Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tiredness and old beliefs

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that, 'When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.' I have found this to be the case. I used to believe some unbiblical ideas about the gospel. One of those was that I had to be perfect before Jesus came back again. God's acceptance of me was based on my own behaviour. I used to believe that, the moment I sinned, if I had an accident and died and hadn't confessed my sin, I would be lost. In my mid-twenties I discovered the true gospel -- that God accepts me right now on the basis of what Jesus has done for me. Christ's perfect life is mine; Christ's death is mine; Christ's resurrection is mine; Christ's ascension is mine. In Christ, I have lived all that is necessary for me to be accepted by God. I have been forgiven, reconciled to God by God himself in Christ. This was great news! Good news! Gospel! But when I get "tired" -- when things get on top of me -- when I fail (as I inevitably do) -- the old ideas come back and attack me while I am down. It is always tempting to go back and live as though God judges me on the basis of my own behaviour rather than that of Christ's. I need to constantly remind myself of Paul's declaration and advice that:
... Christ has set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Galatians 5:1)
I was brought up with the law as a constant focus. I was in bondage to it. Now, in Christ, I have been freed from that bondage. But, just like the Israelites who were rescued from Egypt by God, I am tempted to go back when things don't seem to go the way I think they should. I am tempted, in my weaker moments, to think that I have to be good to be loved. I think it was Phillip Yancey who once this astounding statement:

There is nothing I can do to make God love me more. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less.

This is what I need to hang on to day by day. And the paradoxical thing is that, believing this empowers me to follow Jesus by loving God and loving my neighbour -- which is, according to Paul, the fulfilment of the law! But loving is not about being accepted. Loving happens when we are accepted. You can't love if you are not loved yourself. And God has loved us first so that we can love others.

Nietszche was right... when we are tired, old ideas come back to attack us, tempt us. But we need to remind ourselves constantly that those ideas are dead and gone. Jesus nailed those old ideas to the cross. That's where they need to stay!

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