As a young boy, my friends and I would love to share about different discoveries we made in nature. Whether it was an insect or animal the common question would be poised, “Is it alive, or dead?”
I was blessed to grow up in a family where following Jesus was something to be lived out, not just talked about. Stories of faith and accounts from the Bible informed my understanding that there was a God who loved me and created me to willingly live for Him. My parents nurtured my sister and I in helping us respond to God’s love and grace as not just a way to live, but the best way to live.
Everyday life events became opportunities to see what God was doing in the world and more importantly, as a young boy, what God wanted to do in my life. We had rhythms of life which confirmed God’s involvement with humanity as we attended church and worshipped Him. I learned that God had an interest in “all of my life”: from the way I got along with my sister and those in authority to what I did with my free time and finances.
It did not take long for me to start to see sometimes in my life there was a “disconnect” between the relationship and the rules. Was I living in a relationship with God or was I just following rules that were established to make me feel connected to some bigger plan or purpose for my life? I discovered it was easy to think of a relationship with God being only focused on rules and regulations. I thought, “God will love me, if I do the ‘good’ things or make the ‘good’ choices, and He will be displeased with me and make my life miserable when I make ‘bad’ choices.”
I lived in this tension off and on for a while until I was presented with this question about faith: “Are you alive in Christ?” Well, I knew physically my heart was beating and functioning, but this question focused me to examine deeper into my spiritual life. “Was I alive in Christ” or was I merely going through the motions of following some rules and ideas that would seem to shift when my behavior was out of line with my beliefs?
It felt “lifeless” to follow rules and regulations. In the Bible we read, “But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God’s wonderful kindness is what saves you.” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
God did not create humanity to lifelessly follow Him like robots, but He gave us a choice to respond to his love through a life giving relationship with Jesus. Our nature encourages us to make life about following our desires, when God offers to save us from “ourselves” and from the things that separate us from experiencing his love and grace.
A commentator, Matthew Henry, wrote, “God’s eternal love or good-will toward his creatures, is the fountain whence all his mercies flow to us; and that love of God is great love, and that mercy is rich mercy.”
God’s love and grace has transformed my life from follow rules and feeling “dead” to following the One who loves me and created me to be in a relationship with Him. Have you experienced being “alive” in Christ?
Frank Alioto is the pastor of The River Covenant Church: “An Alaskan church for people who would rather go to the River.” We gather on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at K-Beach Elementary in Soldotna. Call 252-2828 or visit www.therivercovenantchurch.org.