Thursday, January 25, 2018

It's Always Been about Grace

As a child I usually walked to church alone. When I came home there were no discussions about what I was learning or what I thought about God. I remember being confused and scared because it seemed like there was one God revealed in the Old Testament who was strict and harsh and a very different God revealed in the New Testament who was gracious and kind. I loved the God presented in the New Testament, but my fear of the God from the Old Testament, and trauma I had experienced, made it difficult for me to fully trust Him.

Some of the fear I had was healthy fear that the Holy Spirit used to draw me to the Savior. But, some of the fear was toxic and was formed through misunderstandings of God's Word. These misunderstandings came from not having conversations with adults who could have clarified what I believed, correcting misconceptions I had formed about God. Some fear was caused by good people who left out details they thought we were too young to hear, making God's judgments seem unreasonably harsh and out of control. Some of the misunderstanding came from simply being young and not grasping how sinful humans can be when they choose to live life apart from God. I was scared and literally expected God to strike me dead when I made mistakes or sinned. As a child, I laid in bed at the end of the day worried and replaying my day in my head, hoping every word spoken was true, that I had respected my parents adequately, and that I was loving enough to get to wake up the next day. One time, when the wind blew the front door shut on my hand, it hurt so bad that I screamed a curse word and immediately began trembling, not from pain, but from the fear that God was going to strike me dead for the word I had said.

Fortunately, God took me and my husband to a small Bible teaching church where I studied the Bible under a great teacher and for seven years I could ask questions and explore my views of God in depth. The pastor and the elders believed in a gospel filled with grace and I began to grasp more and more of the love of Christ. I had forgotten which books of the Bible alleviated my unreasonable fears until yesterday when one of our pastors was teaching on Galatians 3, which was the same book that had radically changed my view of God and the Bible.

Verses 17-18 say, "The Law introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through a promise." The law was given because of sin and it remained in place until Jesus came. The law is beautiful because it describes God and His holiness. It describes His love and shows His grace through the temporary sacrifices that pointed to the grace that would be shown us through Jesus who would be the Lamb, without blemish or spot, sacrificed for our sin. The law was also God's protection for us and the suffering we inflict upon each other and upon ourselves because sin always causes spiritual, physical, emotional, or relational death.

It is important to understand that when the law was given it was not a replacement for grace and it did not nullify God's promise to Abraham. Neither can the law give us life, because we are incapable of keeping it. The law, when it is obeyed, only puts a stay to the sin in man's heart, preventing some of the wounding and the damage caused by it. Without the law, sex is a free-for-all that spreads disease and death. It also destroys the hearts of those involved because we were not made for sin that binds us into a one flesh relationship with multiple people. Without the law, alcohol and drug abuse destroys bodies and families as users seek their next hit. Without the law rageaholics rage at those around them, breaking hearts and bones, and either killing others or themselves from the stress rage puts on their bodies. Without the law, our selfish hearts tend to love poorly, putting ourselves first, neglecting the hearts and needs of spouses, families, and friends. Sin is serious, serious business. When we don't deal with it and when we don't call the evil deeds we do or the ugly attitudes we display sin, we are prone to take it to levels we never thought we would. This is because it can't fill the needs that were written on our hearts by our Creator leaving us starving for what will fulfill us, and then we lose sight of the truth that only He can fulfill those needs.

The law was a guardian showing us God's character and our need for a Savior and our need to be justified by faith. Now that Jesus has come, we no longer need the law. When we believed in Christ we were sealed by the Holy Spirit who came to dwell in us. We are now children of God, Abraham's seed, and joint heirs with Christ. As believers, we now have the ability to love as Jesus loves. Because of this we don't need the law. That statement will cause some people great angst when they read it. But, if we are walking closely with Christ and spending time with Him, His Spirit in us gives us discernment and godly desires. His Spirit leads us to speak loving words of encouragement that build others up and offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. His Spirit enables us to extend grace when it is needed and to set godly boundaries with those who refuse to repent, and to speak the truth in love in such a way that pride is melted and others are drawn back to the Savior.

Non-believers still need the law and its protection as it shows them what sin is, but we don't. We are to focus on love, not sin. As we focus on loving God and others we will automatically show honor and respect to those around us. As we focus on loving, we won't do things from a selfish motive and we won't sin in ways that deeply wounds others. We won't hold on to grudges and we won't speak wounding words intentionally. Those who love well don't abuse or murder others physically or emotionally, they offer life to them. Even in the heat of arguments, Spirit led people can find themselves asking, "What can I do to love you better right now?"

The law does serve a purpose, but its purpose was never about Salvation. That has always been, still is, and always will be about grace.            

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!