“ … but because I feared God, I did not act that way.”
Nehemiah 5:15 New Living Translation
Theologically I grew up with a lot of ‘got to’ and limited ‘get to.’ As teenage Christian boys, our theme song seemed to be:
“I don’t’ smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.
I ain’t got no girlfriends!”
It’s a shame when a relationship is tied strictly to behavior. I know that too much emphasis on grace can make us live rather sloppily. But living ‘grace-less’ can kill a person altogether.
Don’t get me wrong … righteous living always has been my goal. And that desire grows within me every year I live. It’s just that I don’t want to only be a man who kept the rules, but as a man who enjoyed a relationship.
If performance is all there is to the Christian life, then (given our propensity of messing up) God frowns more than He smiles. He’s irked more than He’s satisfied with us. He’s continually disappointed and seldom proud. When I glance his way there’s a frown on his face.
I long for God’s smile.
Nehemiah was involved not only in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, but in reforming the behavior of his predecessors. They had treated God’s people badly. They’d been harsh, demanding and bullying. But Nehemiah didn’t act that way. Why? Because he ‘feared God.’
His actions reflected his fear of God.
A little explanation is in order here. Martin Luther explained this issue of fearing God by contrasting ‘servile fear’ with ‘filial fear.’ The relationship in servile fear is a slave relating to a wrathful master … a prisoner in the care of a sadistic, punishment-loving jailer. It’s a cringing fear of pain and retribution.
Filial fear is that relationship a child has to a father and mother that she admires, respects and wants desperately to please. That relationship dictates her actions. And like Nehemiah, there are actions and activities she could indulge in, but won’t … because she love the ones who made the rules!
This week remember this: There are things in life that you could do, words you could speak, places you could go, things you could watch, crowds you could run with and do all of them with the smile of approval of almost everyone around you.
The only one who wouldn’t be smiling would be your Heavenly Father. And you love him too much to want anything but his smile on your life.
Enjoy the journey and his smile!