Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On Grace...

Note:  I have just begun reading Max Lucado's Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Can Imagine.  This blog post is a type of reader's response to the book.

We will be confident when we stand before the Lord, even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20 NLT

I think one of the most salient, deep cored beliefs of our culture is in the truth of the heart.  So often, we are told, all we need do is to *know* the truth of our own hearts, to listen to that truth, and follow it.  But the Bible, of course, does not agree.  It doesn't refer us to ourselves, our inner depths, as the source of infallible, if personal, truths. It questions us, our motives, and this for me has been so hard.

It is hard to think that one can be wrong, even if she is on a path which "seems right" (Prov. 14:12).  It is so difficult for me to both know that I can be wrong, even if I think I am right, and still make decisions. I want clean hands. I don't want to make mistakes.

This has led me to a bad place, a place where I am paralyzed by my unwillingness to make decisions because I cannot be 100% certain that these decisions are the right ones.  I let so many aspects of my life fall into disrepair from what is tantamount to neglect: I am supposed to be living and active in my own life.  If I do nothing, things start to fall apart.  I can write this simply, but this perfectionism and fear are powerful and I don't feel any breathing room between myself and these feelings.

This week I am fasting these feelings: inadequacy and despair to be intelligently active and righteous in my life.  Really, righteousness? It's funny just typing that word--how can I really be righteous?  But yes, if I am going to act at all I want it to be in love, in kindness, in goodness, in faith. . . in self-control. I want my life to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Righteousness.

The Spirit is not hard on us.  The Spirit is our counselor and our comforter, the lifter of our heads. The Spirit does not bring shame and disaster, does not accuse us of all the evils lying dormant in our hearts or active in our lives.  It is the kindness of God that leads us... not just into repentance but into the goodness of the kingdom and our lives in it.  Repentance is just that first step, but it is kindness all the way through for....

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). 

The Spirit doesn't have to parent us in anxiety for our very souls.  There is no anxiety because there is no threat of condemnation. God's Spirit leads us into all truth, in peace and in joy, because we are already God's.  Nothing can threaten this.  Nothing.

The woman caught in adultery, how can we even understand that grace?  The Law was against her, for sure.  But Jesus was for her, for her. I think I understand, now, why it was that Jesus was so much harder on the religious elite.  They had the law on their side, but how insufficient is this law!  It can only issue death, for we are, all of us, sinners. They had the law on their side... but that is it?!  No, we need grace. We need grace. I need grace.  I need to trust God's grace.

I have always been schooled more deeply in God's perfection, in his justice, in His demands for holiness. I have trembled in despair over how to trust this God, who may or may not decide to kill me. But how incredible is it, that God's mercy and kindness and grace, are God's strongest characteristics?  God is perfect and just and holy.  But as concerns me and my relationship with God, God is even more merciful, kind, and gracious than He is perfect and sinless and powerfully holy.

May my heart respond with faith, not fear.  May it stop condemning me.  May my heart instead become sincere in my faith, that I would be able to come nearer to God.

Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, because we have been made free from a guilty conscience. Hebrews 10:22 NCV.

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