06 June 2016

On "Qualifying"

I'm trying to figure out how the word "qualify" doesn't mean "earn". Even in the dictionary, the definition is a specific instance of "earn". 

Qualify:
1: be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition.
     A. become eligible for a competition or its final rounds by reaching a certain standard or defeating a competitor.
     B. be or make property entitled to be classed in a particular way

2. become officially recognized as a practitioner of a particular profession or activity by satisfying the relevant conditions or requirements, typically by undertaking a course of study and passing examinations

And if this word truly is only another way to say "earn", then I don't think it deserves a place in my vocabulary when talking about my relationship to God.

Jesus's atoning sacrifice and victorious resurrection is finished. He has already fully given the gift in the completion of that work. When He won, His victory applied to everyone, everywhere, completely and fully. The only question is whether or not we will let it inform our lives, empower and change us, so we are not damned to walk out or lives in this fallen state, charting our course by the wisdom of the flesh, placing our feet by the light of our own feebly-kindled sparks.

I am a BIG believer in being diligent, in being obedient to God, in expending focused effort to bring my actions into alignment with the truth. The key is that truth isn't principles to apply. Truth is a Person to pursue relatioship with. Truth is His way of seeing the facts that elevates us into new liberty and empowerment. The fruit from that is way way way too sweet to me to live any other way. And the moment I start thinking about my life in terms of what I *do* having the power to determine what God will give, I get tangled up in a mindset that must earn mercy and grace. A mindset that says Jesus won't extend His victory to me unless I shape up. That my behavior determines what God is willing to give to me. But that isn't the case. God has already given the gift, fully and completely. It's now up to me to RECEIVE it. The gift is sitting right there in front of me in His outstretched hands, waiting for me to take God at His word and experience life from within what He has prepared for everyone who loves Him and believes Him.

For all but the last few years, I firmly believed that my behavior determined not only what God would give, but what God COULD give. That He doled out blessings based on my performance. And yet, Jesus has said some pretty wild things about believing Him being the first and most important requirement. I was always quick to append conditions and requirements to His word in those instances . . . and yet that's just what we're NOT supposed to do. We are to understand what He said (praying in His name = praying in accordance with His character and nature, as in Hebrew culture your name IS your nature), and then believe what He said (again, in Hebrew culture, your actions revealed your belief; there was no belief without action).

In order to receive what is offered, we have to believe God, to learn to see things the way He does. That looks like an engraved invitation to crazytown, because Jesus's life was a long string of words and actions that appeared full-on certifiable. People have been institutionalized for less weird stuff over the last couple of centuries. Five thousand hungry people in a desert place? No problem, He says. You feed them, guys. Friends out in a boat on a raging sea? No problem. Just walk across the water to join them. And Peter, you come out for a stroll, too. Unclean woman with an issue of blood touches His clothing? No problem. She's completely healed and restored, and He doesn't spend the week in purification. And so. many. more.

Truth is how God sees the facts. The main work I have before me, as a believer, is to learn to see things the way God sees them. If I believe God, then I align my thinking with His thinking, and my behavior follows naturally, even though it often requires persistent effort. The most powerful tool I have is belief--believing what God says over everything and everyone else. Right belief--right thinking--is a key that opens doors and releases us into powerful freedom.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!