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Faith: Works, Emotion, or Relationship?

By Edited Sep 21, 2015 1 0

I have met three types of Christians. The first type works to earn God’s favor and acceptance. The second type seeks an ecstatic emotional state. The third simply seeks a relationship with the Almighty. I have known individuals who study every dot and tittle of the Word of God in order to (hopefully) avoid making the cosmic mistake that will bite them in the rear and land them in the hot place. The sad thing is, they have no clue, despite all their studies, what that cosmic mistake is and thus they continue to chase after the wind. I’ve also known individuals for whom the hyper-emotional state is the end-all and do-all of their religious experience. But, some know they can not earn salvation nor does it come through ecstatic dancing or other hyper-emotional behavior; rather, they know that salvation comes through relationship with the Source.

Being a person of reason is not a bad thing. Faith is not some hyper-emotional state brought on by a drumbeat or special “preacher voice”. I think error comes when we go too far to logic/reason or too far to emotion. I've seen people reason themselves out of faith or not even allow themselves to have faith because it seems "too emotional.” They don’t see Abba, Father but a stern taskmaster or ogre looking to squash us at the first provocation. It seems odd to me that anyone would want anything to do with an Ogre God. One of God’s attributes is Love. Love is God. God is the absolute complete summation of Love. Some people are so emotion driven that they follow every wind of doctrine that sounds good to them. They reject any notion of a Holy God whose standards of holiness we cannot achieve but are propelled and compelled by love to try to mimic. In either case, the wind they chase is not the Wind of God. They are sadly and utterly on a fool’s errand.

The Gospels introduce us to a man named Saul/Paul and to two friends of Jesus: Mary and Martha. They each have something to teach us about faith and salvation. We just have to be willing to listen and learn.

Paul is a fine example of one who spent the first half of his life seeking logical works-based religion. He was a Pharisee and a student of Caiphas, the High Priest. Saul, as he was called then, was zealous for every dot and tittle of the Law. In all likelihood, Saul was present at the midnight trial of Jesus that resulted in his crucifixion. He certainly was present at the stoning of Stephen. Saul was a by-the-book type of dude. Then, he came face-to-face with Jesus in a manner that shook him to the core and changed the course of his life and his faith forever. He did not then lay down his books and reject logic and reason. Far from it! Paul, the Apostle, used logic, reason, and knowledge of the Law and the Prophets to make a reasoned presentation of the Gospel and Salvation through Jesus Christ.

Mary and Martha were sisters and friends of Jesus. Whenever Jesus was in the area, he stayed at their place. When their brother died, Jesus cried and then he came and called him to come out of the tomb. They had had plenty of time to get to know this man, Jesus. On one such visit, Jesus was in the living area teaching. Martha was busy working for Jesus -- she wanted everything to be right. She was off in the kitchen working hard for Jesus. Mary, to the contrary, sat at Jesus' feet and did nothing but listen to him. Jesus was not impressed with Martha’s busy-ness. He did not praise her works. When Martha complained that her sister wasn’t sharing the load, Jesus gently corrects her misconception. Mary was the one who was doing what pleased Jesus.

Yes. We should want to "get it right". But, we are human beings not human doings. We should be with God, not busy doing for God. He wants a relationship with us. What did he tell the Israelites? Isa 1:11 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. How could He say that, He was the one who ordered the sacrifices to begin with! He could say it because they were doing all the ordered things but their hearts weren't in it! It meant nothing to God if it meant nothing to the Israelites! Their emotions were not in line with their actions and they had completely missed the mark on why they were doing what they were doing. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for their careful attention to tithing while they neglected the "weightier things of the law" which were justice, mercy, and faith. Justice, mercy, and faith are actions which require emotional connection.

Baptism and communion and musical instruments and speaking in tongues and healings and miracles and all that other stuff we all get wrapped up in arguing about--they aren't what impresses God! God is impressed with a heart that seeks after HIM. He is impressed with a heart that craves Him more than air to breathe. Desire Him. Want to be with Him. Engage your heart in a true relationship with Him. That's what He wants. That's what will keep you from hearing "I didn't know you". Those people in Matt 7 who Jesus says He did not know, their real sin that cost them everything was that they were busy doing but not being. When you get the relationship part where it belongs in priority, then the rituals will have more meaning than mere dead ritual. Relationship not ritual.

We should not check our brains at the church doors. Our faith should have a good foundation of reasoned understanding of Biblical truths. That foundation is what gives us the confidence to step into the invisible realm of faith. But, I don't think you can devoid faith and relationship with God from emotion. God gave us emotions for a reason and it wasn't to get us in trouble. God is emotionally expressive -- God loves, God laughs, God gets angry, God sings, etc. Emotions are not bad unless we let them lead us by a gold nose ring right into the pit of hell.

The point is to be in relationship with the God of the universe—our Father, our Savior, and our Comforter! We can study for a lifetime and still not grasp the fact that all we have to know is that we can’t do anything to earn salvation. All we can do is accept His free gift of salvation and give ourselves in relationship with Him. That’s all. There is no fine print that says “only valid if you do ____ and avoid doing ___.” No cosmic legal fine print. Just a loving God who has made a way for us, and wants with all his heart for us to walk in the way and be in relationship with Him!



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