Extreme church, exceeding righteousness, the surpassing value of knowing Him. I attended a photography seminar a few years ago and got an idea for promoting senior portraits that I felt communicated an important message to potential customers: “It’s Your Image . . . Don’t Settle.” Your high school senior portrait is (or, at least until social media, was) the most viewed photograph you would ever have made. It needed to be well-made, by someone who knew what they were doing. It needed to look the best it possibly could, better than what an amateur with a “good camera” could pull off.
I think I liked that as an ad campaign because it also fit with a spiritual principle that has become important to me over the years.
God wants to give us Himself. We “settle” for earthly experiences. God doesn’t want to deprive us of pleasure, but wants us to find the greatest possible pleasure – knowing Him.
It is not only in the area of earthly pleasures that we settle for less than God has for us. It is also in the area of Christian living and lifestyle.
We have so many plans, programs and events that we consider to be part of living the Christian life, that we don’t know how to just be Christian. And that works both ways. We are so unsure of how to just be Christian, that we come up with plans, programs, and events in an attempt to make it happen.
We think church is something we “go to” and that Christianity is the things we do, especially in relation to church. We manufacture something called the Christian life that is composed mainly of classes, seminars, services, retreats…. We are so convinced that this is what it means to be a Christian that we teach people this is how they must live.
We preach “Go into the world and invite people to church” when Jesus said, “As you go, make disciples….” We are proclaiming religious activities instead of proclaiming Him. We teach people to join in our programs instead of teaching them to love God and live in His strength. We teach them to go to church in stead of abide in His presence. Instead of equipping the saints, we are engineering a lifestyle.
Besides just being the way we’ve always been taught, I think it’s just part of our struggle to “be holy.” We struggle to figure out what we must do to be holy. And in all our efforts, we never quite make it. The only way for us to “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” is to let Him be both the standard, and the one who makes it happen. The Old Testament Hebrew names Nissi (Standard), and M’kaddesh (the One who makes holy) come to mind. That is who He is.
We settle for so much less than He desires for us when we raise up a standard of holiness that is anything less than God Himself. We settle for so much less than He desires for us when we strive to attain holiness by any means other than His indwelling presence enabling us to live. No wonder Jesus said our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
“It’s not the law, and not the book, not the knowledge of what is right, that works obedience, but the personal influence of God and His living fellowship.” – Andrew Murray
Your Father knows how to give good things to His children. He longs to give good things to you! He craves the privilege of giving you great joy. He takes great delight in giving you great delight. He apparently has fun blessing us!
He really is. And He really is a rewarder of those who seek Him.