The still waters of grace
My personal Grace Awakening continues apace, but the past two days have been characterized by rest.
Rest is new to me, and not natural to my old nature. I’m a confirmed Type A, driven, entrepreneurial sort, so don’t blame it on me – I simply do not know HOW to rest! But that is changing.
A couple of times in the past few days I have seen in my mind some thing I thought of doing, and then distinct from it I simultaneously saw my motivation for doing it. And the motivation was rooted in gaining the acceptance of man.
That’s what a person does when he grows up without such acceptance, and it’s understandable. But it’s not something that God can bless, because it’s not holy. Our source – our only source – must be Him. If we rely on the whims of fallen man to justify ourselves, we build on shifting sand indeed.
The problem is how to free oneself of this bondage. That’s where the Word and the Spirit come in. And the Word and the will of the Spirit of the New Covenant can be summarized in one word: Grace.
Can it be that God really grants forgiveness independent of our worthiness? That is the Gospel, yet I suspect that many Christians have not inculcated that truth into their souls in a practical way. I know that despite all my study, I hadn’t by a long shot.
We are like the unjust servant in Mt. 18 who, completely forgiven of a huge debt by his king, goes out and beats his fellow servant over a far smaller sum. It may not have been greed that motivated him. It’s quite possible that the truth of being FULLY forgiven didn’t really sink in, and that he still felt pressured, perhaps by pride, to pay back what he could.
I’ve observed that the fellow slave we beat on the most is usually the one that is most convenient. And when no one else in around, the guy that is left turns out to be oneself. How ironic that the torturers mentioned in that parable actually can be the very one being tortured. When we’re not in a state of grace we become our own worst enemy.
But God has a solution. Completely independent of our works or worthiness, He lavishes debt forgiveness upon us. There is only one condition, but that condition is so outlandish, so unthinkable to the flesh that it can be the hardest thing for us to accomplish: we must humble ourselves to accept the offer.
Another amazing irony is how even the Gospel can be taken as law. As we know, above all, law makes sin manifest and brings condemnation. If we don’t forgive we won’t be forgiven. Am I loving my enemies enough? Doubts are bred, we try to fight the battle in the mental and emotional realms, and we become like a dog chasing its tail. All the while we’ve lost sight of the Giver of all good gifts, His kindhearted will that we live freely, and His power to deliver us to that state.
Instead, God’s forgiveness is freely given up-front. “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more”. The absolution comes first, then the power to conquer sin. The order is critical to our spiritual health,. Otherwise, we will be futilely fighting this battle in our own strength, as the New Covenant simply degrades to another Old Covenant, appealing to Pharisees but destroying those of honest conscience.
I took a break from reading The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life1 today. But I’m filling in with Tozer’s delightful The Pursuit of God. It is beautifully written, but more importantly, it has a rare anointing for drawing one close to God. I was tempted to post the second chapter, The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing, and I will do so if someone requests it. Meanwhile the whole book can be downloaded at ProjectGuttenberg.org. After I download these things I format them for Word, where I can add my own footnotes, mark-up, etc. I can save you that step if you contact me.
1 BTW, Smith’s use of the term “Happy” is legit. The happiness she directs us to is borne of holiness, and that holiness is a product of grace, not works. This is not a man-centered gospel, but the true Gospel of grace that she so wonderfully advocates.