Romance is the deepest thing in life, romance is deeper even than reality. G.K Chesterton
The quote above came to mind as I listened to Ben Rector today. Observing other people and then looking at myself, it constantly amazes me how we continually seek affirmation, validation, and ultimately love. We all do it in different, flawed, and broken ways. But we all seek it out, we all search for love like hidden treasure. We all want to play a part in a grand story, we all want to find the deeper meaning to life. We are all dissatisfied, we are all uncomfortable with the thought that this is all there is. I know I am.
As Christians, obviously we would say we do have the fullness of love in the cross, that we are part of the grand story of redemption, and that we have found deeper meaning to life. While all of that is true, do we really believe it? Because to be honest, I see a lot of dissatisfied, disheartened, discouraged people who claim to be Christians. Including myself. I’m not talking about having a bad day. I’m talking about how we run to broken cisterns, how we run to other lovers for our validation. A common manifestation of this is jumping from romantic relationship to romantic relationship, expecting others to tell us we’re worthy. We look to clothes, education, religious activity, exercise, jobs, marriage, and our false idea of God Himself to satisfy our longings.
These are all good things, things that shouldn’t be idols, but we make them so. Why? Why can’t we be dangerous for the gospel? Why aren’t we satisfied with Jesus? Why don’t we run into prayer first? Disbelief. We exalt the creation over the Creator (even His traits, as if they were separate from Him, we even exalt our own idea of who God is), we forget that our romance, our love story with Him is deeper than what we can see. We forget to believe in Him who is unseen, but will one day appear again. He is deeper than the physical, deeper than reality. At the center of our disobedience is our disbelief.
The more I study Galatians the more I see how much I idolize religious activity. Why? Because I don’t believe His grace and mercy has completely eclipsed my sin. I think God is pleased with the works I do for Him, not who I actually am. The hope of the gospel is not that I can work my way to gain God’s favor. That is an impossibility. The hope of the gospel is that when I believe what Jesus did on the cross, that his blood cleanses me of all my sin, I am a new creation. I am a daughter of God. No matter what I do, my acceptance into the family of God cannot be undone. I have been adopted. I am a forever a part of Him and He is forever a part of me. When I do sin, now, in my new identity, it is a non-issue. Jesus paid for all my sin past, present, and future. Sure, our sin will still have earthly consequences, but these consequences transform into opportunities to learn and grow.
One example of disbelief manifesting itself in us is a fear of rejection (other examples may be shame, guilt, slothfulness, apathy, etc.). Think of all the things you do or think, on a daily or weekly basis, that are motivated by fear of rejection or disappointment. Do you fear the rejection of God if you don’t go to church? Do you fear the rejection of a family member if you don’t comply to their wishes? Do you fear disappointing your friends or others in ministry with you? When fear drives our religious activity instead of love, it can be a very burdensome life. I know from first hand experience.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
In order to drive out this fear, we need a clearer, truer understanding of who God is, and then a strong healthy faith in that understanding of Him. Its one thing to know intellectually I’m a daughter of God, its another thing entirely for that belief to manifest itself in my actions.
We will trust the promises of God when we know the character of God. The key to a bigger, fuller view of God is study of the Word, and meditation on it. Its easy for me to intellectually affirm the story of the Exodus, but when I slow down and realize that story involves a burning bush, a stubborn man (not just talking about Pharaoh here), a series of plagues and an entire sea being parted, it makes me view God differently. I sit in amazement and adoration of Him. When we study Genesis, and meditate on the fact that the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, we should be in wonder at His faithfulness. We need to meditate on truth and put ourselves inside the stories. Galatians 3 tells us that it was Abraham’s belief that was reckoned to Him as righteousness.
Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Galatians 3:6-9
Abraham trusted the promise of God because He knew the character of God. He knew God would not break His covenant, He knew God was in complete control of his life. It is through study and meditation on the Word of God that we will condition our hearts to believe in who He is. We are no longer enslaved to looking for satisfaction, love, and meaning in things or people because we can believe and bank on God’s promise that He will love us. He will satisfy us. He will declare us righteous.
So what will a right belief of God accomplish in us?
We are freed to suffer. Being baptized into Christ means being baptized into a communion of suffering. This may get confusing, but stay with me. The reason we are freed to suffer is that we know we can never be completely satisfied while on this earth. We feel free to pour ourselves out and give all that we have for the sake of love. Remember, our romance with Jesus, this EPIC love story, is deeper than anything on this earth. It makes us reach for eternal things. No longer enslaved to the opinion or reaction of others, we would be freed to obey. Also armed with the belief of who we are in Christ, we are free to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of being enslaved to lifeless legalism and fear of retribution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this:
When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
Jesus set us free to freely love Him.
When we see how infinitely more glorious God is in His Word, when we see the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, it is easy to forsake the idols. It becomes easier to dismiss guilt, shame, and fear. When we start to believe in who God is, we get dissatisfied on this earth with how little we experience Him. We get uncomfortable with our sin and passionate about His glory. We must accept and believe who He is and then accept that until we are One with Him we will always be dissatisfied. We won’t be fully satisfied until temporal passes away, and we behold the eternal. Because we have eternity in our hearts.
So what keeps us persevering to the end? What anchors us down in the midst of suffering?
The hope of a better country. Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. Even our study of the Bible can be dissatisfying and frustrating at times (yeah watch out we’re getting honest here), so what keeps us persevering in our relationship with God? One day there will be no confusion or frustration. One day we will freely walk into deeper knowledge of God without hinderance. We believe this because we know His character. We know He is good. We know He has promised to return for His children, and He is faithful. This belief will anchor us in pursuit of Him. May our dissatisfaction drive us to prayer. May our dissatisfaction cause us to live dangerously for the gospel. We believe that what is ahead is worth the denial of all these temporary pleasures.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
The truth is, this romance that runs deeper than reality, is going to take a lot of faith. Because this life is hard. Really hard. And because life is hard it’s hard to have faith. It’s hard to believe that God is who He says He is in the midst of suffering.
So what do we do?
Keep our hearts in a constant state of wonder. Recount to each other over and over the promises of Scripture, the works of the Lord, and the truth of the gospel. We cultivate worship in our hearts. We cry out for more faith. We seek God even in our darkest hour. We get desperate for Him to move in our lives. We keep the gospel on our lips, and we preach it to each other in our actions. We continue to remind each other of the promise of the better country, of the day He will come on the clouds in power and in glory. We remember that one day every tear will be wiped away, and our sinful flesh will be no more. We read to each other the words of Christ, and say, “Take heart!”
We challenge each other to have a more perfect belief in who God is. This is the catalyst that will drive us to obedience. We will believe the promises of God when we know the character of God.
On this wondrous sea, Sailing silently, Knowest thou the shore Ho! pilot, ho! Where no breakers roar, Where the storm is o’er? In the silent west Many sails at rest, Their anchors fast; Thither I pilot thee, Land, ho! Eternity! Ashore at last!