My parents tried to convince me of the legitimacy of the "five-second rule." According to them you can eat the piece of buttered toast that fell on the floor, so long as it wasn’t there for more than five seconds. I’ve learned that that rule has no basis in reality. Unfortunately, society has taught us to believe a lot of "rules" that also aren’t true. Will swimming after a meal automatically give you cramps? No. We have the same kind of folklore about our faith. Not everything the world tells us about God is true. The Bible makes this abundantly clear: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). He wants to bless us and give us an abundant life worth living. This statement is the converse of "God is angry at you," but it’s still wrong. Yes, God does love you. Yes, God does accept you just as you are. You don’t have to be perfect to give your heart to him. But he loves you so much that he refuses to leave you the way you are. He asks us to confess and repent of our sins – not just at the moment of our judgment day after we’ve died, but daily. This maintains our relationship with God, keeping us open to receiving his love. Musicians and songwriters love the kind of language that uses the heart to represent our emotions, desires or internal guide. However, Jeremiah 17:9 has a different message about the heart: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" In other words, if you follow your heart, you’ll just be led astray. Instead, we should follow God’s will. Ezekiel 36:26 says that God will give us a new heart and spirit. That’s how we find the truth. The world tells you to follow your heart, trust your gut and chase your dreams. But only God knows the future. His dream for you may not align exactly with your dreams, but I can assure you that it will be far better than anything you could possibly imagine. The bottom line is that God loves you, and his plan for you is much better than your own. Loving ourselves isn’t something most of us need to be taught how to do. When Jesus said the second-greatest commandment was to "love your neighbor as yourself," he assumed that we already know how to love ourselves. We already do that only too well.
That’s why Jesus said that anyone who wants to follow him needs to "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Plenty of people think that as long as they are good, all will be fine with the world. Many people willingly follow this line of thinking, including some Christians I know. But who defines what is good? Hint: It’s not us. The Bible teaches us in Romans 3:23 that we "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". That means that no matter what "good" things you do, you will still fall short of God’s holiness. Jesus makes it clear that some "good people" are going to be surprised to find themselves in hell. Here are Jesus’ own words about that terrible scenario: "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:22-23). That’s not something anyone wants to hear from Jesus. The point is – it’s not enough to attend church, to do good deeds or to be an upstanding citizen. It’s not going to be enough to know about God. We need to know God. That means that instead of reading the Bible and different books about Him, we have to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with Him and actually know Him. There are things Jesus never said. Here is one thing he absolutely did say: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). That’s a promise we can stake our lives on. God loves us as we are, but he wants to change us. He wants to relieve us of the weight of our burdens so we can spend eternity in his presence.
Let’s pay closer attention to what Jesus actually said instead of what our culture mistakenly thinks he said. When we do that, it will transform our lives.
Rev. Kenneth Saurman