I Flunked Sunday School
Were you a Sunday School kid? I can still remember staring at pictures on a flip chart of David and Goliath or Jesus walking on the water as I listened to my teachers read these stories. I also remember our teacher asking us a series of questions each Sunday as she checked attendance. We raised our hands in response to each of these and sometimes received a gold star on a chart that hung for all to see:
- read your Bible daily
- brought an offering
- memorized the Bible verse of the week
- brought a friend
Being such a people pleaser, I wanted to raise my hand and get a star on the chart for each item, but it didn’t happen. I think this weekly checklist in Sunday School may have reinforced some unhealthy beliefs in my young mind.
Tools for Spiritual Growth
I am sure that my teachers loved Jesus and had great intentions, and I am thankful that I can still sing the New Testament song in my head when I’m looking for Philemon. I am thankful for good teaching. Learning the books of the Bible and memorizing scripture does not change a heart, but I do believe that today, as a grown woman, I can set up certain habits in my life that open my self up to God, telling him that I am willing and available to the work he wants to do in and through me.
If we want to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us, if we want to see God answer prayer, if we want God to use us to bring life change to those around us, we have to connect with Him. It’s that simple. There is no magic wand sprinkling us with Holy Spirit dust. There is no drive-thru line passing out nuggets of scripture that will satisfy our hearts and fully nourish us spiritually as we live out the pages of our overstuffed calendars, trying to squeeze a minute of Jesus in as we go. There just isn’t.
God Can’t Be the Sprinkles
Jesus is the cake. He’s not the icing or the sprinkles that we add on for decoration. If we truly want our lives to be consumed by the love of Christ, he cannot be an adding topping to our full lives; he must be our life.
Growing spiritually happens when we become intentional in our focus, time, and passion. Having a vibrant, exciting relationship with Jesus is the result of living each day upon the altar, our will surrendered to the will of God.
Not by Accident
I believe there are spiritual disciplines that we can faithfully pursue that will open up our hearts and minds to more of God, if our intentions are pure. One thing is for sure, we do not know the heart and will of God by accident.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Seeking God means slowing down.
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
Knowing God’s heart and his will means studying his Word.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
Loving God means having an ongoing conversation with him.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
Staying close to God means confessing your mess daily.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:24
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
If we think we can run ourselves ragged, live a life with no margin, and then somehow be tight with God, we are deceiving ourselves.
I don’t have a checklist for you. That’s religion. I used to play that game, because it made me feel like I was getting something right. I felt “good” when I checked my Bible reading off my list.
Now I live in freedom, reading God’s word as a letter from my Father. I pray each day because I want to hear from him, and I fully believe he delights in the sound of my heart being poured out to him. I believe that he hears me and will answer. I memorize scripture because it is powerful, comforting, might-save-my-life truth that I don’t want to forget.
There is no checklist of goodness, but there is no shortcut to being close to God.
Love is intentional, not accidental.
What will you do today to make your heart and mind available to God? If you have been living off a little bit of God added to your day, are you satisfied?
How will you choose Jesus on purpose today?