Jake’s story is a compelling journal that chronicles thirteen conversations with his friend over a four-year period and how those exchanges turn Jake’s world upside-down.
In this story Jake meet a man that provokes in him an insatiable hunger to find out more about Jesus. He inspired him reread all of the Gospels again—this time looking beyond the lessons Jesus taught to see just what kind of person he was. Jack had been a Christian for over two decades but the harder he tried the more frustrated he became. He threw himself headlong into ministry, hoping to bury the hunger and the questions.
Jake journey is about unfastening the shackles of the past and becoming all one can be in Christ. And the book is available free. Here is an excerpt.
The Worst Part of Religious Thinking
“That’s the worst part of religious thinking. It takes our best ambitions and uses them against us. People who are trying to be more godly actually become more captive to their appetites and desires…
“Paul recognized there are three roads in this life, when most of us only recognize two. We tend to think of our lives as a choice between doing bad and doing good. Paul saw two different ways we could try to do good—one makes us work hard to submit to God’s rules. That one fails every time. Even when he described himself as following all of God’s rules externally, he also called himself the worst sinner alive because of the hate and anger in his heart. Sure he could conform his outward behavior to fit the rules, but it only pushed his problems deeper. He was, you remember, out killing God’s people in God’s name.”
“Yes, but Paul is talking about the Old Testament law there. We’re not following the law. We’re seeking to live by New Testament principles.”
“No he’s not, Jake. Paul is talking about religion—man’s effort to appease God by his own work. If we do what he wants he will be good to us, and if we don’t then bad things will happen in our lives. On its best day, this approach will allow us to be smugly self-righteous which is a trap all its own. On its worst days it will heap guilt upon us greater than we can bear. Your ‘New Testament principles’ are just another way of living to the law. You’re still caught up in the process of trying to get God to reward you for doing good.”
“So trying to do good can be a bad thing?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“If you go about it that way, yes. But Paul saw another way to live in God’s life that was so engaging it transformed his entire life. He knew that our failures all result from the fact that we just don’t trust God to take care of us.
As Paul grew to know God better, he discovered that he could trust God’s love for him. The more he grew to trust God’s love, the freer he was from those desires that consumed him. Only by trusting Jesus can anyone experience this kind of freedom and those who know him do. It is real freedom.”
“Won’t people just use that for an excuse to do whatever feels good and ignore what God wants?”
“Sure some will. Many already have. But those who really know who God is will want to be like him.”
“We have to have a standard, though, so people can know what that is.”
That’s when he dropped the bombshell that exploded every remaining preconception I had of this Christian life.
“Jake, when are you going to get past the mistaken notion that Christianity is about ethics?”
What? I looked up at him and could not get one coherent thought from my brain to my mouth. If it isn’t
about ethics, what is it about? I had been raised all of my life to believe that Christianity was an ethic for life that would earn me a place in God’s heart. I didn’t even know where to put this last statement, but he seemed content just to let it hang there.
Finally I found something to say. “I don’t even know how to respond to that. I’ve lived my whole life in Christ thinking this was all about ethics.”
“And that is why you’re missing it. You’re so caught up in a system of reward and punishment that you’re missing the simple relationship he wants to have with you.”
“How else are we going to know how God feels about us if we don’t live up to his standards?”
“That’s where you have it backward, Jake. We don’t get his love by living up to his standards. We find his love in the most broken place of our lives. As we let him love us there and discover how to love him in return, we’ll find our lives changing in that relationship.”
“How can that be?” Don’t we have to walk away from sin to know him?”
“Walking toward him is walking away from sin. The better you know him the freer from it you will be. But you can’t walk away from sin, Jake. Not in your own strength! Everything he wants to do in you will get done as you learn to live in his love. Every act of sin results from your mistrust of his love and intentions for you. We sin to fill up broken places, to try to fight for what we think is best for us, or by reacting to our guilt and shame. Once you discover how much he loves you, all that changes. As you grow in trusting him, you will find yourself increasingly free from sin.”
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