Reflection – Four

by Pastor Pete Vander Beek:

Romans 4: 4, 5  Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 

Jeremiah 6:16 This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look;     ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it,     and you will find rest for your souls. 

In something I read recently, the question was asked of me, the reader: Are you pleasing God or trusting God?  I ask it of you. It is an interesting thing to ponder. 

At first I wanted to say they were the same thing. They go together. If I am pleasing God I’m showing trust, right?  The asker was getting at something different between them. It comes down to this:

  • If I am striving to please God, I am actually relying on myself, my own efforts to earn God’s favour, or reward. 
  • If I am trusting God through Christ, and allowing Jesus to continue to live his life through me, I am not relying on myself; I am actually dis-empowered, submitted, and dependent.

The first is “Religion.” The second is “Spirituality.”  (Falsified) Christian Religion is the set of beliefs and practices we have by which we believe we please God, or keep God from being too unhappy with us. 

Christian Spirituality is a perspective on life that understands deeply that I cannot do anything that earns me favour with God. Knowing that with all myself causes me to live a certain way, almost as a side effect, not a chosen action.

The Apostle Paul gets at that difference in our passage from Romans 4, where he explains that when a person “works” wages are owed them, not gifted. However, in contrast, when a person “trusts God” to have done the work they know they cannot do, their faith is what puts them in right relationship with God.  

It is really amazing! — And we still don’t like it. Something in us desperately wants to earn the heavenly relationship ourselves. Even retroactively — after it has been gifted to us.

Learning to relax into that un-earnable gift is a huge part of healthy Christian Spirituality. And then learning to “just live,” constantly asking Jesus to live through you. It is a Kingdom of God “way of being” or, as Jeremiah says: an “ancient path” a “good way” that we are to walk in with God. This “way of being” spirituality gets snuffed out and stifled when it gets turned into “religion” and religious actions I “must” do to keep or earn God’s gift.

So, I choose to trust God. Not myself. It is quite freeing. So, are you pleasing God or trusting God?