Why respond to God

God doesn’t want to trespass on our heart, mind, and soul… so He comes so far… and then invites us to come nearer to Him –  in heart, mind and soul.

It’s not too different from the situation when a new acquaintance who seems very nice/interesting calls out to you as you pass by.   You can indicate that you are a really too busy to stop and chat or you can signal that you enjoy being with this person and would like to deepen the friendship.   The future of the friendship depends on both responding positively to the other.   God, being love, and also liking us immensely is very desirous of our friendship, of our conscious receiving of Him into heart, mind and soul on our journeys.  But He must wait until His interest is reciprocated!

If I am not mistaken, Jesus was once moved to tears of joy at being unconditionally accepted by His friends.  He knew they were genuine because it was at a time of great grief for them – their beloved brother had died.  Mary and Martha knew Jesus could have healed their brother, Lazarus – and they could not fathom why He hadn’t come more quickly when they had sent urgently for Him.  When He showed up late and preaching again about something difficult to fully grasp as usual, they did not, however, distance Him in sullen, hurt, distrustful anger as most of us so often do.  When He asked where the body was they warmly included Him in their most intimate family experience, saying “come and see.”  They were inviting Him to come and share their most intimate selves,.  Here at last was the love and trust He was looking for and entering into into this deeper communion with them, they allowed Him to empathize with them.  I imagine that such a mixture of delight (at their unconditional acceptance of Him), their love for their brother (brought to the surface by his death), and their grief was emotionally overwhelming… it was touching deeply on the true ‘meaning’ of God’s creation….. and “Jesus wept.” (John 17:35)

As Erwin McMannus[1] has observed in matters of the heart one doesn’t send friends or emissaries, one goes in person.  Thus when the time was finally right for God to come in person and live among us in human form He made His desire for us and His invitation to us explicit.    Seeing us compassionately as “sheep without a shepherd” He invited the “weary and heavy laden” among His listeners to

come to me…. and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

At a time when He was a very controversial figure, He

stood up on the last and most important day of a religious festival and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!  The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have rivers of living water flowing from his heart.”  (John 7:37)

There are many other examples from the life of Jesus of the invitation of God to us, but look briefly at the invitation and the need for a response from us as declared by the Apostles:

to those who received Him, who believed in his name…..He gave power to become the children of God.” (John 1:12)

“If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Rom 10:9)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:13)

“Coming to, believing in, and calling on” are all describing one reality, one response.  It is not an academic or passive response.   An adequqate response can only happen when we are consciously involved as willing participants.  Hence our salvation – i.e. entering a conscious relationship with God, which among other things will result in our being filled and empowered by real love for others – requires us to believe and value the revelation of God in our lives each step of the way.

Saying that a response is required is not to say that we have to earn salvation.  Salvation we are told explicitly is “not by works” – Ephesions 2:8,9.   Coming to, believing in and calling on Jesus are not an earning of God’s love.  We miss the point if we try to earn God’s love.  The point is He loves us already!  To try to earn His love is to believe that we don’t have it yet.  To believe He doesn’t loves us yet (not until we make ourselves more worthy) is to not come yet, not believe in yet, not call on his name yet.

If and when one day we think we have at last made ourselves worthy we will find that we still don’t (can’t) commune with God.  The self-righteous person has failed to grasp that it is impossible for us to love except that we first are luxuriating by faith in the love of God and have cultivated a deep spiritual connection to Him.

We can’t earn God’s love and favour – which is to say our “salvation” – any more than being friendly earns another human being’s genuine friendship.  But God’s friendship, which brings with it His transformative influence, is available to us immediately if we want it, have eyes to see it and say “yes” to him.

Let us give no heed to the nonsense that says needing God is an admission of weakness, disability or defect.  Needing God is simply an admission of reality.  Put it this way, if we are the teabag God is the hot water – together we can make a fine cup of tea.  But to expect the teabag to make the tea without the water is crazy.  It is not human weakness to need God but human purpose and destiny.  However, it is still a mutual relationship and we have power of veto and in our ignorance and foolishness we often exercise that power.

What hinders us from coming to God can be put in two main categories.   Firstly, there is our own unattractive and false impressions of God, which lead us to distain and avoid Him.  Secondly, there are other people’s unattractive and false impressions of God, which if they find out we are seeking God causes them to distain and avoid us.  Naturally this is also quite a disincentive.  But Jesus helps us with both of these in unexpected ways.  Basically He reveals to us what is going on with God and what is going on with humanity, so that we can firstly fall in love with God and secondly, so that we can understand and negotiate the opposition loving God brings from others.

Neither obstacle is particularly robust and neither makes much sense…  and therefore both will fall eventually.   Whilst sin is seemingly an unstoppable force in humanity (judging from personal and historical experience), actually it is bluffing.  Sin’s power is mainly due to the belief we put in it, plus our fear of death and our belief in vindictive Divine judgment.  Jesus came as a human being and called the bluff.  It involved Him risking His life, dying and rising from the dead but He thereby condemned sin to extinction (Rom 8:3).  Sin is not extinct yet but it is has been condemned and like a condemned prisoner on death row its time is limited.

Of course, there’s more to it, including that because of sin God’s grace “abounds” to us.  I will say more of all this elsewhere, including why God gives us so many seemingly valid reasons to doubt Him and hides from us until we seek Him with our whole hearts (Jer 29:13).  The point of this page though is that there remains for each of us a “rest” for us to enter (Heb 4:9), a coming home to God (John 10:9) and personal rebirth – and it requires us to respond to God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Luke 10:27).


[1] See “Soul Cravings”