The Great Distraction
If distractions are anything, they are chains that latch on and pull us off course, taking our time and making it run like water down a drain. The danger in distractions is not in their intent, but rather in their insidious nature.
One of the most dangerous distractions is the illusion and resulting pursuit that we can somehow assure our right standing with the Creator of the universe by our own efforts. To think so attacks the fact that His ways and thoughts are far higher, greater, and more complex than ours. We are simply not at His level of understanding.
When our goal is to assure right standing with God, or holiness, by our own efforts, this becomes a preoccupation, an obsession, our cruel task master. It occupies our time and becomes our hollow reward; our noble pursuit. Works to attain acceptance. This is called religion. And there is no good news in it, except to our pride.
The gospel is simple, yet so rich in its depth. It is truly good news. God accepts us first; and then the good works come. It's the difference between, "I have to do this" and "I get to do this." When we realize and truly believe that our being OK with God is based fully on what Jesus did on the cross and not because of any mustered merit or goodness on our part, a release comes. The burdensome requirements give way to the beautiful opportunity.
This realization causes me not to feel free to live as I want or to waste the time I've been given; no, it pulls the light chain and brings me to think, what can I do with this gift of burden free time? My soul becomes free to fly in the grace skies of God's freedom and forgiveness. I'm energized to serve and free to love. A brilliant idea is given birth in me - I can serve Him by loving others. All of this possible because I know I am fully accepted. He is my righteousness. It is by His doing all of this is made possible.
This was not always my story, my song. He had to humble me. He had to humble the man who thought that through the striving and self-discipline of his own strength could climb the steps climbed by the penitent Rodrigo Mendoza and achieve acceptance in the eyes of God. But it's never enough. Our own efforts fall short every time and lead only to frustration and failure.
There is a painting, "Forgiven", by Thomas Blackshear. Maybe you're familiar with it. This painting portrays a man, exhausted, hammer and nail in his hands, held up by the strength of Jesus. He has come to his end. He can no longer. What a desired place to be; where our strength ends and His begins. There is no safer place, and there is no other place I'd rather be.