How To Stop Going Around In Spiritual Circles?
Do we send kids around in spiritual circles? Do we teach contradictory concepts that spin people into spiritual circles? Do many of our lessons paint a fuzzy picture of our relationship with God? I think so.
And it destroys our freedom in Christ. It’s high time we bust up the circles.
I will use myself as an example but I have spoken to enough people to know that my experience is not unique.
Accepted or Separated?
I was taught that God accepted me through Jesus but that my sin would separate me from His blessing and presence, so I never knew whether or not God was on my side. Some days it seemed like He was with me. Other days I thought He was put out with me because I sinned. I went around in spiritual circles.
It was freeing to learn that scripture does not teach that God accepts me on one hand but pulls away from me when I sin. Acceptance is based on what Jesus did for me, not my performance.
Father or Employer?
I was taught that God was my good Father but we were trained to think of God as our employer. Most of our conversation was about serving God as if He were the farm owner who kept us around to do chores. God always seemed to need something accomplished and it became our job to make sure it all got done…with excellence (of course). The focus was always more about being God’s servant, rather than God’s child. Spiritual circles.
I was relieved to learn that even though God works through us He NEVER relates to us as an employer. That’s the the mistake the prodigal son and his older brother both made. God relates to us as our Father, or as scripture says, “Abba.” His love for us has nothing to do with our service for Him.
The Gospel means “good news” but it seemed more like obligations than news. News means something has already happened. It looks back to something that happened. We said the Gospel was about what was DONE through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection but our focus was about what we were DOING. Doing stuff for God always seemed more important than what He did for us.
It blew me away to learn that “news” is something that is already DONE. It has nothing to do with my “DO.” The Bible is not so much a “how-to” book but a “what happened” book.
Does God Love Me or is He Mad at Me?
I was told that God loved me but it always seemed like He was mad at me for something. I got the impression that if I just tried a little harder and did a little more then God would like me more. I was going around in spiritual circles believing God loved me one minute and was mad at me the next.
It turns out that God loves me as much as He loves Jesus (John 11:26). It’s the same love.
God’s Presence: Something I Enter or am I Always Present?
I was told that God was always with me yet I had to “enter His presence” through praise and worship. It was up to me to “press in.” So Monday through Saturday left me wondering if God was anywhere around unless I spent time in praise and worship so I could “enter in.” Are you dizzy from the spiritual circles yet?
I was shocked later to learn that I don’t go in and out of a revolving door based on my quality or intensity of worship. NOTHING–not even my lack of worship–can separate me from God or His love (Romans 8:38-39).
Forgive To Be Forgiven or Forgiven To Forgive?
Pastors told me that I was forgiven through Jesus but that if I didn’t forgive then God would not forgive me. Huh? So which is it? I was confused. So God forgives me but if I failed to forgive my sixth grade teacher then I could still go to hell? It is true that the Bible teaches both.
It wasn’t until later in life I discovered that every time the Bible said “I needed to forgive to be forgiven” it was said BEFORE the cross. Every time the Bible says I am “already forgiven therefore I can forgive” is AFTER the cross. I was mixing up truth before the cross with truth after the cross.
The Cross Changed EVERYTHING!
I was confused and often confused others because I was living on BOTH SIDES OF THE CROSS. Everything changed after the cross. Everything. Before the cross it was about what we did for God. After the cross it is now about what God did for us through Jesus. Hence the term: “good news.” Trying to live on both sides of the cross blended my efforts with the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
Maybe that’s why Paul made a statement like this.
For I decided to know NOTHING among you except Jesus Christ and him CRUCIFIED. (2 Corinthians 2:2 ESV)
That’s the secret to busting up the spiritual circles that send us spiraling mentally and never feeling certain about our faith: make the cross so central that everything else falls into the “nothing” category. Make sure that if you know nothing else, you know that.
Don’t Make The Crazy Galatian Mistake
The Galatians lost their focus of the cross and started depending on their own efforts to please God. We do the same thing. Here’s how Paul explains it.
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a HEX on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the CRUCIFIED Jesus in CLEAR FOCUS in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by WORKING YOUR HEAD’S OFF TO PLEASE GOD? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could COMPLETE by their OWN EFFORTS what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? (Galatians 3:1-3 Message Bible)
That described me perfectly. I understood I would probably make it to Heaven but I still thought I needed to complete what Jesus started on the cross.
Breathe. Relax. Jesus died for you. It’s done. He’s your Savior. Stop trying to earn anything from God. You don’t have to go around in spiritual circles.