Human beings seem have three differing relationships with God; They ignore God. They fear God (Old Testament relationship). Or they have a New Testament relationship of gratitude, loyalty and love.
Old Testament relationship; Psalm 2. ‘Serve the Lord with fear; with trembling bow down in homage, Lest God be angry and you perish from the way in a sudden blaze of anger.’
This is the attitude most of us we’re brought up to have with God.
Our Christianity was an unhappy religion made up of duties and obligations to be fulfilled.
Our relationship with God was that of servant to master – a strict, demanding, accountant type of master. We had to earn, merit, achieve, win God’s forgiveness, favour and salvation.
Our religion was made up of rituals, liturgies, precepts, fixed prayers and times of prayers etc. – often only vaguely understood.
‘Getting into heaven’ was one’s goal in life. This goal or prize was elusive, hard to attain and in constant danger of being lost due to our perceived sinfulness and the constant danger of falling prey to a multitude of ‘mortal sins.’
All of us, bishops, priests and laity laboured and groaned under this burden. No wonder that joy, happiness and gratitude were so often absent in religion.
New Testament relationship: Eph. 2; ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.’
1 John 4: ‘In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us (first) and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.’
‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. Let us love, then, because God first loved us.’
Grace means a gratuitous, free gift from God which can in no way be merited or earned or achieved. Salvation is grace, freely offered. This free gift can be accepted or rejected.
It is good manners to feel and express gratitude for a gift. Religion is this normal response of gratitude to God the giver of the gift.
Various cultures and peoples have, over the centuries, developed different ways and means of showing their gratitude to God for this gift. But a true, valid response will always be solidly based on gratitude, appreciation and respect for the giver of the gift – God. You can call this love.
As every right-minded parent hopes for from their child so too does God hope for gratitude, respect and love from His/Her children. How the child treats its parents, how I treat my God, will reveal the sort of person I am.
Since I came to Corsham I have had one ambition. To change my own and your attitude to God. It annoys me; It angers me to see and hear people treating God, my God, as a despotic, cruel, vengeful, selfish, small minded person.
Wake up. Look around you. Did you decide to be born? did you give yourself the gift of life. Did you choose your gender, your colour, your height, what you look like, your intelligence etc?
All these were given to you. All these are gift.
Of course you can accept a gift with gratitude and delight or you can accept it grudgingly and be unhappy and discontent. You can also reject the gift and kill yourself.
My attitude to God, my understanding of what my God is like, will affect my whole life. Am I worried about what God thinks of me? Am I fearful of what God might have in store for me. Do I worry as to whether I have sinned or not, whether I have fulfilled an obligation or not. Am I distressed about past faults? Am I forgiven or not? Have I done things the right way?
This is a spiritual illness called scruples.
So let your attitude be one of boundless trust and confidence in God.
So forget about the past. Put the future in God’s hands. Wake up every morning with joy in your heart for God is always with you – Immanuel.
‘You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.’
You have been saved. You are already a resident of the Kingdom of God. Act and speak in accordance with this fact. ‘For God does not withdraw his mercy, nor permit even one of his promises to fail.’