Three actions that make up at least 98% of the spiritual life
Last time I posted I promised that I would comment on three words that are central to how we interact with God. I've been thinking about it, and I believe at least 98% of the spiritual life comes down to these three actions:
Nothing distances us from God like initially receiving his grace and then lapsing into a lifestyle of "making it happen." When we make it happen, we become self-reliant and close ourselves off from God. When you think about it, it makes absolutely no sense. Our salvation has come to us as a complete gift. All we could do is receive God's grace. Why drift into self-reliance? It has been said that the best saints are the most receptive ones. Why? Because receptivity is a sign of humility toward God. And "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
Example: In the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple (Luke 18:9-14), it is the tax collector who is open and receptive toward God. The Pharisee points to his own righteousness -- which is a way of saying, "Look at me, God. I am making righteousness happen!" His heart is closed off to God's grace.
If we carry nothing into our salvation and can do nothing other than receive from God, then we are free to let go of things. This can include resentment and unforgiveness. It can also include our desires for more money, more romance, more sex, more recognition, more security, etc. Releasing means we are casting ourselves and our cares into God's hands. There is never a place in the spiritual life where surrender isn't absolutely key.
Example: In the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-24), release is the crux of the problem. Can the young man let go of his riches and follow Jesus absolutely unencumbered? Sadly, no.
Jesus said these things:
"Anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:49)
“My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” (Luke 8:21)
"Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (Luke 11:28)
If we are receptive toward God and have released everything and everyone, then God is free to lead us however he wants. And lead he will! He relishes and blesses responsive disciples. He can do great things through a small number of such people!
Important caveat: in the Gospels, the disciples are usually eager to do what Jesus told them, but they often didn't understand what he was asking or why (cf. the feeding of the 5000 in Luke 9:10-17). The lesson is that sometimes God will ask us to do things we don't understand. Ours is not to understand and then obey. Sometimes ours is to obey and understand later.
Example: Peter and Andrew were fishermen and were minding their own business when Jesus said, "Follow me." (Matthew 4:18-22) They had no idea what they were getting themselves into, but they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Over the ensuing years, Peter and Andrew would get to renew that decision over and over, through easy times and exceedingly difficult.
Receive, Release, and Respond. Try these three actions and let me know how it goes.