Debunked!: The Unreachable Carrot

By Jake Sletten
I remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was sitting in a wedding ceremony and the time had come for the bride and groom to recite their vows. They had written their own and both said, "I promise to pursue God and you (bride or groom) for the rest of my life." At the time I thought to myself, "Well, that’s a nice thing to say and try to do. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to promise such a thing?"

A Lesson in Futility

Since that day, I've heard the same sentiment expressed in a variety of different ways, but it all boils down to one idea: that the number one responsibility of a Christian is to pursue God, AND, if a Christian can do that, God will heap on them blessing upon blessing once they are in a place in their lives that they are really catching Him.  If you can't do this, well, your life is bound to be pretty miserable.
I have heard (and still do hear) pastors and Christian speakers say things along these lines: "The reason your life is in the toilet right now is because you're not pursuing God enough. You're not praying enough. You're not reading your Bible enough. You're not going to church enough. You're not loving people enough." Usually, the list of "not-enoughs" keep on going. Some of the people preaching these things are pretty reputable—people who have even authored several of their own books.
So, I spent several years of my life trying to chase God in this way so that I would receive the blessings of God that the speakers promised. I tried to pray enough. Tried to read my Bible enough. Tried to go to church enough. Tried to love people enough.  But a strange thing happened…I didn't actually feel any closer to God at all.  In fact, I was a complete failure at those things and I actually felt WORSE about my relationship with God!  What a disaster I was!  Instead of receiving the blessings I thought I'd been promised, all I got was shame upon shame upon shame. This pursuit was a carrot that I dangled over my head. I kept trying again and again and again, but I could never catch it.

Scary But True

Unfortunately, the false teaching that I’m talking about still exists: that if we can truly pursue God "hard," then He will heap blessings upon blessings on our lives. If we don't? Well, we can just expect that we will be outside the circle of God's promises looking in at ones who were doing it right—apparently, at least.
A quick Google search for "chasing God" will bring up several different websites that offer directions on how to do this. Heck, one even gives a 5-step program for it!  Here are some of the quotes I came across. And kids, don't try these at home…
"God wants us to follow hard after him. When we do, we reap tremendous benefits."       
"God provides good things when we make him our #1 priority."
"There is so much to gain when we make God our quest…"
 "People's eternal destiny…could depend on our ability to hear his instructions." (Insert the "I can't believe they just said that" emoji face here).
No, I didn't make any of these up. The scary thing is a couple of these quotes came from a very well-known organization which throngs of Christians follow to read and watch their resources.

The Correct Focus

Now, let's see the truth of this matter through the appropriate lens: God does expect you to do all of those things that we just talked about. God's command is that you go to church. God's command is that you pray. God's command is that you read your Bible (and often!). God's command is that you love your neighbor. God commands all these things because they aren't just good for us, they're good for our neighbor, too! Just because we live under the grace of God it doesn't mean that those things have gone away. The Law is still the Law. The Law is to be so close to us that—as God told Joshua—it is to be upon our mouths day and night.
But here is where the road forks between what the Bible actually says and the fiction spoken by the Christian speakers I mentioned before: the promises of God are ours in Christ Jesus…regardless of our resume. To think that we can pursue God well enough (or at all) so as to attain the promises of the kingdom of heaven will always end in heartbreak. It will always end in failure and disaster. It will always end with you wondering, "Did I do it right? Did I do it enough?"
The stunning thread that holds the entire Bible together is this: God is the one who relentlessly chases after us…and He brings His promises with Him.
The entire story of the Bible is the unrelenting pursuit of God for His people. Really. He chases us down again and again and again…even when we are running away from Him! Scripture is filled to the brim with stories that prove this to be true.
See how God is the one who goes looking for Adam after he REALLY messed up in Genesis 3.
See how God seeks out King David to bring him to repentance, and restores him in 2 Samuel 12.
See how the Good Shepherd chases us with His goodness and love all the days of our lives in Psalm 23.
See how Jesus is the one who calls His disciples in Matthew 4.
See how the father pursues his prodigal son in Luke 15.
THE. LIST. GOES. ON.
To be perfectly clear: when it comes to the promises of God, we have zilch to do with God's giving them.
Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 5:8: "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Isaiah 54:10: "'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."
THE. LIST. GOES. ON.

His Promises Are Yours

Today, if you find yourself caught in the hamster wheel of trying to pursue God, know this: It is the earnest desire of the Lord of all to never stop chasing you with His mercy, grace, and love. The Lord showers you over and over and over again with His promises in Jesus Christ. It's why He has so many ways of delivering it to you! This truth is your comfort: The promises of God are yours in Christ Jesus…regardless of your resume. Look to your Baptism and be comforted! You're now a child of God. Jesus' Body and Blood gifted in His Supper delivers the rest—the forgiveness—you need from your personal pursuit of His promises.
 Rev. Jake Sletten is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Freistatt, Missouri.

Related Posts

Recent

Archive

 2020
 June
Reflections: June 2, 2020Under the Cross: Living in the Light of ChristReflections: June 3, 2020This Just In: Countering Chaos with ChristReflections: June 4, 2020Dean's List: Jesus Ain't Done YetVideo Short: The Athanasian CreedLive Bible Study: June 4, 2020Reflections: June 5, 2020Debunked!: The Unreachable CarrotLive Bible Study: June 5, 2020Live Bible Study: June 6, 2020Reflections: June 6, 2020Reflections: June 7, 2020Reflections: June 8, 2020Video Short: June 8, 2020Foundations: You Are What Jesus Says You AreHymnal 101: June 9, 2020Live Bible Study: June 9, 2020Reflections: June 9, 2020Under the Cross: Baptized, Not GayVideo Short: June 9, 2020Reflections: June 10, 2020Foundations: Preface and Proper PrefaceVideo Short: June 10, 2020Reflections: June 11, 2020Speaking of Faith: How to Defend Infant Baptism and Have Fun Doing ItVideo Short: June 11, 2020Live Bible Study: June 11, 2020Reflections: June 12, 2020Video Short: June 12, 2020Foundations: No You-Gotta with JesusLive Bible Study: June 12, 2020Reflections: June 13, 2020Reflections: June 14, 2020Reflections: June 15, 2020Video Short: June 15, 2020This Just In: The Real EnlightenmentLive Bible Study: June 15, 2020Live Bible Study: June 16, 2020Reflections: June 16, 2020Helpful Things: Spilling the Tea on Generation ZVideo Short: June 16, 2020Video Short: June 17, 2020Reflections: June 17, 2020Live Bible Study: June 17, 2020Foundations: Your Father's LoveReflections: June 18, 2020Video Short: June 18, 2020Live Bible Study: June 18, 2020Dean's List: You're Covered on Judgment DayReflections: June 19, 2020Video Short: June 19, 2020Debunked: I Don't Think This Verse Means What You Think It MeansLive Bible Study: June 19, 2020Live Bible Study: June 20, 2020Reflections: June 20, 2020Reflections: June 21, 2020Reflections: June 22, 2020Video Short: June 22, 2020Under the Cross: Hope in Suffering, Not Apart from ItLive Bible Study: June 22, 2020Foundations: Better Than BulletproofReflections: June 23, 2020Video Short: June 23, 2020Speaking of Faith: Tell What Jesus DidVideo Short: June 24, 2020Reflections: June 24, 2020Live Bible Study: June 24, 2020Reflections: June 25, 2020Musica Sacra: College Hymn FailVideo Short: June 25, 2020Live Bible Study: June 25, 2020Reflections: June 26, 2020Digging Deeper: By Design: Creation and RedemptionVideo Short: June 26, 2020Reflections: June 27, 2020Live Bible Study: June 26, 2020Reflections: June 28, 2020Live Bible Study: June 29, 2020Reflections: June 29, 2020Video Short: June 29, 2020Under the Cross: The First Time I DiedVideo Short: June 30, 2020Foundations: Can, Cannot, and VocationHymnal 101: Church SeasonsReflections: June 30, 2020
 July
Reflections: July 1, 2020Digging Deeper: Mixing It Up with Religion and PoliticsLive Bible Study: June 30, 2020Video Short: June 30, 2020Live Bible Study: July 1, 2020Live Bible Study: July 2, 2020Dean's List: Your Permanent RecordReflections: July 2, 2020Video Short: July 2, 2020Debunked: Enough Isn't EnoughReflections: July 3, 2020Reflections: July 4, 2020Reflections: July 5, 2020Reflections: July 6, 2020Video Short: July 6, 2020Under the Cross: Beautiful, Heartbreaking WorldVideo Short: July 7, 2020Live Bible Study: July 6, 2020Flex: Christ's Cancel CultureReflections: July 7, 2020Speaking of Faith: Third Article EvangelismReflections: July 8, 2020Live Bible Study: July 7, 2020Video Short: July 8, 2020Live Bible Study: July 8, 2020Video Short: July 9, 2020Under the Cross: The Sophia Worthy of ReceptionReflections: July 9, 2020Live Bible Study: July 9, 2020Helpful Things: Get Your Youth Talking!Reflections: July 10, 2020Video Short: July 10, 2020Reflections: July 11, 2020Live Bible Study: July 10, 2020Reflections: July 12, 2020Reflections: July 13, 2020Video Short: July 13, 2020Digging Deeper: Approaching Feminism with the Mind of ChristLive Bible Study: July 13, 2020Musica Sacra: Hymns Are for ProclamationReflections: July 14, 2020Video Short: July14,2020Video Short: July 15, 2020Live Bible Study: July 14, 2020Foundations: Stand by MeReflection: July 15, 2020Live Bible Study: July 15, 2020Dean's List: Your Vote Is a Gift for your NeighborReflections: July 16, 2020Video Short: July 16, 2020Live Bible Study: July 16, 2020Debunked: The Truth about Jeremiah 29:11Reflection: July 17, 2020Video Short: July 17, 2020Reflections: July 18, 2020Reflections: July 19, 2020Video Short: July 20, 2020Reflections: July 20, 2020Foundations: The Life You Now LiveReflections: July 21, 2020Video Short: July 21, 2020Foundations: Heaven on Earth TogetherLIVE BIBLE STUDY: July 21, 2020Speaking of Faith: The Curious Case of AgnosticismLive Bible Study: July 22, 2020Reflections: July 22, 2020Live Bible Study: July 20, 2020Video Short: July 22, 2020Video Short: July 23, 2020Reflections: July 23, 2020Under the Cross: Pushing Back with CompassionLive Bible Study: July 23, 2020Video Short: July 24, 2020Digging Deeper: SpiriligiosityReflections: July 24, 2020Live Bible Study: July 24, 2020Reflections: July 25, 2020Live Bible Study: July 25, 2020Reflections: July 26, 2020Live Bible Study: July 27, 2020Flex: Lutherans on FacebookReflections: July 27, 2020Video Short: July 27, 2020Video Short: July 28, 2020Foundations: CrucifloodLive Bible Study: July 28, 2020Reflections: July 28, 2020Video Short: July 29, 2020Speaking of Faith: Campus ChristianReflections: July 29, 2020Live Bible Study: July 29, 2020Dean's List: Baptized, Ready to DieLive Bible Study: July 30, 2020Reflections: July 30, 2020Video Short: July 30, 2020Video Short: July 31, 2020Debunked: The End Times--Still All About JesusReflections: July 31, 2020

Categories

Tags

1 John 4 1 Peter 3 1 Peter 5 1 cointhians 1 1 corinthians 10 1 corinthians 1 1 corinthians 3 1 corinthians 4 1 corinthians 5 1 john 1 1 kings 19 1 pete 3 1 samuel 10 1 samuel 12 1 samuel 13 1 samuel 14 1 samuel 15 1 samuel 16 1 samuel 17-18 1 samuel 17 1 samuel 18 1 samuel 19 1 samuel 1 1 samuel 20 1 samuel 23 1 samuel 24 1 samuel 25 1 samuel 26 1 samuel 2 1 samuel 3 1 samuel 4 1 samuel 5 1 samuel 6 1 samuel 8 1 samuel 9 1530 1corinthians 1 1corinthians15 1corinthians1 1john 2 1john 3 2 Nations 2 corinthians 5 2 samuel 20 2 samuel 21 2 samuel 22 2020 2peter 1 9/11 ;unishment Abimelech Abraham Absolution Acts 10 Acts 11 Acts 12 Acts 13 Acts15 Adam Air Force Angelou Apostles' Creed Areopagus Athens Augsburg Augustine Ben E King Benedictus Bethel Bethlehem Bethuel Bible study Blesses Jacob Boaz Boggess Book of Life Book of Prayer Broadway Buddha CDC COVID CTCR Called Out Culture Canaan Catholic Charles V Christ crucified Church Communion Concordia Corinthians Corona Corrow Curry DNA Daniel Daughters of Canaanites David Divergent Divine Service Drosendahl Eden Ehrhard Eighth Commandment El Capitan Emmanuel Enlightenment Ephesians 2 Esau maries Ishmaelite Esau marries Hittites Esau Eucharist Eve Exodus 3 Ezekiel Facebook Father Fenker Fifth Commandment First Article Fisk Flood Galatians 2 Gen Z Generation Z Genesis 12 Genesis 13 Genesis 14 Genesis 16 Genesis 17 Genesis 19 Genesis 1 Genesis 20 Genesis 21:10-21 Genesis 21 Genesis 22 Genesis 24-25 Genesis 24 Genesis 25 Genesis 50 Genesis 5 Genesis 6 Genesis 7 Genesis 8 Genesis George Floyd God's Word God's promise Good Friday Good News Goodman Greek Grim Reaper Hale Han Solo Hill Holy Baptism Hosanna Hunger Games I am IGen Instagram Isaac lies about Rebekah Isaac Isaiah 64 Isaiah Issues Etc Jacob flees Easu Jacob sent to Laban Jacobs ladder Jacoby Jacob Jairus Jeremiah Joanna Joel 2 John 15 John 17 John 18 John 1 Johnson John Joseph Joshua 10 Joshua 23 Joshua 24 Joshua 4 Joshua 6 Joshua 7 Joshua 8 Joshua Judges 2 Judges 3 Judgment Day Kahoot Keith Kopitske Kosche Kruschel LCMS-U LGBTQ LSB Laban Last Day Lazarus Leah Lord appears to Abraham Lord's Supper Luke 15 Luke 16 Luke 1 Luke 6 Luke 9 Luther Lydia Magnificat Mandelbrot Mark 13 Mark 5 Mark 9 Martha Martin Luther Mary Mass Matthew 15 Matthew 16 Matthew 4 Matthew 7 Matthew Memorial Day Micah 7 Michelangelo Minneapolis Mize Monty Python Morales Muhammad Nain Nicene Creed Nicodemus Nones Nunes Old Testament Onesiumus Ostapowich Paradise Passover Patmos Pauls Pelikan Pew Research Pharisees Phil 4 Philemon 17 Philemon 18 Philippians 2 Philistines Pierson Plano Polycarp Preface Preus Proverbs 14 Proverbs 15 Proverbs 16 Proverbs 17 Proverbs 20 Proverbs 22 Psalm 123 Psalm 18 Psalm 23 Psalm 27 Rachel Rebekah Revelation Romans 1 Romans 3 Romans 5 Romans 6 Romans 8 Rosebrough Rouser Ruth 2 Ruth Sabaoth Sacraments Salome Salomi Sanchez Sanctus Sarah laughed Sarah Sayers Siddhartha Sletten Snapchat Social shaming Sodom Son St Paul St. Paul St.Peter Star Wars Supper Taylor Swift Ten Commandments Test Texas Third Article Tribulation Trickery Turkey Twitter Uzziah Vieker Well of Shibah Woelmer Word Zachariah abortion absolve academic active acts 14 acts 15 acts 16 acts 18 acts 19 acts 20 acts 21 acts 22 acts 23 acts 24 acts 25 acts 26 acts 27 acts 28 acts 2 acts 8 acts 9 acts2 acts addiction adultery adults advice aerospace agnostic alcoholic all christians who have been baptized almighty altar guild altar angels animal answer anti-christian antinomians antioch antiphonal anxiety apologetic apostles apostle archaeology archangels arius ark assurance athanasian atheism atheist audience augustana authority babies babylon baby banquet baptism baptized barnabas beliefs betray bible bigots birthright blessing blind blood blues body bonhoeffer borghardt borg borhgardt bread bride of Christ bride brothers brown buetow burial calendar cancel culture cancel candle casket catechism catechize change chant children choir christianity christ clerical cling codependency coin college colors colossians 1 colossians 2 colossians 3 colossians 4 comfort of forgiveness comfort compassion conferences confessions confession confess confidence confirmation conversion coronavirus corporate council covenant creation creed cross crucified crucifix cruciflood culture current events cwirla daily bread dan brown danger darkness dash dead dean death debtors defense defensiveness deistic deliverer demons depression deserve destroy deuteronomy 18 disagreement disaster disciples dishonesty dispensational diversity divorce doctrine donkey door doubt doxology dream dystopian earthquake easter ecclesiastes 1 ecclesiastical egypt election elizabeth embarrassment emotions endure enemy engineering enlightened ephesians 4 ephesians 5 epistle equilibrium estates eternal life evangelism evil evolution excuses exhortation exile exodus 20 experience extra nos ezekiel 1 failure faithful faith fall false teachers false teaching family famine fate fear feast feeling wheel feelings feminism fire font foolishness foolish for you foreigners foretaste forgiveness forgiven forgive fortress fractal freedom fringes fulfillment funeral fun future galatians 1 galatians 3 galatians 4 galatians 5 galatians 6 gay gender generations generosity genesis 15 genesis 2 genesis 3 genesis 4 genesis11 genetic gerhardt gifts gift girlfriend gnosticism golf good fruit good work good gospels gospel government grandma gratitude greatness groom guard haiti happiness harmony healingl heinz heirs hell heresy high school historic history holy spirit holy trinity holy homework homosexuality hope hostility humility hurt hymnal hymnody hymn hypocrites i never knew you i samuel 15 iPad iPhone identity idolatry image-bearer imitate imposters imputed incurvatus inheritance intentional forgiveness internet interpretation invitation irreducible complexity isaiah 6 isolation jeremiah 23 jesus jewish job38 job john 10 john 12 john 13 john 14 john 16 john 19 john 20 john 21 john 3 john 6 john the baptist joshua 1 joshua 2 joshua 3 judas judgement judges 13 judges 14 judges 15 judges 16 judges 4 judges 6 judges 7 judging judgment seat justification justin martyr karma katrina keep keseman keys kind kingdom kohlmeier kuhlman lange large catechism laugh law lectionary legacy lemon lentil stew lex credendi lex orendi liberation life-changing light lion liturgical liturgy live lord's prayer lord\'s prayer lord\\\'s prayer lord\\\\\\\'s prayer lord\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s prayer lords prayer lords supper lost love your neighbor love luke 11 luke 14 luke 21 luke 22 luke 23 luke 24 luke23 luke24 luke5 lust lutheran madden magruder manifestation mark 10 mark 16 mark 6 mark 8 martyrdom martyr mary magdalene masks matthew 28 matthew 5 matthew28 matthew3 means of grace measure mental health merciful mercy metaphor mietzner millennium missionaries missionary modernism money moses mountaintop movement multiply offsprings murder musician mythology myths name nations nation natural disaster natures nature negative neighbor new life new man news nicea noah non-masked numbers 21 numbers 22 numbers 23 numbers 24 numbers 35 numbers27 numbers32 obedience obey old Adam omans 3 omans 6 onesimus opposition orders ordinary ordination overcome pandemic panmillennialist papacy papyrus paraments passive pastoral care pastors pastor patriarch paul peers pentecost people perfection persecution persons person peter philemon 8-9 philemon philippians 4 philosophy politics poor pope positive post-Christian postmodern poverty power practices praise prayer pray pregnancy pregnant presence pride prodigal son prodigal professor promised land promises promise prophecy prophets prophet proverbs 10 proverbs 13 proverbs 24 proverbs 25 proverbs 27 proverbs 31 proverbs 3 proverbs 5 proverbs 8 proverbs 9 proverbs22 provision psalm 13 psalm 20 psalm 25 psalm 28 psalm 2 psalm 48 psalm 51 psalm 54 psalm8 psychologists public punishment punish purity questions quid pro quo racial racism rags ransom rapture receiving reconciliation record reformation refuge rejoice relationship relativism religion repent rescue response resurrection rich man richard rich righteousness riots risen rock romans 11 romans6 routine rubbish rubies ruth 1 sacrament sacrifice sadness saint salt salvation sanctification satanic saul school science scripture seasons sea self-esteem seraphim sermon servant service sexual immorality sexual orientation sexual shaltanis shatlanis sheep shepherd shield shrewd sight singleness sing sinners sinner sins sin slavery slaves small catechism snowflake social distancing social media sola sophia soul speaker sphere spiritualists star steward strength stress strong student loan substance suffering suicide supernatural surreal task-oriented teach technology temple temptation tertullian tetelestai texts the Promise thomas titus 3 titus3 toil tomb tongues tragedy trap trials trinity triune trust in God trustworthy trust truth tweets type A unbelief unbelievers unity university unwoke vestments victory video vine virology visitation vocation voice vote waiting watermarked water weakness weak wealth wedding why will wisdom wise witness woke womb working worldview worship yahweh youth ministry youth zealots zechariah