Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This is Life.

I grew up afraid of God.

He was a big, old man on a throne with a list of sins in his hand.  He watched me, eyes narrowed, displeasure clouding his white face, as I sinned.

"There she goes."


"Yep, I knew she would fail there."


"Wow.  I hoped she would do better than that.  Sigh."


I filled up His clipboard quickly and, by the time I turned 17, pretty much figured I'd be lucky to slip through the pearly gates.  Maybe, compared to others, I would be deemed "good enough."

I heard the message of Grace for the first time when I was 21.  At least, that was when it made it from my ears to my heart.  Like a drowning man I reached up from the murky waters of failure and sin and grabbed hold of Jesus' outstretched hand.  He changed my circle of friends, He changed the music to which I drove to work each day, and He changed my relationship with the man who would become my husband.  For another 21 years I would grow and learn and see Him work, yet still in the back of my mind was always a niggling fear.

Oh, I knew I was saved.  But I also knew my failures.   The times I ignored God.  The times I grieved the Holy Spirit.  The times when I took for granted the blessings in my life and wasted precious time that should have been spent with Him.  The times I yelled at my kids or ignored the email asking for volunteers because I had nothing to give.  I knew, and I knew that God knew.  I feared that Judgement Day would find me cowering before a disappointed God who would play back the film of my life, highlighting the failures and disobedience.  With a heavy sigh He would let me in, but only because He had to keep His promise for I surely would not deserve to be there.  Grace got me into Heaven by the skin of my teeth.  Grace did not, however, cover up my inability to walk consistently with God.

I have been a Christian for many years now.  I have taught my kids as much as I could that Jesus loves them. But still I struggled, when their sin nature reared its ugly head, to trust the security of their salvation.  How many of us are guilty of telling our kids, "You don't want to make God sad."

What a terrible lie.

I have held Grace at arms' length and fought for my salvation.

What a waste.

The past few months I have been besieged by the book of Romans from every side.  Our pastor has dissected it, I have worked on Bob Warren's study, and my husband (seeing my struggle) has encouraged me to dive deeper into the Word of God.  It's on the radio, on my Iphone.  It is everywhere, and it has changed me deeply.

Suddenly I am surrounded by Grace...the inescapable, ridiculous grace of a fiercely loving God.  Read Romans.  Chapter 5 says we have peace with God through Jesus.


While we were weak...while we were in the depths of ungodliness...HE DIED FOR US.

Peace is not conditional, it is positional.  It is knowing who I am in Jesus.  It is realizing that, when I fail, He still looks at me with eyes of love.  He is kind and soft-hearted toward me in all of my weakness because the punishment has already been dealt.  His Son took it all and I am FREE.

Why does this matter?  Wouldn't this make me feel like I have license to sin?  Well, Romans 5:20 tells me that is not the case.  Why?  Because, according to Romans 6, when I know who I am in Christ I am brought up to a new level of expectation.  Consider this:

Understanding grace means that I no longer try to become who I know I should be but do not believe I am. 

It means I realize who I am because Christ lives in me and I live up to WHO I AM.

Who God says I am.

When I believe what God says about me in Christ, I live up to the high expectation of being a child of the King.  A beloved child who happily represents the Kingdom because I know I did NOTHING to get here.  I could never pay the fee to obtain citizenship, but the Lover of my Soul paid it in full and I will spend the rest of my life loving Him and showing the world what life is like when Jesus rescues you from the pit.  Yes, I will fail.  I will forget and have to be reminded of who I am and Whose I am, but He will still look upon me with tender eyes because HE LOVES ME.  Every act of obedience is a treasure stored in Heaven that cannot be taken away.  He knows I am dust and handles me with incredible patience.  My failures have earthly consequences, but my eternity is solid.  HE LOVES ME.

Oh, how He loves me!

And this love pours freely, to me and to my family.  I can trust that the same God who holds me safe and works in my life to make me more like Jesus is doing the exact same thing in the lives of my children.  I can rest and let Him be God because I am a terrible substitute.  I can love with abandon and not qualify who gets to hear about Jesus based on my earthly perception of worthiness.  I can look at the world around me, the lost and dying who feel like God could never forgive them...never love them... and say, "You are worthy to hear the Good News because He made you and He loves you.  You don't have to clean up first.  If you surrender to Jesus He will change you from the inside.  He will make you want what He wants and lift you out of the pit of sin onto the Rock."

If I truly understand the love of Jesus, then I can actually love LIKE Jesus.  I can step back and let Him do His job.  I can be useful in the Kingdom because the life of Christ fills me and overflows into the lives of those around me.  I have nothing to offer on my own, but because of Jesus I have everything to offer.  This, my friends is a game-changer.

Grace = Freedom.

Jesus did not die to bind us to a set of Pharisaical rules.  He died to set us free.  We are free to obey out of love and not out of fear.  We are free to try and we are free to fail.

Studying Romans has been eye-opening for me.  Like my husband said, it is the key that opens up the rest of the Bible.  Social media has fallen by the wayside because, Y'ALL, we have the WORD of GOD at our fingertips and why the heck was I wasting my time finding out what my friends had for dinner when there is this TREASURE on my desk that holds the key to true life and joy?  Suddenly I realize how little I knew after 21 years of walking with Jesus.  I really didn't believe I could figure out a lot of this stuff (even with the help of the Spirit) but thought there were just some passages I would just never understand.  WHAT A LIE.  God is revealing Himself to me in a way that I have never before experienced.  With the aid of my Keyword Study Bible and Vine's Bible Dictionary I have begun to dig deep and I am addicted.  This.  This is awesome.  This is life.

I'm giddy with excitement.

Now I'm off to dive back into the Word while my kids nap.  :)

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