People Have a Way of Making Things Difficult (…have you ever noticed that?)

I think we human beings have a hard time with forgiveness.  Not so much with extending it to others.  More like in the acceptance of having it extended to us.  It feels all squishy and prickly and mooshy and touchy-feely all at once.  It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Having someone forgive us—especially when we didn’t even ask for it—just feels . . . wrong.  We get suspicious and skeptical; like there’s got to be some ulterior motive involved.  Certainly it can’t be that easy; that cut-and-dried.  What is it now that I have to do for them?

And don’t even get me started on grace.  Granting someone a special favor, an act of kindness, or an exemption to their behavior, vices or sins seems unheard of in this day and age, especially if the person hasn’t done the courtesy of “gracing” us first.  I mean, c’mon!  Have you seen those people??  There’s some real . . . sinners out there!

How much harder therefore is it to even imagine having forgiveness and grace extended to us by an Omniscient, Omnipotent Heavenly Father?  I mean, all you have to do is ask???  It can’t be that easy.  Certainly there is something we can–nay must–do to gain the favor of God?  I mean, he’s GOD!

How many times have we read Biblical passages like Matthew 7:7-8 (“Ask and it will be given…”), Mark 12:28-29 (The Greatest Commandment), or Acts 16:30-34 (“What must I do to be saved?”) Yet it’s never sunk into us that Jesus boiled faith and the saving grace of our Lord to its barest essence; and that people (many God-fearing, well intentioned individuals, with a few arrogant, self-centered profiteers thrown in to boot) have seemingly gone out of their way to make it much more difficult than it needs to be?

One of the most controversial statements that Jesus makes in the Bible, John 14:6 (“I am the way, the truth and the life…”), addresses this issue head on.  Unfortunately, we get so wrapped up in the so-called “exclusivity” of that statement that we often fail to see the circumstances, claims and promises surrounding it.

The circumstances?  Look no further than what Thomas asks just prior, prompting Jesus’ response:

John 14: 4 (Jesus speaking) And you know the way to where I am going.”   “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Thomas was still looking for that ‘something’ to do.  Jesus reply is, in essence, saying, “Thomas, I have already done it.  You don’t need to know the way.  I AM the way, what I have told and shown you IS truth, and through me you will HAVE everlasting life; as long as you know and believe in me.”

But Philip still wants proof:

John 14:Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus answer? (I’m roughly paraphrasing here)  “Really Philip?  I mean . . . really??!!  After all this time, you still have no idea who I am, or where, and from whom, I come from?” concluding in verse 11 with a plea which begins, “Just believe…”

John 14: 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.  12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. “

Aahh, there it is! You might say.  There’s the ‘works’ part of the deal.  I knew there was something we had to do!

Well, okay, granted.  But look at the order of Jesus words:

Just believe…
At least believe…
Anyone who believes will do the same works…
Or even greater.

When do the works come?

After the belief.  After the acceptance of who Christ is and what he has done.  After the understanding of Christ’s works, so that then, and only then, can you go forth and do “the same works I have done, and even greater works.”

Religion in general and many Christ-followers in particular have done a fine job in screwing up the simple, straight-forward message of the Gospel, the Mission of Christ and the intended Mission of His followers.

It really is this simple:

  • Believe Christ is who he says he is (as the Son of the Living God) and did what he said he was going to do (as the sacrificial Lamb).  This also includes, at no extra cost, turning from the direction you were going (also called ‘repentance’) and confessing that you may not in fact know it all and possibly, just maybe, sorta, kinda gotten some things wrong.  Which then leads to . . .
  • Loving God.   As “Abba, Father”.  Which leads to . . .
  • Loving others.   Which eventually gives you the ability and invitation to . . .
  • Share the Gospel.   After which you may have the joyous opportunity to…
  • Baptize.   Which will allow you and others to then . . .
  • Do even greater works with the help of the Advocate.

John 14: 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

So stop running on the same pointless hamster wheel of trying to “do” in order to “receive”.
Quit trying to follow a religion.
Try following Christ instead.

It’s. Not. That. Hard!

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6 thoughts on “People Have a Way of Making Things Difficult (…have you ever noticed that?)”

    1. I really appreciate your words—have enjoyed your blogs so much. Thanks for your reply and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas. I’m glad I can say that to you since I am banned from saying it at the store!

  1. Kent, I am sure glad you want to hear from people even if they disagree, because I am going to (just a little) on one point. You pose the question: “When do the works come?” And your answer is “After the belief.” It seems to me that belief and faith (an action word), also often come after the works, as well. The Savior taught: “If any man will DO his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”–John 7:17. Jesus invites us here to experiment DOING the will of the Father and promises here that THEN we will know if it is true doctrine. Sometimes we may approach a doctrine or commandment with only a desire to believe, which is a great beginning, but as we DO the will of the father, we taste the fruit or joy and we experience that his doctrine is true. We can also have the doctrine confirmed to us over and over by the power of the Holy Ghost as we strive to DO God’s will. Our faith then becomes stronger and our commitment becomes deeper. I agree with you that sometimes people make things more difficult than need be by being unwilling to accept the grace and forgiveness of God. If we do all in our power, we will still fall short and we all need that divine grace. However, there are some who make the path too easy by teaching that all we have to do is make a declaration that we “accept” Jesus as our Savior. This reminds me of an actual advertisement I read in a magazine one time offering a “new, quick easy way to receive the Holy Ghost.” For faith to continue as a living force in our lives, it must be accompanied by works. Otherwise, it is not a faith that will flourish. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?–James 2:19&20

    1. Thanks for the comments as always, Maryann. It’s always a joy to have your input.

      “I am sure glad you want to hear from people even if they disagree, because I am going to (just a little) on one point.”

      I appreciate the opportunity to discuss differences and disagreements, but in what followed your statement I was struggling to find where you and I disagree. If what I wrote in any way indicates a belief that no works are involved AT ALL then I apologize. That is neither my intent nor biblically accurate. My intent and, as it seems, the gist of your comment as well, is to imply that belief/faith and works are a little like stairs; that build on one another, raising us closer and closer to the ideal which is Jesus. I would say, however, that the FIRST step is the fundamental acceptance that Jesus is who He says He is (the Son of God) and did what He said He would do (be the perfect, unblemished lamb of salvation). Which is, I believe, what James is saying in Chapter2:14 and on.

      If you do not believe and accept this fundamental truth, to what purpose do you ‘work’? And, if you ‘work’ in order to “know if it is true doctrine”, it is still something you are trying to ‘do’ in order to ‘gain’. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross becomes ineffective because, in essence, you are saying, “that is not enough. There is more that I must do in order to gain God’s favor, or gain eternal salvation.” THAT is also not biblically accurate. (How else would you explain the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43? He did not have time to do ‘works’ and yet…)

      My stand is this: Any person, any belief, or any religion that attempts to add to the work already accomplished on the cross–and the inherent belief in the truth of that work and in Jesus’ final words, “It is finished” (John 19:30)–as a necessary means of salvation (either through additional works or additional doctrine (I am really sorry, but I had to go there), is simply missing the mark and making belief and therefore salvation more difficult than it needs to be. THAT was the intent of my post, and unfortunately that is where you and I religiously disagree.

      1. Just caught your reply today—I think perhaps where we differ is in our views of what salvation means.
        However, the comment that really caught my eye was the reference to “additional doctrine.” I know of no place in the Bible where God says he will never speak to us again. The references by writers of the Bible about not adding to their words are made by individual writers speaking of their own personal record, or “book”. Since all of the books of the bible were not compiled into one volume until later, each writer was obviously speaking of his own record. He was not indicating that the heavens are closed or that there would be no more prophets.

        I believe the Bible is true, and it is taught constantly in our church, but I also believe the Book of Mormon is a divine record, recorded by the ancestors of the American Indians on this continent, and kept hidden by the Lord to come forth in these latter days. I am not trying to force my religion on you—but I think the following words are interesting to note:
        “Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men…and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? …” 2 Nephi 29:7

        The Book of Mormon records the visit of the resurrected Savior to these ancient inhabitants on the American continent. He established his gospel among them and gave 12 authority just as He did with the Twelve Apostles in the Bible. The Book of Mormon record is especially meaningful to us in our day because their history is now repeating itself with us. It is a warning not to repeat the same mistakes they made, but the major purpose of the book is to stand as a second witness of Jesus Christ, and records his dealings with the inhabitants of the Americas.

        1. Thank you as always, Maryann, for your comments and response. Though you and I may differ on certain aspects of faith and belief, I value our friendship and the honesty with which we’ve been able to talk over the years we’ve known each other. I consider you a trusted and valued friend.

          I also may differ from some of my other Christian brothers and sisters in saying that I honestly try not to take it upon myself the burden of arguing ‘faith’. I have at times pointed up what I believed to be misinterpretations of scripture, but I try to limit myself even there if possible (given my personality 🙂 ) as I consider myself more a student along the journey rather than any kind of teacher. Besides, anyone can pull a passage out of context of the Bible and twist it to mean anything they desire…including myself. I’ve come to realize that my primary goal for this blog has been to document a journey along the path of discovery within my own faith; hopefully pointing up some relevant topics along the way, or bringing out certain subjects that I find interesting, or questionable, and wondering if anyone else feels something similar…or completely opposite at times. 🙂

          I place my faith and (limited) understanding in the One I choose to follow. Having hope and belief that He will lead me on the correct path for my and my family’s life. I also rest in hope that God has placed others on their own path, within their own timing and understanding; not that any of us shall rest where we are at, but that growth will occur for all of us within His time, within His wisdom, and within His grace.

Talk to me, even if you disagree! I'd love to hear your comments!

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