Oughts and shoulds

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There are various things we are encouraged to do as Christians: praying, reading the Bible, giving, being with other Christians, worshiping God, sharing the gospel and serving others.

When these kinds of things are treated as a duty or obligation, they become a burden. Something potentially wonderful and awesome like meeting with the God of the universe who loves and adores you, becomes instead: “I’ve got to clock another fifteen minutes of praying” – or perhaps guilt over not praying this morning, and being determined to make up for it with an extra long prayer time tomorrow.

Another way of saying we are not under Law is that there are no rules. The “oughts and shoulds” have been erased. We could sit in the corner and drool for the rest of our lives, and we would be no less loved and accepted by God.

Our motivation for doing these things is not to be accepted or to get even with our conscience. We do them because we want to have a life! Like eagles were made to fly and horses to run, we were created to have “life to the full” (John 10:10). That life happens to include things like the list in the first paragraph, only not as a duty. Make them all free and voluntary, and this is what you get:

Praying turns into a time of fellowship with God, sharing your life with him, tuning in to his voice and joining in with what he is doing in the world.

Bible reading becomes a journey of discovery. It rebuilds your foundations on something unshakeable and transforms your thinking to be in line with God’s view of things. It establishes your identity, reveals God’s ways, brings you in touch with his love and plants certain hope in your heart.

Giving alters your perspective. You receive the joy of being a conduit of God’s grace, and statements like “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) start to make actual sense.

Being with other Christians becomes an opportunity for support, encouragement, using your gifts and growing in God and as a person. You experience being part of a body that “builds itself up in love, as each parts does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

Worship becomes an encounter with God that frees and heals you as you open up to him, spirit to Spirit.

Sharing the gospel becomes a natural, unpressured thing (if that sounds alien or impossible, read or listen to Building on Grace #7).

Serving others just seems like a way of showing love to them, and imitating Jesus: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45) – a way to “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

For reflection:

There are plenty of commands in the New Testament, but they are different in character to the Law. They answer the question, ”How can I express the new life God has given me?”

We have an internal pull to the life we were created for:

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13)

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