God's Reality Is Not Our Reality

We have begun to worship with a guitar during our Sunday gatherings. Lindsay, my lovely wife and the player of the guitar, is attempting to pick up the pace at which the hymns are sung. They have been sung so slowly for so long during our gatherings that they come across as funeral dirges with wonderful lyrics rather than the beautiful songs of faith from those who have preceded us in our spiritual journey. Speeding up the tempo is like a wrestling match. The people want to go the speed they have always gone. Lindsay struggles to speed up the tempo. Back and forth they go, fighting one another. Last week, after the first song which was a knockdown, drag out wrestling match, we seemed to break through and sing together with Lindsay setting the pace.

In my relationship with God, I resemble the people resisting the new tempo more frequently than I would like to admit. They have always sung them at a slower tempo. In their minds, that is the way the songs are to be sung. This makes it extremely difficult for a leader to change the tempo.

Too often, we get hung up on being sinless and perfect. We shift our focus from living in the grace of Christ into abstaining from sinful actions so that we can earn our way into being used by God. We know that we have been saved by grace through faith for works (Ephesians 2:8-10), but we have a difficult time keeping grace, faith, and works in the right order. We so often pretend that our works are the element of our faith that makes us right with God. Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?...Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:3-5).

If you are like me, you might mix up the proper place of works in your walk with Jesus. I mistakenly think that I am more right with God if I can abstain from certain sins. It is as if I believe my feeble attempts at perfection make me more redeemed. I arrogantly believe my righteousness is a shining light, that people will see me and see Christ because of me. What a farce! What a lie I tell myself! People, if they could really see my heart, would see me and see someone far removed from Christ. I am far from perfect.

There are three realities. There is God’s reality. He views things through their potential and the lens of the cross. In God’s reality, we can be so much more than we presently are. There is the earthly reality. This is the way things actually are. And then there is the false reality. This is the reality we too often find ourselves in. It is when we try to dress up and show a fake self to the world. And it is when we accept people’s fake selves for who they are.

This is what makes Christ so great – he shines through us despite our failures. Actually, he shines through because of our failures. We need to stop living in a fake reality. Accept reality for what it is and allow God to transform our reality into the potential He sees. He loves us for who we are, flaws and all. He is like a master sculptor who can see what a piece of rock can become despite not resembling it yet. People can see Christ’s grace because Jesus loves me despite who I am. And he loves each one of us despite who we are.

In my best moments, I surrender my all to him. He can have all of me, but then I try to take it back, one moment at a time. And I am ashamed that I take back, so I begin wearing a fake mask of Christlikeness. I want to appear holy. I want to appear that I am God’s. So I go to church, I read my Bible, I set aside times where I tell Him what I need—I continue in the rituals but I dare not call them that. I stop living in grace. I stop listening to His voice. I stop surrendering my life to Him. I stop loving Him and sharing my life with Him. He can have my all only when I do not want something different, and I will still try to dress that up in Him.

Others cannot see the areas of my life I am holding back. But God is not tricked, nor does He give up on us. His reality is not our reality. He continues to chip away at us and make us into who He wants us to be. Soon, we will be the beautiful people He wants us to be. Until then, let us cling to grace, that will lead us to have faith, and lead us to works of love towards others.

We are all beautiful with our masks off. God honors our attempts to please Him, but He does not honor our attempts to trick Him or others. Let’s be real with God and ourselves.