One of the most common approaches people have to the Christian faith is to assume that God is handing out a list of life-standards and if your intentions (most of the time) are to look to those standards as a way of life, then you can count on God’s favor in the afterlife.

This approach contains loads of truth, but it twists the truth just enough that it ends up being way off. The point of the Bible is not that we can climb God’s mountain if we try hard enough or figure out the right instructions for getting to the top. The point is that we cannot get to the top and regardless of this, the loving God surprises everyone by coming down and inviting us straight to the top.

What really changes, if you know this, are those times when you are spiritually disoriented or overwhelmed. When life beats you down, injustice arrives, distress or grief take over, and you don’t have the reserves in your spiritual tank to get yourself to God. Now what? An ancient prayer of David (Psalm 31) models a way of talking to God in those moments: “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.”