*I think I might need to preface this with a comment I've started to realise about myself... As a generalisation, I seem to take what I'm wrestling with or thoughts I have and come across quite strong and sometimes negatively in the first few paragraphs. I've found, that I usually tend to explain exactly where I'm coming from, or at least (hopefully) ground the things I'm saying in grace, in the latter half of my post/diatribe. So please try read the first few paragraphs in light of the last few - ie - what I write as a whole, and not as 2 separate thoughts. Usually the first part is in the context of the second.
If you do feel I'm coming across too strongly or painting too broadly with something, feel free to address it, and I'll try better explain where I'm coming from...
I've been thinking on a strange thought lately - well a little strange to me - in that it sits somewhat contradicting my general status-quo. It's this: Are we doing people any favours when we advertise getting 'saved' as an escape from hell? The same question for the nice little altar-calls that modern Christianity is so famous for. How helpful are they really? I don't have a real answer to this - it's just something I've been pondering on - and to be honest, Dad can use anything to draw men to Him. But on the other hand I feel that firstly the whole 'escape the fire of hell' story falls so supremely far short of knowing God that it's like selling a Rolex watch only as 'something that can tell you the time'. As true as this may (or may not) be - that is never really the reason one would by a Rolex. In a similar way, accepting the gift of salvation has precious little to do with escaping hell and everything to do with learning to live in relationship with a loving God and Father.
My exception with the altar-call is a little harder to explain, although, again, I think where it doesn't sit right is that it often tends to fall short of what's really on offer. We seem to try and 'sell it' as a means to get people to 'join the club', like the more converts we get in, the bigger our 'souls commission' will be, like some elaborate pyramid marketing scheme. I suppose the simple fact that people are making a verbal commitment to accept the gift God is giving them is a at least a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it often just seems like a 'show of hands' and nothing much more. I think I've just experienced an increasing irritation with the seemingly 'pre-packaged' way we 'sell-off' this 'Christianity' thing to non-believers and the 'backslidden'. It feels so contrived, stale and life-less.
I'm not saying that no-one who's responded to the altar call has ever experienced God, I just think the whole process falls so far short of the type of thing that's on offer, although, unsurprisingly, it seems quite at home with the rather cold, stoic status of the religious club.
I rarely see someone being invited into a relationship with Abba, and I think from where I stand at the moment, if that's not what's being offered, then what's the point?
If you're a semi-regular reader of my blog, you'd know that semi-recently I've come to a place where my view of God and this whole thing we call Christianity has been seriously shaken up and turned upside down. In some ways it has been scary, but it's been life changing and exciting. I feel like for years (the last 10-15 years at least) my experience of God has almost been like looking at the back of a television. Every now and then, I might experience somthing, or get a slightly different view of God, but it's always been obscured and often plain wrong. I've felt in my gut there's something more to it. I've heard some of what's going on, but I've never had the right picture, until recently. Now it feels like someone's taken my hand and shown me that the 'TV' has another side to it- the intended side - where there's movement and excitement and I can see and hear clearer, and it all makes so much more sense.
I think that's why I'm so caught up on relationship with God. For me, I feel like I've been told that I should be happy with 'the back of the TV' - with a lacklustre Christian experience - or at least with the notion that my Christian experience is directly proportional to the amount of striving I put in. The lacklustre part was specifically because I wasn't 'trying hard enough' or wasn't 'doing the stuff'. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's been caught up in thinking the back of the TV is what it's all about, and we're missing out on SO MUCH MORE!
That's why I'm hesitant to try and get someone saved just for the sake of it, or even to 'save them from hell'. I'm starting to feel that I'd almost not get someone to 'say the prayer' unless they get (even on a small level) what's available to them, what they can look forward to, and hopefully they've seen the evidence of that Life lived out in my own life, and the life of others. I really don't want to sell them short. All too often we live life as if we are still slaves. As if we're just servants of an oppressive taskmaster, when this 'taskmaster' is more interested in being Father to us. He has robed us, put the ring of honour on our fingers and invited us into His house as sons and daughters!
And I want everyone to realise this. I want everyone to experience this boundless grace. This unwarranted mercy, this love from this Loving Father. It's still early days for me. I still have so much to learn and so far to travel, but for the first time in my life I feel like I'm really starting to 'run this race with my eyes on the prize' - and strangely enough, it's not tiring at all. It's nothing like the draining striving I've been used to - that rather unsurprisingly got me nowhere.
I think I've said this often enough already - but it's all about Him. What we do, say and how we live is all relative to our level of understanding of the perfect love that He has for us.
Ask Him to show you how. Ask Him to guide you. It may not happen immediately. It will most probably take time and it will, almost definitely, not be plain sailing or an easy ride. It's not the kind of thing you can plan ahead for, unless we're planning to be surprised.
He is faithful and He understands that we are not. He doesn't have any misconceptions or preconceptions about us. He knows us through and through. What we do or say or think doesn't surprise Him. His grace covers our weakness, and gives us the strength to stand. Let us keep our eyes on Him, our prize, as we live within His loving embrace.