Contentment vs. Complacency

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing great. I’m content with where I am and what God has done to get me there. Which sounds super great. Except yesterday I realized that my contentment may have been masking something not ok – complacency. Yes, I’m ok with where I am, but did I reach that point by looking at the good things I have been given (partially) or by resigning myself that this was good enough and ignoring the goals, opportunities, and people God put around me to pursue and engage (…)?

Yesterday I was reading Isaiah 1 and verse 27 stood out…

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent by righteousness.

In the midst of the storm they were about to face – being torn from their way of life and land – God promises that in the end they will be restored. But the restoration comes with a price.

Justice is the fair treatment or lawfulness of actions – and in this case God acts as the righteous judge in determining the price that must be paid for the sins that have been committed. He even says earlier in the passage (verses 12-15) that he is tired of their burnt offerings and feasts (note: these are the things he says will be pleasing to him in Numbers, among other places). Is God being duplicitous? No, that cannot be, so what is he saying instead? Let’s look at the following verses (16-17)…

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. 

I think, as with every time God tells the people of Israel about his precepts and his desires, he wants authentic worship. He wants them to be pleased with their stature before him, to recognize his awesome power, and to bring (along with their burnt offerings) a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Then, from that place of understanding who He is and who they are, to move forward and bring his love, justice, and mercy to the world.

So what happened?

The people of Israel had become complacent in their place. They weren’t content with what God had asked – sure they kept doing the things they were supposed to, but they weren’t satisfied anymore. And hey, maybe, like me, they thought they were content. They thought they were down with what was going on and ever so slowly they started drifting without even noticing. Little by little you stop dwelling on his words, thinking about what you’re doing, noticing those around you…and instead you start thinking about other things, going through the motions, and suddenly you really don’t care about that widow -you’re too busy strolling through your day to day actions “living”, revelling in our saved-ness and neglecting what comes after the salvation and hoopla along with it.

As I read the chapter I couldn’t help but be reminded about how we ourselves are saved through justice and redeemed through righteousness. Our sins deserved the ultimate sacrifice of death; and the only way we could have been redeemed was for someone to pay that debt. God just didn’t blankly forgive our sins – as a just and righteous God he couldn’t do that. A debt needed to be paid. The full payment was accepted when Jesus died for us, taking our sins upon himself, and by that justice we are saved. We are reinstated as a people right with God and we can come to him with our broken and contrite hearts.

However, just like the people of Israel we are also called above the physical actions of our lives and the routines of Christianity. We aren’t supposed to just physically take part in communion, but to consider the significance of it, and repent of our sins before taking it. We are still supposed to confess our sins to God and we are still supposed to turn from evil and run in the opposite direction. Plus, we are supposed to move beyond that and act in our lives. We are to do all the “one anothers” – serve, love, encourage, etc. We are supposed to be trying to see the kingdom of God here on earth, experiencing his goodness and sharing it with others.

We too are not to be complacent, but to be content. Yes, to be content, but not to be content with being complacent and staying where we are. Obviously we will be content when we are complacent because when we are complacent we don’t need to deal with the harder questions or care about the state of those around us. We can be blind to our own sin and parade around our status in life because “we’re happy here.”

Just because I’ve made it this far doesn’t mean that this is as far as I’m going – God still has more for me. He has more adventures, more things to learn, more people for me to meet, and more souls to save in the world, more justice to bring to those who cannot take it for themselves. My contentment is to be IN Him, what he has given me and where he has placed me. Yet I am still to be longing for a fuller communion and deeper intimacy with him. I am still to be carrying out his justice and mercy to those around me and I am still to have a desire for more of him, less of me, and to see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So: are you content or complacent?

Rest Through Christ (Hebrews 3-4)

Rest is a wonderful thing. And God has invited us to come and join his rest. However, it is because of Jesus that we are even able to do so. Jesus is greater than angels, as discussed yesterday, but he is also greater than Moses, as discussed today. And even though we turn away, just as the Israelites did from God during the time of Moses, we still have an opportunity to approach God. As the author puts it, we have a great high priest. Instead of the priests God set up, beginning with Aaron, we have Jesus. Jesus who knows what we are going through because he has experienced it.

And yet, do we keep this greatness to ourselves? Or do we continue to bring the good news to others that they too may enter this rest won for us by Christ Jesus. Not that we cause them to enter by any means, but that God may work through us to reach those whom he loves.

Glorious Salvation (Romans 11-12)

Hmm…the concept I’m picking up in Romans 11 is a little new to me, but this is how I’m understanding it. Salvation was first offered to the Jews, but due to their rejection, any Gentile can also now receive salvation. In doing so, God brings glory to himself and fulfils Israel (remembering that now we are saved by grace through faith, not following the law). I have to say … that’s pretty neat. And therefore, it makes the first bit of chapter 12 make a whole lot more sense. Knowing that we are saved by the grace of God to fulfil his kingdom, why wouldn’t you choose to offer your life as a living sacrifice? As for the rest of chapter 12, I feel like it speaks for itself pretty well. You should go read it.

Evangelism (Romans 9-10)

God is just. All the time he is just. And he has made us to fulfil the purposes he has called us to fill. This passage isn’t exactly the easiest of them all to swallow. Chapter 9 reminds us that it is purely God’s will that saves, and follows up in chapter 10 with the need for evangelism. I was talking with someone about this recently, and how these two concepts match up. Yes, we are to evangelise, because if we don’t tell them, who will? But also, because it is God working through us, it is not upon us to save people. Tell, yes. But save, no. That rests on God and releases us from any anxiety that we did it wrong at the time.

Dead to Sin (Romans 5-6)

And now we can move into the joy and peace we have through faith and the reconciliation Christ won for us. My standout in chapter 5 is verses 6-8. First off, it was at the right time that Christ died. There was no better or more perfect time than the moment that he died. Secondly, he did it for sinners. Not righteous people, nor good people, but sinners. People who deserved it least, and would move you to pity the least.

The beautiful part is that through this, we are dead to sin. Sin isn’t dead, but we are dead to it. Instead, we are alive in Christ! We do not continue to walk in a sinful lifestyle, but instead strive to imitate Christ. There is grace there for us, but that itself is not reason to continue to live the same way we used to. The new life we are given is reason enough to push forwards.

Setting up the Essay (Romans 1-2)

Whenever I read Romans, I feel like I’m reading a long, well written essay. He makes his points and backs them up and weaves all his arguments so that he gets to say the gospel about a million times (figuratively speaking, that is).

I like how Paul begins his whole letter off with … the gospel! Go figure. However, I like how it is related to his “status” and not just for funsies. Every word he writes has purpose to drive a point. He then moves on and focuses on the judgement of God and how we all will be judged on our hearts. Our hearts. The heart is a reoccurring motif in the entire Bible, which is kind of fun since it wasn’t all written at once. The heart is, in this case, where God looks to judge a man. It speaks beyond our outwardly actions and the things we say. It goes deeper than the earthly justifications we may have for salvation. It purely takes man himself into consideration. Is the heart circumcised or not? This is a radical message for many people who think that through the law they are justified. But, luckily, we aren’t. We are only justified through Christ.

For reflection: If God looked into my heart (or yours?) what would he find there?