Hope you all survived last week’s Freedom Friday break! I actually meant to post something brief, but the cold I had been fighting for 5 days worsened – and I’m still sick! But I’m going to push through and post anyway 🙂
So brief recap from 2 weeks ago:
Understanding grace is key to learning to walk in freedom.
A few years into my Christian walk, I realized that while I believed in my heart that I was saved by grace alone, I was demonstrated a different core belief through my actions: Through rules and my own effort, I could overcome my life-controlling issues.
Let me tell you from experience that trying to be free through rules and human effort doesn’t and won’t work. In fact, it injects you into a cycle that makes YOU responsible for your own healing. I’ve found it only heaped shame and condemnation on my head when I messed up.
So how do we overcome the cycle of sin? And what does God want us to do when we struggle? Does He want us to walk around like a dog, with our tail between our legs? Or should we beat ourselves up for a certain amount of time, the amount of time being in direct proportion with the seriousness of our sin?
Of course it sounds ridiculous when I put it that way, but you know you’ve done it!
As I realized the futility of what I was doing in response to my struggles, that not only does it not work, but it’s actually not Biblical, a friend gently suggested I begin to more thoroughly explore what grace is.
I go to a charismatic type of church in a denomination with a holiness background. The denomination as a whole has a history of really liking rules 🙂 My church is quite grace-based and doesn’t have any weird rules, but I’ve heard of churches where in order to serve in any capacity, you have to sign agreements that you won’t drink alcohol, watch R-rated movies and other extra-Biblical rules. Some of the rules may be a good idea (I don’t drink, for instance, since I have alcoholism in my family), but they are not matters of Biblical mandate, but rather personal conviction.
In any event, I remember when I first heard someone share a thorough teaching on grace at a conference in 2004 (he followed it up with another teaching on the law). Honestly, as I sat there, I didn’t believe what he was saying. I mean, he was quoting the Bible, and using the verses in context. It seemed to line up with what I knew about God and what His Word says about grace. But I couldn’t see past all the rules I had set up in my life.
Grace just sounded too good to be true.
“When you preach grace, unless your conscience accuses you of license, you haven’t preached grace.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Grace really is too good to be true. Maybe that’s why we try to accomplish through rules & own own effort. Yet God is very clear in how He expects us to react when we mess up:
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God doesn’t react to our struggles and sin in the “angry fire darts from heaven” way that we think He does. Sin says something about the condition of our hearts, and ultimately, God just wants our hearts.
Look at the Pharisees. Isaiah 29:13:
These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
Externally, they seemed to do everything right. They followed all the rules, but they wouldn’t give God their hearts.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
I’m not teaching some sort of loosey-goosey sloppy grace message where sin doesn’t matter because it’s all covered by the blood anyways. That’s not what I’m saying at all.
The Bible is clear: rules have no power to restrain. Human effort will fail us.
Clark Whitten says “The greatest constraining power on earth against sin in your life is love.” The only thing that has the power to restrain us from sin is truly knowing, understanding and experiencing His love and grace. When we have a full grasp of His love and His grace and just who He is and what He’s done, we don’t want to hurt Him. We are less and less tempted to sin because we love Him, because we have experienced His grace and know His tender heart for us.
God wants to connect with our hearts! He wants us to know and believe that He really is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, and He really can meet our needs. That through His grace, we really can learn to experience freedom from our life-controlling issues.
There may be a part 3 to this post. I guess you’ll find out next week 🙂