Home > Bible, Christianity, Spiritual Growth > Catching the updraft of grace

Catching the updraft of grace

Have you ever fallen off the wagon with a particular besetting sin or weakness – for the hundredth time? Done something really stupid that you knew not to do? Felt like you were making no progress and there couldn’t possibly be any hope left for you? And then did you go into self-hatred and condemnation?

It’s like getting caught in a whirlpool dragging you down to the bottom, with your best efforts against it being helpless. Your thoughts are your own worst enemy, and you get the depressing feeling that it’s not going to be a good day – or life, for that matter.

I know because I’ve been there – many times. And I’d bet that most of us have. Yet if we’re Christians, enjoying perfect, eternal covenant with almighty God, shouldn’t there be a way to overcome this common trap that magnifies our failings against us?

After a long time being Saved I’ve finally learned, by experience rather than mere head knowledge, the New Testament way to cope with this problem. It’s rooted in grace and it makes the critical difference between victory and defeat.

The Law’s Dilemma

Paul the apostle had this same difficulty in mind when he wrote his letter to the believers in Rome. In chapter six he had exhorted them to consider themselves dead to sin. Now, that’s great advice that we all should take, but old habits sometimes die hard. So what’s a Christian to do?

Paul was sympathetic to our dilemma, and he went on to describe the same frustrations himself. Listen to his lament in chapter seven:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,

but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? – Ro 7:15, 22-24

We have a serious problem, and it goes right to the root of our inability to approach God on our own merits. God equipped us with consciences so we could discern between good and evil. But man didn’t do such a good job following his conscience, so God gave us further light, encapsulated in the two tablets of the Mosaic law. The historical record is clear that despite these elevated oracles of God, the Jewish nation went astray and ultimately fell into judgment. The commandments indeed had shone further light on good and evil, but the deeper issue still had gone untouched: man in his corrupted state ultimately cannot keep a set of rules and regulations, even if it’s to save his life!

While law inspires and guides us to do right, at the same time it arouses perverse passions within us that lead us to break that very same law (Rm 7.8). And so the promise of the law goes unfulfilled, and we fall into the miserable dilemma of wanting to keep the law but being unable.

We would do well if our failings were not counted against us. If we could just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start again without condemnation, knowing we were forgiven and loved, then we wouldn’t get knocked back down each time we failed. In other words, we what we need is a covenant of love and grace rather than law.

Enter grace

And that is exactly what we have in the new covenant in Christ Jesus!

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Ro 8:1-4

Jesus took the penalty of our sin upon Himself. Consequently, there is now no condemnation for us. When we fail we don’t have to bear the guilt and shame ourselves. God has a better way:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 Jn 1:9

God can now forgive our sins without violating His own principles of righteousness, because Jesus was the sacrifice of infinite value offered in our place. So what He always wanted to do – forgive us and reconcile ourselves to Him – He now can do without violating His perfect justice.

Watchman Nee points out in his book Spiritual Authority that by the one act of obedience on the Cross, Jesus redeemed all of Creation from total moral and spiritual chaos. God now has the legal grounds He needs to bring all things back under His authority and institute the rule of love that was His first intention. And we, as we partake of the New Covenant writ in Jesus’ blood, are His Kingdom’s first beneficiaries.

Walking in the spirit?

Such was the depth of my self-condemnation that for a long time I read the last phrase of Romans 8.4, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit, as condemnation! I thought, “well, I’m still having problems with getting the victory, so I’m not walking very well in the spirit. I guess I don’t make the grade here; all this talk about the law of the Spirit of life lifting us up is great for the next guy, but I’m still under condemnation.”

See how ingrained old thought patterns can be! I thought the grace of Christ wasn’t for me! That is nothing but the old law and condemnation dressed up in New Testament robes!

Beloved, let me make it very clear: if you are a Christian, meaning you have professed sincere and earnest belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died to satisfy your sin debt, then you are not under condemnation! You can fail all day long, but if you have godly sorrow and confess your sin, you are forgiven and you are, in fact, walking in the Spirit – regardless of how you might be feeling about it.

Jesus did not pay such a extreme price in order to place us back under a doomed covenant of works! Instead He joins with us in an unbreakable one-flesh marriage bond, making it impossible for us to fall. When we fall, He picks us back up, over and over again until we have the victory. And if necessary, He would rather call us back to Himself than lose us for eternity. That  is how eternally safe we are in Him. But make no mistake, He wants us to have the victory here: Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. God wants us to press through the condemnation, to victory!

The updraft

And that is how, instead of the downward spiral of law and condemnation, we now experience the updraft of Christ’s grace, upholding us and carrying us to new heights of holiness and power. Because our failings no longer have the power to remove us from our exalted position in Christ, we stand fast and hold our ground. And as God’s grace continues to work on us (because even though our imperfections are covered, God does not want us to stay in the same place, but wants us to progress) we grow in godly stature and, with endurance, will overcome our enemy and gain the victory.

It is vital to see this, because if we don’t we will spend needless time turned inward on our miserable selves, as described in Romans seven, rather than exercising our right to boldly enter the Throne of grace for help in time of need, as in chapter eight. Let nothing separate you from God’s grace, not even self-imposed setbacks. God knows full well that we cannot fight the spiritual war in our own strength, it must be in His. He doesn’t want us to spend a second in self-condemnation any longer. Simply run to Him and confess, and then spread your wings of faith and catch the updraft of grace.

That updraft will keep you from falling. Persevere in that same grace, and you will see the victory. His power is made perfect in weakness.

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  1. Len
    July 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    ‘ Spiritual authority’ This is one of the books that was used as a foundation for the Shepherding movement back in the 80’s.-here are specifics;

    Below are a few statements in this book that I don’t see New Testament support for.

    Page 22-23 under “First Lesson a Worker Should Learn Is Obey Authority”: We are under men’s authority as well as having men under our authority. This is our position. Even the Lord Jesus on earth was subject not only to God but also to other’s authority… A Christian worker ought to know who is above him. Some do not know who are the authorities above them, hence they do not obey. We should not be occupied with right or wrong, good or evil; rather should we know who is the authority above us. Once we learn to whom we must be subject, we naturally find our place in the body.

    Page 71 under “Be Fearlessly Subject to Delegated Authority”: People will perhaps argue, “What if the authority is wrong?” The answer is, If God dares to entrust His authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any mistaken obedience, rather will He hold the delegated authority responsible for his erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under authority must answer to God.

    Page 180-181 under “To Be in Authority Often Means Loneliness”: In learning to be in authority we ought to be sanctified before brothers and sisters. Many legitimate things we cannot do and many lawful words we cannot speak. We must be sanctified both in words and in sentiments. According to ourselves we take a certain attitude, but among God’s children we will be sanctified. Even our fellowship with brothers and sisters must have a limit beyond which we will neither be casual nor frivolous. We should rather lose our liberty, we rather will be lonely. Loneliness is the mark of authority… The opposite of holiness is commonness, not sin. To be sanctified is to be different from others….The sparrows fly in flocks, whereas the eagles fly singly….To be in authority requires restraint; one must sanctify himself. Others may but you cannot; others may speak, but you cannot….You may feel lonely and miss the fervor of the crowd; nevertheless, you dare not mingle with the brothers and sisters in joking and jesting. This is the price of authority. Unless we sanctify ourselves like our Lord we are not qualified to be in authority.

    Page 182-183 under “To Be in Authority Requires Restraining One’s Affections”: I will show myself holy among those who are near me.”…There is a much severer discipline applied to them than to the people in general…. As has already been mentioned, the opposite of holiness is commonness. Holiness means that others may, but I cannot. What the disciples may do, the Lord does not. What other brothers may do, those in authority cannot do. Even lawful affection needs to be put under control; otherwise death can be the consequence. The people of Israel died because of their sins, but priests may die because of not being sanctified….Those who serve are anointed by God. They should sacrifice their own affections, denying even legitimate ones. All who would maintain God’s authority must know how to oppose their own feelings, how to lay aside the deepest of their affections towards their relatives, friends and loved ones. The demand of God is exacting: unless one lays aside his own affections he cannot serve God. He who is sanctified is God’s servant; he who is not sanctified is a common person.

    Page 184 under “Sanctified in Life and Enjoyment”: It is therefore a matter of enjoyment. Others may enjoy, but we cannot. Others may rejoice in pleasures (for wine speaks of rejoicing), but we cannot. People serving God are under discipline that they may be able to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean…. The higher the office, the stricter the demand. The degree of nearness to God becomes the degree of His demand. Of him to whom God entrusts more, the more will He demand. God especially concerned with whether of not His servants have sanctified themselves.

    Page 185 under “Authority Is Based on Sanctification”: Authority has its foundation in sanctification… You cannot represent God if you maintain very liberal and loose communication with the people. The higher the authority the greater the separation.

    Page 191 under the chapter “The Conditions for Being Delegated Authorities”: To be in authority is costly; such ones need to be sanctified from the rest and be ready for a lonely life…. As soon as one becomes too common, he is dropped from the work. His usefulness is gone, and his authority is lost.

    Its about controlling people, legalism, a very dangerious form of fundamentalism

    King George 111 used Romans 13 against the colonists in the revolution. Romans 13 was the bases of ‘divine right of kings’ to rebel against them, was to rebel against God, a nifty arrangement. He was told “If Kings rule by divine right, then let them rule in heaven!”-Thomas Jefferson

    Watchman nee’s book is a return to the authoritarian legalism of ‘kings,’ dangerous, medieval, scary.

    I know who I would agree with, between Watchman Nee, and Jefferson!

    I invite comments;
    Len

    • Paul B.
      July 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Len. I agree that Nee’s *Spiritual Authority* is a dangerous book. See my review of it at http://www.amazon.com/review/R1PG9ZEZL1P2YG/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

      While SA has a totally whacked perspective on its main topic of authority, it at the same time has amazing insights, which I’ve not quite found elsewhere, into the nature of the Trinity and the redemptive nature of the Cross. Please note that I only mentioned the book in passing in this article, and only in reference to the effect the Cross had to establish the legal foundation for grace. I’m glad you raised this topic, so that no one thinks I wholeheartedly endorse the book.

      bb,
      p.

  1. October 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

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