There is this mythical belief among Christians that somehow, if they had more direct contact with God, they wouldn’t sin. I say mythical because that belief contradicts human nature, and we actually have many examples of that in the Bible. One example is the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert. God continues to provide for them in many different ways, and they still grumble and complain at every little thing. Then, they start complaining and griping about the food that God is providing for them on their journey. God sent snakes to bite them and then gave them a test: Moses created a bronze snake so that those who looked at the snake, having faith in God’s healing power, would live.
Fast forward some hundreds of years and the bronze snake is still around. People remember the story about how people looked to it and were healed, but they forget about the faith in God part. The snake has assumed those powers in the minds of the people so they began offering worship by burning incense to the snake. As the nation of Judah continues its slide into oblivion, along comes a king who recognizes that not only is this wrong, but so is the continuing practice of following the “local religions” of the land that the people entered. Hezekiah’s heart burned as he saw the Lord being disrespected and he did something about it. “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)” (2 Kings 18:4)
It is far too easy to take the method that God uses to deal with a problem and deify it. The healing power was not in the bronze snake, of course, but in God. We look back at this story and we shake our heads at the foolishness of the Israelites. Then we think about our own lives. Question: “Do you know Jesus as your Savior?” Answer: “Oh, I go to church.” Or Answer: “I try to be the best person I can be.” People seek salvation, a relationship with God, not to Jesus, but in church attendance, or good works, or giving lots of money to charity, or …. None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but do we do them hoping that God will, maybe, forgive us, or do we do them because we know that we have a relationship with God and it’s exciting to live each day under His guidance and leadership? Our joy in our salvation comes from focusing on one thing; our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When we do wrong, He forgives us. But we gain joy not in trying to follow a bunch of rules that we hope will please, but in spending time with Him.
Some of us may have some bronze snakes we need to destroy. There are things we do joylessly because we believe we must do them or “God will get us.” It isn’t that doing those things are wrong, necessarily, but we have lost our joy. That is the bronze snake we must destroy. We must completely wipe out the attitude that we can do anything to make God love us when He didn’t before; we must destroy the mindset that believes that God appreciates joyless service to Him most of all. We have freedom in the grace of Jesus Christ and that freedom brings joy. Many of those things we do out of a joyless sense of duty are not bad and once we get that relationship with God right, they become sources of great joy in our worship. We must remind ourselves again and again that it really is all about grace; all about the love of God who gave Himself up on the cross that we might have life.
Thank You Lord for the joy of knowing You. Thank You that those things that I once did out of a sense of obligation have become ways to express the fullness of my relationship with You. Thank You for joy!