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Grace Is Scary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but often I find it true:

God doesn’t play nice.

I’m over here doing my best to get rid of sin and make up for failures. I’m doing the very best I can and it’s all good stuff! I set parameters and I read my Bible. I pray and worship, but then in the back of my head, I realize I’m still scared it’s not enough. In fact, deep down, I know it isn’t.

This was me about a month or so ago, and this is what God startled me into realizing (seriously, I froze in my tracks). From my journal in early August,

God is showing me how I’ve been scared of absolute freedom. I want to have rules in place and restrictions because I’m afraid that I don’t have enough or that I’m not enough. Restricting myself as a means of control is not the same as being changed. God wants to change me and he has and will. I HAVE to live from new life, not try to reach for it.

Can I say the same to you?

Restricting yourself as a means of control is not the same as being changed.

That’s why grace is scary. It feels out of control at first, and the fear is, if all your working hasn’t done the trick, what if grace fails? There would be nothing left, and you would be hopelessly stuck.

People who have lived as slaves or dominated feel as if they need that control and restriction to feel “normal.” Grace blows the doors off and offers absolute freedom right now. You have to believe that sin is completely dealt with through Jesus’ blood.

It’s not that you won’t sin again on your path to maturity, but that you understand it doesn’t define you anymore.

We can never resolve our sin by working on it. We may externally sublimate behavior, but we’re essentially repositioning the chairs a bit on the deck of a sinking ship. When we strive to sin less, we don’t. Worse, the whole hamster-wheel effort of it all causes us to lose hope anything will ever break through. In fact, this path actually seals us in immaturity. Even though this distorted theology breaks our hearts over and over and over, we desperately keep trying it. —The Cure, by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall.

Sublimate means to control, divert, transfer. We want that control, to be in charge of progress. We want measurable goals and objectives to prove we’re winning, but all the striving and all the working leaves us breathless and hopeless while grace calls again.

Beyond controlling ourselves, we sometimes want the Holy Spirit to wear us like a puppet and keep us from making those bad decisions or giving in to sin. That’s not the kind of control He offers. He enables us through grace to stop trying to control externally what is an internal state. He enables us to say “yes” to the Father so that it will override our dearest “no” that never worked anyway.

Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23), but we’ve often taken that to mean our well-intentioned but futile attempts at bringing our appetites into subjection. Fruit trees do nothing to produce fruit except take in the necessary nutrients. God’s laws of nature do the rest.

I’m still feeling like grace is scary at times, but I also know it’s the only way to His freedom and life.

How about you? Are you guilty of trying to control the process or spiritual development or sin? Have you struggled with any of these things as I have?

cure2Welcome to week 2 of Chapter 1 discussion of The Cure (disclosure) by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. Once again, we’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter as these are dense and thought-provoking words. If you have a response on your blog, add the link to the widget below. Either way, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for her thoughts.

Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!

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  1. Bro, those are some revolutionary thoughts there!
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Just a Bunch of Kids on the TrailMy Profile

    • Well, I don’t feel I can take credit for them! My thoughts tend toward the other side--the rules and restrictions. He gives perfect freedom and grace. It’s mind-boggling to me! But I’m so thankful. Thanks Sarah.

  2. I think we’ve all struggled with these all-important issues of faith, Jason. Regimenting our lives may give us the illusion that we are in control, at least for a time, yet I know, from experience, this brings little satisfaction in the end. Grace is scary until we surrender completely to God and put our whole trust in Him.
    Blessings to you!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..Keys to the KingdomMy Profile

    • What’s scary to me too is that I have done the former (regimenting) while believing I was fulfilling the latter (trusting completely in Him). I feel awakened now though and it all seems so much clearer. So grateful for His work in our lives and hearts! Thank you, Martha.

  3. Guilty as charged. Thankful for grace.

    • Nuff said. 🙂 I am so thankful! Thanks Dusty.

  4. Awesome post, Jason. We feel gratified when we follow a rule, but the problem is we can’t follow all of them, at least not in the way Christ identified sin, even a thought betrays us. It is in that freedom of grace that we stand redeemed and our weak flesh tends to ignore the Miracle that lives within us…

    • You’re right--we feel the gratification because we did it, but it never lasts. Will power can sustain us for a little while, but it’s no way to overcome. We become managers and when that fails, we think we just need more managing or better managing. What a trap! He loves us and gives His grace freely. Thank you, Floyd.

  5. “It’s not that you won’t sin again on your path to maturity, but that you understand it doesn’t define you anymore.” Oh man I love the last part of this sentence. God’s been stripping away some things that I have used to define me. The more He strips, the more freedom I have to, well fail. don’t get me wrong, I don’t set out to fail, don’t want to fail, it’s not in my plans to fail but fail I do, often, more then I like to admit. Yet there He stands with forgiveness pouring out of Him, never a word about my failures does He bring up, He continues to use me even when I am still suffering guilt from failing. He wants to manage my failures for His glory. Three steps forward and two back will bring us to His heart and the freedom He so badly wants us to walk in. Yes, I am a sinner but I am a saved sinner. I know some don’t like that phrase but I love it for it defines me to a t. Great post brother, God doing a good work in your heart, thanks for sharing it with all who stop by your place.
    Betty Draper recently posted..Chocolate Is From The LordMy Profile

    • What’s amazing to me is that if anyone could define us according to our faults and sins and failures, it would be God; but He doesn’t. He knows us inside and out and sees a son or a daughter. He sees Jesus and His transforming power working in us according to His Spirit. He loves completely--even the broken parts. I’m so thankful and so undeserving, but I can receive. Thanks so much, Betty.

  6. I’m a huge control freak! But over the past 6 years or so God has been peeling me back layer by layer and showing me just how little control I have. It’s been humbling and liberating. To realize I don’t have to nor can I control everything.
    The tricky part for me is trusting Him to do it. Trusting Him to not let me fall. Trusting Him to pick me up.
    It’s so tempting to race ahead of His plan and try to “Fix” things on my own. But slowly I’m learning it goes much faster to stop and wait for His timing and His hand to move.

    • You’re speaking my language, TC. I’m definitely a fixer, but I am learning to lean into to grace and trusting Him. Thank you!

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