My good friend, Lee LeFebre, has recently written a good book entitled, “The Shackling of Grace,” where he says that the “Mother of all Obstacles” to grace is pride. Lee’s right. I haven’t talked much about pride on this blog, but I have talked about the source of pride, the flesh. Make no mistake about it; your flesh is an enemy of grace.
Your flesh has been trained, throughout your life, to “do-it-yourself.” It is your default mode. You and I have learned certain behaviors that work for us. They might seem weak or they might be labeled avoidance instead of strength, but they have worked for us in the past and we expect them to work in the future. In fact, when a difficulty comes our way, we jump to those behaviors without thought or plan. These are the things we just do.
And grace is not part of the flesh’s equation for how to handle life.
Now, I would call the flesh the source of pride, but it might also be true that pride is the source of your flesh. Basically, this is the inclination to do the work of God ourselves. For some it is the expectation that they can be good enough by the actions of their flesh to satisfy God. For others, even God doesn’t matter. And, for others, there is the decision that they will never be good enough because they can’t do it for themselves. Whether the outlook is positive or negative, the root of the problem is the same.
Most of us grew up thinking that money leads to happiness. If we just had more, we could do this or that, buy this or that, attract him or her, and thereby be happy. When we have money, we feel successful and proud. But when we don’t have money, we feel like losers and are sad. Never mind that we know better. Either way, having money or not, the focus is wrong. We know that money does not lead to happiness, but it took us a while to decide that in our lives. Many have still not learned that truth.
In the same way, if I think I have the responsibility to be morally or spiritually good on my own, either for God or for society, then my focus is wrong. If I do well, I may think of myself as better than others and worthy of God’s notice—and I would be wrong. If I do poorly, I may think of myself as worse than others and believe that God could never accept me—and I would be wrong. The focus, on either side, is still on what I can accomplish.
And, as long as I insist on that focus, I will miss the joy of grace.
Grace tells me to focus on what Jesus has done for me. I am to take my eyes off myself and my efforts, whether good or bad, and trust in His work. In fact, the message of grace tells me that my only hope for success and peace and joy is in letting go of my efforts and trusting in Him. This is more than just a good idea; this is the source of life.
If you start your computer and go to the internet and the same page pops up first every time, that’s because that page has been set up to be a default page. It is simply the first page your browser takes you to and you go from there. But what if you don’t like that page? Well, you have to go into your settings and change your default page.
Think of the flesh as your default “thinker.” When something happens, that’s the first place your mind and heart will go. That’s what developed as you have gone through your life. Now, if you want that to change, the default mode has to be replaced with something else. The Scripture reveals the division between the flesh and the Spirit. We are called to walk according to the Spirit, now that we are in Christ.
Computers can change default modes with just a few keystrokes, but we are not so fortunate. For us it takes time and will. Desire the Spirit. Ask the Lord to lead you first, before the flesh kicks in. Learn to recognize the flesh so that you can choose to reject it and trust the Spirit. This new life will grow in you more and more as you seek Him. Trust the message of grace.