As a young bride, I determined to be an excellent cook. I began by collecting recipes from my family and friends, magazines, and potluck dinners. There were a few disasters early on: my husband still remembers with fondness a certain tuna casserole we had to choke down! Eventually I got brave enough to abandon my recipe cards and create my own concoctions. It’s always a little scary when I do that, however; I worry until I take that first bite. I guess I will always be more comfortable following the rules– I’m a checklist kind of girl.
That tendency spills over into other areas of my life and can even affect my relationship with God. Just tell me what to do, Lord. I want to get the job done and check it off my list. And hope that in my effort I have somehow earned His favor.
But God doesn’t want our relationship with Him to be about achievements or obligations. Our relationship with Him began with grace: undeserved favor. “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves…” (Ephesians 2:8) And since the day of our salvation, our standing with Him continues to be based on nothing but His grace alone.
Jesus gave us a recipe to follow when He identified the most important command: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” Fellow rule lovers will note nothing specific enough in that command to accomplish and check off; it’s really more of a statement on what a healthy relationship with God will look like. We must leave our ideas of earning His love, of proving ourselves worthy of His attention, of somehow making ourselves acceptable to Him, behind. All of that has already been accomplished on the cross, when Jesus bore the wrath of God for every one of our sins.
When we believe in Him, we are given the righteousness of Christ. We wear it like a uniform, with all of His awards and accomplishments pinned to its front. We are accepted. We are unconditionally loved. We don’t need to prove anything to God. Christ has earned God’s approval for us.
How can we cultivate the kind of love for God that Jesus commanded? When it comes to God, the old adage is true: to know Him is to love Him. The more we learn about God, His nature, His character, and His kind intentions toward us, the more we fall in love. This in turn stirs a desire to please Him, to respond in gratitude to what He has done. Rather than working a checklist, our actions will merely be a reflection of His abundant grace.
So put down the checklist and pick up your Bible. Get to know and love the God of the Universe. He gave everything for you. All He wants in return is for you to love Him back.
“The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely his.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was released in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, Julie spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com or on Facebook.