Ah, Pokemon Go. Due to a sad state of affairs regarding the cell phone situation at our house, our 9-year-old has been left out of the Pokemon Go craze. Up until recently, that is.
While visiting my in-laws in Florida this summer, my father-in-law happily offered up his cell phone to our youngest son for some brief Pokemon Go endeavors. This meant me accompanying my boy on many a long walk after dinner in the evenings while he captured nonexistent tiny monsters in existent corners of the world.
While internally lamenting my situation, which consisted of 100% humidity, 98-degree temperatures and the most aggressive mosquito population I had ever experienced, as my son suddenly took seemingly schizophrenic turns in the road on one of these Pokemon walks, I was once again blown away by God’s ability to use even the most absurd situations.
While my white-haired, brown-eyed, beautifully tanned boy stared at his Papa’s cell phone, he asked me a question: “Mom, some people say they are Christian, but they don’t do good things. They aren’t Christian, are they?”
My brain reeled briefly. I knew his thoughts were much more complicated than his question revealed, and I knew my answer would need to reflect this complication in a simple, understandable way. So, where to start? Always better to start by asking questions to dig deeper:
Me: “Why do you think Christians do good things?”
Ian: “To go to heaven.”
Whoa. My body literally stopped. My motor functions briefly disconnected from my brain, as my brain needed all of its energy to intercept this comment and the belief behind it. After a second of no movement and no speech, I slowly began walking again, as mentally cautious as if I were walking on ice.
You see, it was this one belief, the belief that I needed to be good for God, that led me down a very dark and long path as a child. What I learned then was that, no matter how good I tried to be, I always failed. Always. And if I failed at being good, then I failed at being with God. How could God be so cruel as to set the bar so high, knowing I would fail? If God is all good, and he would allow me to fail, then he must not exist. This must be a fairy tale. It was this one belief that led me from trying with all of my might to please God to ultimately believing that he must not exist. It was this one thought that almost cost me my purpose and my destination and cost me my growth in God for nearly 30 years. A simple, common, childish belief.
My son believed, as I once had, that we serve for our ends, because we strive for something. We strive for God’s grace. But this could not be further from the truth.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Why did God send his one and only son to die? Why did Jesus hang on the cross and say, “It is finished?” What was finished?
Our bridge to God was finished. The possibility of discovering the purpose laid out before us was created. The possibility of understanding that we could never be good enough for God’s grace and we could never earn God’s mercy was laid before us.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
— Romans 5:8-10
We serve because, as Pastor David Griffin so beautifully said, it is who we are in Christ Jesus, it is our purpose to become more like him. We did not create this purpose once we became Christian, it laid before us waiting for us to cross the bridge and pick it up and begin experiencing the true joy and elation of walking with God.
If you wish to understand and take up the purpose for which you were designed, look to Christ and —
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
— Romans 15:13