Amos 5:4: “Seek me and live.”
Pretty simple, right? God calls us to live for him. But what exactly does that mean? In our world today, the image and idea of what the Christian life should look like has been twisted, thwarted, and skewed to a point where so many new Christians have no idea who to listen to.
In this passage in Amos, God is speaking to the nation of Israel, His chosen people. Earlier in the book, we see that Israel has continued to reject God, even after He gives them chance after chance to repent. We see that Israel is totally incapable of saving themselves. God tells them to do one thing….seek Him, and live. Seek nothing else. Seek God.
Again I ask, what does this mean? There are several misconceptions about what a “good” Christian should do.
Misconception #1: “There are good Christians.”
There are NO good Christians. None. Good and Christian are polar opposites. The Bible says that no one is good, no not one. Becoming a Christian does not make you good. You will never be a good person. Sorry. We are made righteous and able to stand before a holy and righteous Creator only because of Christ and the cross. If we were to measure what our lives should look like based on our own sense of morality, we would have a flawed system, for we are innately sinful, thus, our sense of morality is screwed up.
Misconception #2: “Going to church and Bible study and tithing makes you a good person, and are what every good Christian should do.”
This is part of legalism, which is strongly condemned by Paul throughout his letters. The idea that we can do enough to please God is unbiblical, and should not be tolerated in the church. The idea that by doing certain things, we’re being “good” is also sinful. While there are certainly things that we should do and strive to do, these are out of love and obedience to the gospel, not out of a false sense that we will get something from it.
“None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one.”–Romans 3:10-12
We’re not to have checklists for our faith. We should not approach Sunday morning as just another thing to do. If we do not have a passionate love for God, and for His people and His church, and do not look forward to spending time with Him each day, something is terribly, terribly wrong, and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.
We are no longer under the law, but under grace. Yes, we strive to obey all of Jesus’ commandments, and strive to live a life in obedience to the Bible and build ourselves up, but we do these things so that God is glorified in our lives when we give Him the glory for it. We do these things not to show others how “good” we are, but how great our God is.
If we have a genuine love for Christ, and seek Him each day and put all we have into our relationship with Him, our obedience to His commands will come naturally, for we are constantly being molded into the image of Christ. So we need not approach our lives with the “Do’s and Don’ts” of Christianity, but to approach it with Christ in our mind, in our mouths, and in our hearts. If we seek Him and God’s will for our lives, our obedience will come naturally if we surrender it all to Him. As a friend put it, it’s not about trying to be a “good Christian,” but simply surrendering all to Christ each day. We must trust in Him for our righteousness, not ourselves.
This is a problem in our churches. We believe that if we say and do the right things, we’ll be ok. That’s not the case. God knows our hearts, and we cannot hide from Him. If we are living a life that seeks to only glorify oneself by a legalistic, religious “upholding” of the law, we have already sinned, and stand condemned. Christ alone is our salvation, our righteousness. He should be, and is, enough for us.
Misconception #3: “Because we have been set free in Christ, we can just live our normal lives and then do the God thing when we feel like it.”
Absolutely not. Those that think this way worry me, for if you believe that Christ died for you to love Him one day a week, you have failed to understand the gospel. To be honest…I thought that way for a while, I just didn’t know it. I loved the Lord, but I wanted to see if I could do it by myself for a while, and I’d go to God when I need Him. God is not a vending machine. He’s not just your help in times of need, He’s your guide in every season of life. We must not see God as a means to an end, or we are trying to use the Creator of the universe.
This has been called liberalism and cheap grace. We go about our normal lives, say a prayer that we believe is enough, then go on living that normal life as if nothing has changed, and then we just go to God when we sin and when we really need or, more likely, want something. That’s a false gospel. And it will condemn us. I struggled with this, as growing up, I wondered what it really meant to “live out my faith.” I struggled with sin, and I went to God and “rededicated,” thinking that it was enough. But, I wanted to be forgiven and not changed. I was taking advantage of God, and when I realized that a couple of years ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not a good feeling. To say it humbles you is a huge understatement. But maybe this is you, and maybe reading this and prayer will convict you and make you realize it, and that’s certainly a good thing.
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”–Romans 6:15
God’s saving grace comes upon us at the moment of salvation, and never leaves. God will never run out of grace, but it does not mean we take advantage of that. In fact, I believe that if we try to do this, God might just show you how far away from Him you really are….by not providing grace. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but a crucial one. Everyday, everyone, even unbelievers, are under “common grace,” because we aren’t struck down due to our sin. But when we come to salvation and receive saving grace, our response is not to keep on living the same way.
The Son of God came and died on the cross for you. He was completely perfect and innocent in every way. He gave up glory for us, to show His Father’s power and glory, and to give us a way back to Him. He loves us unconditionally. And yet we live our lives in a way that says “Ok. Thanks Jesus. That’s cool. I’ll put you in my back pocket and move on.” We have treated our Savior like a get out of jail free card, and I’m afraid that so many people only come to Christianity to escape hell. If you only want to escape punishment, but never develop a true love for God, then you have misunderstood the gospel, and you may not be a true believer. That is why I am so strongly against scare tactics in missions and evangelism. The point of the gospel is not that “Hey, you can go to heaven and escape eternal punishment.” The message is that Jesus Christ loves you enough to come and die on the cross for your sins, so that you can come back into a relationship with the Creator of the universe, and we can take part in His amazing plan to bring glory to Himself.
Yes, we need Jesus to stay out of hell. No, I don’t want to go to hell. But, more than that, I want to live a life that glorifies the God that loves me enough to take my place and die on a cross for my sins. I want to live a life that says that Jesus is King, He is Savior. God owed me nothing. Yet He gave me everything. He gave me life. And our response should not be to use that just to escape punishment. Our response should be one of lifelong gratitude and service to the King of Kings.
Misconception #4: “Being a Christian means that you’re reading the latest novel, listening to the greatest speaker, and wearing all the right clothes. It means looking “cool,” so the world around you likes you.”
That’s crap. There are millions of believers outside of this country that have none of these things, and yet, I’d bet they’re much closer to God than we may ever be over here. You see, over here, we become so distracted. Not only by the world around us, but by the latest and greatest Christian thing, whether it be the newest book, speaker, church…whatever.
I’m all for reading Christian literature and listening to sermons, and all those things. But not if you believe that will make you good. I do these things so that I can better understand God, and I can better bring glory to Him. I enjoy learning about my Lord, and enjoy spending time with Him. I want to know what my Christian brothers and sisters think about certain things, and want to encourage and be encouraged by them. But it must not replace our dependance on God, and I’m afraid that is what’s happened.
We have taken our relationship with God and filled it with reading whatever LifeWay puts out, listening to the year’s newest hip pastor, and listening to the newest music. We have not just filled our relationship with these things. In too many instances….these things become our relationship. We fail to actually spend time in the Word and in prayer. We believe that by being the “cool” Christian, we are better Christians. Not true. You could go your whole life without ever listening to Christian music, reading a Christian book, or wearing a shirt that says something about Jesus on it, and be a stronger, more mature believer than those who spend their lives doing these things.
Our Christian life is about so much more than doing what the local Christian radio station says to do. It’s so much more than filling our lives with the Christian things in our world. It’s about filling our lives with the God of this world, and filling our lives with Him. He, not David Platt, not Mark Driscoll, not Billy Graham, not any of these, but only God Himself, is the one who changes us, builds us up, and molds us into the man He wants us to be.
I want everyone reading this to walk away from the computer with a new found sense of dependance on God, and on God alone. Not on religion. Not on tradition. Not on the law. Not think “I can live the same way I used to.” Not on the latest Christian book. But on God. I’ll ask again, as I did in my last post….is Jesus really everything to you? Or have you become bogged down and filled your life with trying to live up to impossible standards? Have you filled your life with Christian materials, and not the Author and Perfecter of our faith?
We are not called to please the world around us, in fact, we are told we are not of this world. Thus, we must not strive to earn material things and people’s praise. Only God’s opinion matters. Throw the prosperity gospel in with that last misconception. I’m afraid that that has become the latest “Christian” fad. Unfortunately, those who preach that and hold to it have no idea what it means to follow Jesus.
For following Jesus, and following our heavenly Father, does not mean looking cool. We are called to do one thing, and one thing only.
“Seek me….and live.” God’s word is good, isn’t it?