indeed take possession of you and dwell in you; and in the restfulness and peace and grace of the new life you shall have unceasing joy at the wondrous exchange that has been made— the coming out of self to abide in Christ alone.
That’s it for today.
 Andrew Murray (2015-11-20). Abide in Christ (p. 229). Scriptura Press. Kindle Edition.
 Andrew Murray (2015-11-20). Abide in Christ (p. 227). Scriptura Press. Kindle Edition.