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Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Prepare Ye the Way of The Lord"

"We have to prepare our hearts so Christ will come and make them His home."

"We have to make our selves ready for the Lord to come in."

"How can God live in us if we don't first clean out the impurities in our hearts and lives?"

Do these statements sound familiar to you? I've heard them, or statements like them, my whole life.

This morning, I was asked to read a couple of paragraphs at church for the second Sunday of Advent. It was about the voice crying in the wilderness "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" It then went on to explain how we can do this in our own lives today (yay for Christians taking verses that have nothing to do with us and trying to apply them to us). It was all about cleaning and sweeping, levelling mountains and filling valleys and making our hearts ready to receive Jesus. I hadn't previewed it before I read it, and I kept wanting to stop and say "But......". (Don't worry, I refrained. Barely. ;))

So I've saved my "but" for my blog. :)

Do we really need to "prepare our hearts" before Jesus will enter them? Is this consistent with Scripture? Do we have to have everything in order for the Lord to come and commune with us?

I don't think so.

The God I know died for us while we were still sinners. The Jesus I worship comes to me and comes through for me when I'm still a mess. The Jesus I love comes charging through the crap of my life to find and save my heart. The Jesus I know came into a world that was completely UNprepared for Him, and was born in a barn. The God I serve died on a filthy cross, asking forgiveness for a crowd of people who spit on Him, tortured Him, and laughed at His pain. I love Him because He first loved me.

"For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. For God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Isn't it amazing how much the simple gospel of redemption and sanctification in Christ alone has been taken over by a performance gospel? Even in a non-conservative church like mine.

Oswald Chambers said this:

"If we simply preach the effects of redemption in the human life instead of the revealed, divine truth regarding Jesus Himself, the result is not new birth in those who listen. The result is a refined religious lifestyle, and the Spirit of God cannot witness to it because such preaching is in a realm other than His."

Any time you try to put the effects of redemption before the Person of redemption, you get a perfromance-based gospel. The same goes for sanctification. The result? Legalism and shame. Because no matter what you do, you will never be good enough. Thus the endless, discouraging cycle of trying harder and failing.

My friends, you cannot clean your heart enough to make it "holy enough" for God. You cannot make yourself more acceptable to Him, make Him like you more, for you are already accepted because of Him. God doesn't wait until our hearts are "right with Him" before He comes and communes with us. Else He would never come. He saves us where we're at. He continues to sanctify us, not on our own merit, but because of His grace. His kindness draws us, his grace overwhelms us, His love covers us, until we are the people He always meant for us to be. No amount of "preparing our hearts" can ever, ever do the same.

"But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it." ~Eph. 2:4-9 GNT