A couple of years had passed since a question from a student in a class at a local school of ministry changed my life (see Lover or Prostitute?:The Question that Changed My Life for a detailed explanation).I thought about this question every day for six months:ďWhen a body (speaking of the Body of Christ--the Church) becomes a business, isnít that a prostitute?ĒI had taken that question personally because any group, even the Church, is nothing more than the sum of its members.If the Church is a spiritual prostitute, the reason is because its members (me included) have entered into a business relationship with God; that is, we have offered our love to God for a price--we want Him to pay us to love Him.
I allowed God to search my heart and shine His light into those dark places where the spirit of the religious prostitute might still be living.I examined my motives for loving and serving Him.I did a lot of repenting, many times with tears, as I saw where my love and obedience had been given to God on condition of payment in the form of a blessing of some kind.It was an often painful process, and it did not always progress smoothly.My relationship with God grew strained at times, as any relationship would when a true intimate friend shares unpleasant truths with another friend.I stayed in the presence of God during this season, not always wanting to see and hear what He was showing me and saying to me.Some days it hurt like crazy to be trapped in His unrelenting light with nowhere to hide.Why did I stay with the process?Why did I endure the pain?Because I had nowhere else to go (the apostle Peter had a day like this once--John 6:67-69).And when does this process end?Iíll let you know when I find out; itís only been 8 years, so far.
This went on for a few years, and I was finally getting a grasp on what it means to love God unconditionally (and intimately) and receive His blessings as the gift of a loving Father to a beloved son rather than payment for (feigned) love and obedience.I was thinking on these things again one day in worship, when God spoke to my heart and turned everything upside-down.Donít you just hate it when God does that to you?You finally understand something God is teaching you, and He goes and turns the whole thing backwards.(I am convinced we cannot say we know God until we find out something about Him we donít like.)He said, ďIím not a prostitute, either.Ē
My head spun around, not like in the movie The Exorcist, but for a moment I had a serious case of mental and spiritual vertigo. Everything Iíd been thinking about, the entire direction of where God had been leading me for two years, instantly did a U-turn. And for the first time in my life, I finally understood the unconditional love of God.I had experienced it, read about it in the Bible, preached and taught about it, and did my best to minister it to others; but I had never understood it like I understood it in that moment. If God must do something to buy my love, that makes me a spiritual prostitute.If I have to do something--anything--to buy His love, that makes Him a spiritual prostitute.God is not a prostitute--do we really understand that?God does not give His love and dispense His blessings for pay.He is a lover; it is His nature (1 John 4:8b).And if the life and nature of God dwells in me, I am a lover also.As with any healthy relationship, both God and I are free to love one another without conditions.
You see, somehow Iíd gotten the idea that Godís unconditional love was given to me because of my weakness, my inability to earn His love.I guess I thought I could earn His love if I had the ability; but since I didnít, God made up for my shortcoming by loving me.Where would I get an idea like this?Where wouldnít I get it?The Church?Donít be absurd.Tragically, the Church too often resembles a dysfunctional family where the children/congregants are constantly striving (unsuccessfully, I might add) to please an abusive father/pastor/God in order to win approval--approval that is never given no matter how hard we try.(Pastors, I feel your pain because I formerly was a pastor; in your case, simply transpose the words congregants and pastor in the previous sentence.)You will not find this kind of spiritual and emotional sickness recommended favorably anywhere in the Bible.
I realized that I had been a functional heathen when it came to relating to God.When God revealed Himself to the children of Israel during the time of Moses, He gave them a written Law.What a blessing for them to know who God was and what He required from them.The other nations served many gods, whom they appeased (paid) by various religious means to gain their favor.These peopleís religious lives were further complicated by the fact that the god they were appeasing might be the rival of another god (or goddess) and, therefore, might be jealous of the attention being shown to the god being appeased.In addition, the only way they could know if their god/goddess was pleased with them was by the level of blessing or lack of blessing they perceived in their lives.When things were going well, their god/goddess was pleased with them; when things were going poorly, their god/goddess was displeased with them.Paying God for blessing and determining His favor based upon the perceived level of His blessing in my life--sounds like a lot of Christians I know, including me.What are we doing?
In contrast, there is such freedom in a love relationship with God.I experience His presence every day.I never worry about not being accepted by Him.Walking in the miraculous is simple when we are not concerned with whether God approves of us enough in order to use us to impart His life and power to others.His blessing and provision?I donít worry about it, not because I am particularly spiritual, but because what loving father doesnít do all he can to provide for his children?Even sinful human fathers do this (Matthew 7:9-11).When we interact with those who donít know God, we can invite them to share in the life of Godís Kingdom rather than attempt to terrify them with their prospects after death.Jesus came offering life (John 10:10), not selling fire insurance.He came to people who thought they were the children of God by virtue of birth (we share their delusion by virtue of praying ďthe prayerĒ--where is that in the Bible?) and offered them fullness/abundance of life.He does the same for us.
My motives for serving God have changed.I serve and obey Him because I love Him, not because I fear His wrath and punishment.It breaks my heart to think I might disappoint Him.When I am most aware of His love and presence, I am most resistant to the temptation to sin.When tempted to sin at these times, I often think ďIíd rather have JesusĒ knowing that I cannot walk in the darkness of sin and the light of His presence at the same time.Am I perfect?Is the Pope a Presbyterian?But when I fall short, my relationship with God sustains me, and I am encouraged to press on (Philippians 3:12).Relationships are not just for the good times--anyone can get along with someone when things are good and easy--they are for the tough times when I donít understand what God is doing or why He is doing it, and for those times when I donít measure up to what I should be in Him.
I am learning what it means to be submitted to God because of love.All submission, biblically speaking, is voluntary.Involuntary submission is oppression (at best) or slavery (at worst), and there is no virtue in this kind of submission because the one submitting does not have a choice in the matter.Yes, the Bible does command submission.Children are commanded to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), servants to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5), wives to submit to the authority of their husbands (Ephesians 6:22), and we all are commanded to submit to God (James 4:7a); but nowhere in the scriptures is anyone commanded to enforce the submission of another.We are free to choose to love and serve God and others totally, unreservedly, and without coercion.We are free to express the life and love of God that has been planted in us and thus show the world what our Daddy looks like.
Godís love is not for sale.So please letís not treat God like a prostitute.Itís an insult to regard Him this way.Rather let us accept His love that is freely given to us and love Him back in the same way through our worship, honor, reverence, and obedience.
Joined: 01/06/2009 Location: United States
Online Status: Offline
Posted: 02/23/2009 at 8:27pm
I think this is very interesting. We think we have arrived when we realize we have a reltionship with the almighty and we are not just obeying commands, but to understand that the relationship flows from him to us in the same manner is revolutionary. He is not in this for what he can get from us. He doesn't want us to prostitute ourselves to him and neither does he prostitute himself to us. This is about love and life not demands and payoffs. Is that what I here you saying??
__________________ col. 1:26-27
Hold to Christ, and for the Rest be Totally Uncommited - Herbert Butterfield
Joined: 07/29/2008 Location: Romania
Online Status: Offline
Posted: 02/24/2009 at 12:16am
He told me the same thing through these words: "You don't need my intervention, but you need My presence". I realized I need Him (His Person), His Presence, not only His intervention. When I want only His intervention, I approach Him by interest. When I want His presence, I love Him. Anyway, He loved me before. Only He taught me how to love with Agape, telling me words like these: "You must not do anything, let me change you. You do not need things, solutions, even experiences, you need Me, My PersonĒ. When I have Him, He replaces me. I think that's why He tells me to remain in Him.
Beautiful responses to a challenging article! Hopefully, the sleeping giant referred to as the church will begin to wake up as you have, and realize that our walk with Jesus remains to be all about Him, not what we have been taught about Him. Even then, we must understand that our walk can only be with Him, through Him, in Him, and by Him. It cannot be relegated to just another relationship, seeing which person can benefit most and when. We must stop applying or imposing our earthly and humanistic standards onto a Divine relationship; it is imperative that it be reversed. When Jesus truly becomes our focus, we apply/impose the standards of that relationship to all of our earthly relationships. The result? A changed culture that advances the Divine Kingdom.
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