“O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”
The above is one of my all time favorite quotes. However, it is not just a quote, it is a prayer. The Muslim saint Rabia Basri prayed it. I do not follow Islam, but read the prayer a couple times and try to grasp the meaning of it in Christian terms. Along side this, I read a tweet from pastor Brian Zahnd last week that sort of went along side this:
“I’m a Christian” should mean approximately this: “I’m trying to replicate Christ in my own life.” Not “I’m going to heaven when I die.”
What is the real reason we worship God? What is the real reason we celebrate this upcoming holiday called Christmas? Is it for satisfaction of knowing God, or to escape eternal fiery pits? I don’t want to be that guy that tells pastors to stop preaching about hell, because it’s certainly important. But as I read Scripture, I do not see a trend of Jesus saying things like “Accept me or die!” I see Jesus preaching the Word for the purpose of trying to get people to find satisfaction in God.
So, Christmas is coming up soon. What does this mean for Christians? We often talk about the fact that Jesus came into the world on this day to purge it of sin and death. This is true, but let’s redirect our focus. Our focus should be on grace. I would argue that Christmas is completely about grace. Nobody wants to spend eternity in the biblical picture of hell, but at the same time, we ought to recognize and appreciate more of what’s going on in the big picture. Grace is what separates Christianity from every other worldview. It shows a Savior who came down to earth, died for something that was completely OUR fault, and none of it was His fault. It was totally undeserved and unearned. Until we grasp the fullness of this, we will never be able to appreciate Christ for who he is. John 10:10 says,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
These words are straight out of the mouth of Jesus. We need to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ came so that we could engage in a satisfactory relationship with Him. Christ went through the most pain and suffering any human being could ever endure, and it would be foolish and selfish of us to ignore that aspect of it simply to avoid hell. We ought to be more scared of not having the prize than suffering the punishment.
What is the real thing we should be focusing on this Christmas? Grace and sanctification. That’s it. Focus on what Christ did for us…. Not just so that we could escape punishment, but so that we could one day grasp the entirety of God’s love.