Guest Blog By Bob Woods: The Greatest Gift
This month’s guest blog is from Bob Woods. He used to pastor a church in the Greater Chicago area called Grace Covenant. His website is still up www.gracecovenantcc.org which includes many audio & video files of his previous teachings. He has since moved to North Carolina, but you can still find him preaching the Word daily on his Facebook page. I love the way Bob boldly proclaims the truths of the Gospel and exposes the lies of the enemy. Many of his teachings have really helped set me free in certain areas and he really encourages me just the way he enjoys his life in relationship with the Father. His post is below. Enjoy.
THE GREATEST GIFT
The highest compliment, and greatest gift, we can ever offer to God is to call Him “Father”.
Having a large family to fellowship with has always been God’s deepest desire. He shouted that from Heaven when He sent us His Word, Jesus, to strip away all the things that were hindering us from having an intimate relationship with Him.
With Jesus’ death on the cross, He cleared several hurdles to facilitate a fresh opportunity for us to have an everlasting intimacy with the Father. Jesus took the sins of the world (from the first person until the last person to be born on this planet), eliminated man’s sinful nature, fulfilled the Law and defeated Satan all in one single, knock out, blow. These were the main burdens distracting us from engaging in a close, personal relationship with our Father. When Jesus rose from the grave, He provided the ultimate opportunity for all of us to freely join the Father’s family, His inner circle. Our Father gave us unrestricted access to all He is (His nature/characteristics) and all that He has (His physical possessions).
God specifically had each of us, individually, on His mind when He came back to shed light on the dark path that humanity found itself walking down. He couldn’t bear to see us struggling with the weight of sin, our sinful nature, the strict standards of the Law and the mentality Satan had introduced where “we must do to become” as well as “we must do to get things”. It was as if we were in quick sand, where the more effort we exerted to save our self, the quicker we would sink. Those burdens, that dark path, the quick sand had to be exterminated so we could finally see God for who He really is – a kind, loving Father.
THE CONTINUAL DISTORTION
You would think the clarity of what Jesus accomplished for mankind would have solidified our relationship with our Father. It didn’t take long, however, for religion to begin to distort the Father’s Word (Jesus) toward mankind. Matter of fact, it only took minutes for them to begin to mix the prior distortions in with some new ones to water down the finished work of Christ. It created a dilution effect that has continued to this day. Some might argue that the distortion has even been enhanced from generation to generation to get us to our current state. The result of that continual misrepresentation portrays God as a schizophrenic, narcissist who only loves us conditional. Let me explain…..
So many of us have the perception that, on one hand, God loves us unconditionally yet, on the other hand, He is angrily gritting his teeth while patiently holding back His anger with our continual misbehavior. As if He is waiting in the closet with a bat and the next time we step out of line, He’ll smack us on the back of the head. We are conveniently told before we accept Christ as our Savior that He loves us unconditionally and then once we experience salvation, we are given a list of conditions that we must meet. We’re told that if we don’t straighten up and act right, He’ll become angry and withhold His blessings. That is a Jekyll and Hyde complex if there ever was one. He supposedly blesses and curses us depending on how we act. That’s not unconditional love and it creates a demoralizing distortion.
That type of system is like being on a gerbil wheel where we work tirelessly and get nowhere in our relationship with the Father. I would venture to say, that not only do some stay stagnant but many go backward.
This partial list of conditions is telling:
- We must praise and worship Him….as if He is an egomaniac in need of a better self-image.
- We must serve Him….as if He is a slave owner and we must do His bidding to stay in His good graces.
- We must give Him money back, $.10 on every dollar….as if He was a Mob boss that wants his money or else.
- We must pray to Him before He will release our needs and desires….as if He is withholding until we both act and pray correctly toward Him.
- We must fast before He’ll hear us….as if He needs to make sure we’re really serious before He’ll respond to our needs.
None of these make sense in a healthy family environment.
HEALTHY, FAMILY ENVIRONMENTS
When I think back to my family, we were fairly close knit; a bit dysfunctional like every family, but overall we were close. I can tell you that my Dad never asked my brother and me to do his will for our life. He never asked us to praise and worship him each morning when he came out of his bedroom. He didn’t demand us to serve him without question. He never asked us to pay a certain % back on the money (or things) he provided for us. He never thought to hold us hostage until we sought his forgiveness when we did a bad deed. Yes, he was a good Dad.
How much more our Heavenly Father?
We are indoctrinated by religion that we must fast, pray, serve, do His will, tithe, obey the commandments and all the specific religion’s rules as well. We’ve been taught that if we can do the entire list of activities that then God will favor us and provide His blessings and His nature to us. Can I just be blunt with you? God does not react to our actions toward Him? He already provided all He is going to ever provide for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our “faith” brings those spiritual blessings in to this natural realm, not our ability to earn them.
A simple definition of “faith” is when we develop a full persuasion in what Jesus did on the cross and in His resurrection for us – which will fulfill every area of our life. Today’s Christian system presents an illusion that God is a reactive God and He won’t do something until we do something first. On the contrary, God is extremely proactive. He provided everything we would ever need before we were ever born. He doesn’t need us to fast, pray or serve in order to get off His throne. He did that before time started by setting up the system that was established through the finished work of Christ. In that work, He provided all that mankind would need without any prompting. He did that out of His unconditional love for each and every person that has or will ever exist.
If you really stop and think about how religion portrays God you would have to come to the eventual conclusion that He is a self-serving, narcissistic dictator with one of the largest egos ever known. This is someone we could never trust to be in control of our best interest because He is so self-serving. Religion makes it hard for our hearts to be fully persuaded in Him. I mean, He demands our praise and worship. He won’t budge until we do things for Him. He decides “if” He is going to dole out blessings, healings and prosperity based on our performance. Religion has set up a system where on the surface everything is about God but in reality, behind the curtain, religion is pulling and pushing the levers that make us fear Him (and them), puts us in subjection to Him (and them) and heaps a heavy burden on our back again. The same ones Jesus eliminated on the cross. It puts us in extreme bondage.
On the contrary, God is all about you and me – not Himself. He hates religion.
Some might call the current religious system a slave system. Serve and be blessed, don’t serve and be cursed. That puts us right back in to a performance based system exactly like the Law Covenant.
The worst possible result of this religious system is that we will find it hard to trust God on several levels. It certainly creates an environment where we fear intimacy with Him. Would you really want to hang around with someone that is self-absorbed and wants to dictate your entire life? Definitely not! The thought of being in union with an egotistical narcissist is the most distant thought in your mind. Hook up with a micromanaging, task master? I don’t think so. People attempt to do all the right things and avoid all the bad but I doubt seriously that their heart is in it. Mine wasn’t.
Somehow we have to get back to a proper image of God where we understand that all our Father craves is to have an intimate, personal relationship with us – no strings attached. He wants to walk in the cool of the day and fellowship with us. He merely wants to hang out with us and enjoy life together. He wishes above all to see us enjoy our life here on this earth in partnership with Him. Like any good father would with his child. The only path to full contentment and fulfillment here on earth is to rely on what our Father provided for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. In other words, trust His Word to us.
Lies can’t last forever. They will always get exposed. It may have taken a while to fully expose the above lies but I believe a truth revolution is occurring that can’t be stopped. People are finding out about their freedom outside of organized religion. They are finding out that God loves us unconditionally and provided all we would ever need before we were even born, like any good father does. Humanity craves our original design; that design was built around freely fellowshipping with the Father on a daily basis.
Think back to Adam. God did not have a “will” for Adam’s life nor did He have a purpose for Adam and Eve to carry out during their life. He wasn’t asking them to serve or worship Him. Nothing was expected of Adam like religion portrays today when it comes to us. The Father merely wanted relationship with His son, Adam. He desired for Adam to believe and trust in Him which would enable Adam to obtain the desires of his heart.
So it is with you and me.
STRUGGLES OF TODAY
I’ve wondered for years why people in our Christian churches (Evangelical and Denominational) were struggling to live a fulfilling life. Statistically, today’s Christians have the same divorce rate as the “world” (unbelievers), they are worse off financially, experience higher sickness rates, similar suicide rates and Christians also have one of the lowest self-esteems of any religion. The world is actually better off than “believers”. These statistics are undeniable but it shouldn’t be that way for believers. We should have the ultimate life both here on earth as well as for eternity – one of fulfillment and contentment.
Part of the issue today is how we approach God relationally. Christians have been taught that to get to know God, we must “do” things. Read the Bible, pray, fast, give money and attend church religiously (pun intended). None of those are bad, in and of themselves, but we’ve exchanged knowledge of the Bible and knowledge of things we must do to obtain God’s blessing instead of actually knowing God intimately.
We’ve substituted knowledge in place of relationship.
We’ve substituted doing for being.
THE JOURNEY HOME
Let me set the record straight one last time:
God is not an egomaniac. He doesn’t need our service. As a matter of fact, He said the one that serves is the greater. No right minded person would ever question that He truly is the greater One. If we understand that, we will allow Him to serve us instead of killing ourselves to serve Him. He worships us, He adores us. He doesn’t need us to praise and worship Him, quite the contrary. He is the ultimate stalker. He can’t live life without us and so He’ll follow us around continually trying to persuade us to marry Him – to be in union with Him. When He sent Jesus to this earth – that was Him getting on His knees and proposing to us. The question is: will we accept His proposal? Will we be His bride? It’s our choice. He wants to live life as one with each of us individually. In that relationship, He has already provided everything for us, our heart’s desire, as any quality groom would for his bride.
We must now begin the journey back to our loving Father who has His arms wide open waiting to hug us. He waits for us to make use of all He provided, His possessions and nature. Let’s not wait any longer; let’s put one foot in front of the other and I guarantee that He’ll begin to run toward us. That is the Father we all first fell in love with so long ago. He waits patiently persuading us to return to Him – waiting for us to leap into His arms. The greatest of reunions!