If you are a Christian, or hang around in Christian circles, have you ever heard anyone utter the above statement: “It does not matter how much, or how little I do – God loves me anyway!”? Another variation on this is: “There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less!”
I have heard this countless times, and while on one hand it is absolutely true, on the other hand, it tends to accompany a common Christian mentality that I find extremely frustrating to encounter.
This is why it is true. As Christians, we know that God loves us. All our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. This means that the price for our sins and disobedience against God has already been paid for all time by that one sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us. (Hebrews! – That is, this concept is covered extensively in the New Testament book of Hebrews). It is true that as Christians we do not have to buy our salvation by our own good works, or prayers, or visiting the sick, or conscientious recycling. This is not the same in other faiths. For example in the Biblical faith of Judaism that preceded Jesus (I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the various modern expressions of Judaism) people were “made righteous” by the various sacrifices that they performed or had performed on their behalf. The faith of Christ is different because we do not have to perform sacrifices. It is free for us, it has been done once for all time (Hebrews!) From this perspective, in terms of winning salvation with God, it really does not matter how much we do, or how little we do – no matter how much we tried to do, it would not make the slightest difference.
And yet the point of this article is to make the case that as Christians we are to do as much as we possibly can. In my experience, Christians cry “Nothing I do can make God love me any more or any less” – and to prove the point, they just go ahead to sit down comfortably, living life as normal, doing nothing, it seems, to actually advance the Kingdom of God. Yes, there are proportionally fewer believing Christians here in the UK and in the Western world than there have been at many points over the last few hundred years. However, there are still more than enough of us to make considerable impact and turn back the growing tide of godlessness – if we would only give ourselves to prayer, and pursuit of God, and His word, and His purposes. That is not going to happen as long as Christians keep sitting back and saying: “It does not matter how much I do, or how little I do”. Sorry, but it does matter – a very great deal.
Here is the point, we are not trying to win our own salvation – that has already been won, that has already been paid for by the blood of Christ. Yet our own efforts can and do make a difference in the world around us. When as Christians, we give ourselves 100% to the pursuit of God’s Kingdom, it is 1) to win society around us for Christ 2) to see God’s purposes established on earth. In this regard it does make a difference how hard we pray, how committed we are to pursuing all of God, how desperate we are to see our minds and hearts transformed by the truth of the Bible
God works through His children
This is something that Christians have historically understood, possibly because it is quite clear in the Bible – that is, that God works through His children. Ezekiel 22v30 says:
“I looked for a man to stand in the breach (gap)…”
The New Living Translation puts it in very straightforward English (God speaking):
“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one”
…so even a single person could have made the difference in terms of saving the land from rightful divine destruction. Similarly in Psalm 106v23, it describes how Moses stood in the gap and saved the Israelites from God’s judgement and destruction.
“So he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.” New International Version – (note NIV does not capitalise “he”, “him”, “his” etc pronouns referring to God).
Or how about this from 2 Chronicles 7.14 “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land”? New Living Translation.
I’ve just read an article that claims that the promise of this verse was made specifically to the Israelites, God’s covenant people, and it specifically referred to prayers that were made from the Temple that Solomon was dedicating (when God appeared to Him and made this promise). So what, God is going to ignore our prayers because they are not made from the Temple? That is a legalistic way of thinking.
“Ah Tosin,” you say, “but those are Old Testament passages!” OK, how about these thoughts from the New Testament “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!” James 5v17
The preceding verse: James 5v16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
2 Timothy 4v2 tells us to “Preach the Word in season and out of season”.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6v33 that we should “seek first the Kingdom of God”. Earlier in the Beatitudes He tells us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. 1 Corinthians 14v1 tells us that we should pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. Paul tells us about his own hard work and sacrifices (and much suffering) for the Kingdom of God in 2 Corinthians 11v23-27 (v27):
“I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”
The point I am trying to make from all these passages is that our efforts matter. Our hard work and toiling in prayer makes a difference. Our preaching of the Gospel makes a difference – otherwise God would not ask us to do it. I get so frustrated to hear Christians shouting at the top of their voice “Nothing I do can make God love me more or less! It does not matter how much I do or how little I do!” – while society is crumbling right around their ears. I always used to marvel when people at university would talk glowingly about Christian heroes of bygone years – John and Charles Wesley, John Knox and a number of others. I would always think – “Those people lived two hundred plus years ago! Instead of having to reach back so far into the past to find people worthy of praise – why don’t we actually aspire to those heights ourselves, right here, right now?!” (Tosin shakes her head). The difference between the Wesley brothers, John Knox, William Booth of the Salvation Army, all the heroes of their spiritual calibre…and us – is that they knew that their efforts made a difference – and they gave themselves utterly to the Kingdom of God, and seeking His righteousness in the land.