In 2011, I skipped the Old Testament. Not completely, of course. I worked on a Bible Study of Proverbs 31, in which I am still in only the beginning stages. I worked through Psalm 119 for a class assignment. I heard sermons. I did a lot of Old Testament bedtime story telling. But I lived in the New Covenant, and that has made all the difference.
The more I looked in the New Covenant, the more I saw Jesus, and the more I saw Jesus, the more I saw grace, and the more I saw grace, the more I realized how easy is His burden, and how light is His load.
So I’m done feeling guilty. Old things have passed away and behold, all things are become new. From that first “No!” I must have spat at my mother in 1961 to the last wicked thought I will think on my last day on this planet. It’s already forgiven. Jesus bore it—I’m not going to.
Done begging for grace—grace is already lavishly given to me. I’m going to expect it, look for it, wallow in it. There is already provision, already mercy, already Presence, already gifts, already giftedness. When you beg for Jesus to “be with you,” what are you thinking? Are you accusing Him of not being where He promised to be when He said He would never leave you or forsake you? He’s with you, Believer. He’s there. Make a gigantic point of resting in that. Meditating on that. Especially if the road is bumpy, cluttered up with rocks, and you can’t see very far. Press into Him and know His nearness when you’re feeling bad, scared, uncertain, devastated, despaired.
Done listening to sermons that sit in law, scream law, badger people to do better, to do more, to repent harder, repent more repentingly, to sin less. My goodness, Sir, you have only sixty minutes a week—stop focusing on people and start focusing on Jesus!
Done splitting theological hairs until they can’t be seen under a microscope. Jesus never does this—he just hands out bread and wine and water and healing and forgiveness. To everyone. Even homosexuals. Even abortion survivors. Even abortion doctors. Even you.
Done separating from other Body parts who think differently about the Holy Spirit, about translation, about music, about gender issues, about what is meant by “descended into Hell,” about eschatology, about the Nicene or the Apostles, about Heidleberg/Westminster/Luther, about 1517, 1611, or 1689, or 1927!
Scholars we have with us always—let them fight over the details, the tenses, the evil of saying “Communion” when “Lord’s Supper” is what is meant, and other microscopity (one dip or three, sprinkled or immersed, backward or forward, shaken or stirred). I’m done.
Done guilting myself over what ten percent means, what “submission” means and who is owed it, what “honoring” means and who is owed it, what family means, and how that is defined, what the Sabbath is and what you can and cannot do on that day, what duty is owed to a particular pastor (do you owe obedience to only the Senior Preaching Pastor or also to the Executive Pastor who keeps the books? The Youth Pastor? The Music Minister?), a particular building when and if the doors are open, and about who may attend when the speaker is a woman (note that her ministry goes on; it’s only the hearers who are limited).
(Side note on giving: people who think God isn’t prospering them don’t have to give anything—they are only to give as the Lord has prospered them. Preach that, Pastor, when you tell your people God doesn’t promise to prosper them temporally!)
Done listening to negativity from anyone, including me. Done looking at myself in the mirror and criticizing, wishing, coveting. Done remembering negativity from years and decades long gone from people I don’t—or hardly ever—speak to or even remember. Done hating over that. Done coping. Done dealing. It Is Finished—paid for—and I’m done with it.
Done listening to others criticize those who do not believe in Jesus. They can’t believe unless God gives them faith. I hear people jumping all over unbelievers for their faith in evolution, their beliefs about abortion or homosexuality, their unbelief in things we Christians hold precious—the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection. Hello? These things can’t be believed. They are not believable without the gift of faith. Why do you wonder why an unbeliever doesn’t believe? It’s because he’s in unbelief (are you getting the drift?), so he can’t believe, so he’s not a believer, so he’s an unbeliever! Of course he doesn’t believe in the Virgin Birth—no one CAN believe this unless God grants faith. Think about it, dummy. It’s not believable—it’s only faithable, and this faith is not of yourself—it is a gift of God. (End of rant.)
Done self-loathing over perceived failing, perceived lack of faithfulness, perceived or even real sin. Done self-loathing over not meeting up to other people’s expectation, meeting up to my own arbitrary expectations. Done trying to fix things that can’t be fixed.
(Parenthetical sidenote: I will, however, continue to correct you for your use of the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s House to jaw away about your politics. Can we keep the Lord’s Day holy and talk about Jesus in His House? Just fyi—stop it, already. People in the House have needs, need compassion, need ten dollars, need a hug. What they don’t need right this minute is your take on Iowa and New Hampshire!)
I’ll be resting in self-acceptance, in God’s acceptance of me, in righteousness and holiness and peace.
I’ll be taking on the easy yoke of faith and the light burden of trusting Him. Learning from Jesus to be set apart (holy, sanctified) for His own use.
You too. Be grace-ful to others, not requiring slavish one-two-three-check-it-off obedience to the Law, which was only given, you know, to show us that we could not keep it, that we needed a Savior. And in the fulness of time, He came. Be grace-ful to the unbeliever, showing him the Love of Jesus, not the Law of Moses. Rejoice that your sins are forgiven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When you wake up in the morning, think: “I am God’s beloved. He totally loves me. I am fully forgiven of all my sins: past, present, future. I am ready, willing, and gifted to do all that is set before me.” Then when you stumble into the bathroom and look in the mirror, think: “For me the Savior died.” At night, do this all again. And in the in-between times, when you feel the pressure rising (rising…), remember that He loves you and He promises to be there, always, to the end of the world.
Rest in grace, expect provision, be assured of His Presence, His love, His favor every day, all the time. And spend most of your time in the New Covenant. Don’t worry. God won’t mind. He is pleased when you focus on His Son. If you find yourself saying, “But I have to read the whole Bible every year,” ask yourself why that is and get back to me on that.