Grace 101


One of the most unfortunate ideas that seem to come out of legalism is that we begin to believe God’s commands are arbitrary.  He tells us to do things that have no real value, just to see us fail so we can be further in debt to Him; at least that’s what some seem to think.  Or the rules are made to make us holy and the more difficult the rules are or the less they make sense to us, the more holy we will be when we keep them.  In any case, God becomes a rather cruel Person.

But, under grace, the Scriptures and the commands open up so we can see the almost overwhelming love of God and His care for us.

For example, many of us have had the idea of “be of one mind” forced on us to keep us in line.  In other words, we shouldn’t disagree with the teacher or voice our concerns to others.  We were reprimanded and encouraged to search the Scriptures until we found our agreement.  If we couldn’t find that agreement, we were supposed to stay quiet and submit.

But is that what the Lord meant when He expressed His desire for the people to be of one mind?  Were we supposed to blindly adapt our thinking to that of the teacher for the sake of peace and unity?  I don’t think so.  If we remember that the motivation of the heart of God toward us is always love, then a command like this must be seen in that light.

One of the aspects of the “good ground” that has been compromised by the deception of the evil one is the idea of support.  In church we called it “fellowship.”  Yet, when the goal was conformity, rather than true unity, fellowship had either no meaning or it meant something negative.  For the person who has questions under legalism, fellowship is hard to find.  In fact, many found more fellowship outside the church than inside.

The longing of our hearts is for support and camaraderie.  We want to walk with like-minded people.  There is a special joy in finding someone who believes in the love of God as you do.  We can worship together, serve together, even grieve together.  Those who understand grace can come alongside the ones who struggle.  We all understand that it is easy to fall back into self-condemnation and judgment.  When we walk with others who understand the truth, they help us to find our joy again.

When the seed falls on good ground, the seed of the message of grace, it is very important that it find support and nurture.  And, of course, it is very important to the evil one to destroy that support and nurture, or at least inhibit it so the seed does not grow.  So it should not surprise us that the fellowship of the church is compromised.  For too many who find grace, the fellowship of the church becomes a problem.

Yet, the concern of the Lord is still in our favor.  He knows that we need each other.  He knows that we need safe people with whom we can express our doubts and fears, even our struggles.  If the motivation of those people is the love of the heart of God, then we can grow and our strength in grace increases.  It is certainly good for us to be of one mind—one mind with the Lord who accepts us, who does not hold our sins against us, and who sees us as valuable to Him.

The message of grace is a message of the love of God, worked out sufficiently on our behalf in the Person of Jesus Christ.

So we seek out people for support.  We have to be careful, of course, but there are online communities, small groups, even home churches where we can find that support.  And, if we learn that we were deceived, that the message of grace has been compromised in the group, we simply seek another group.  It isn’t fellowship that’s the problem, it is the lie.  The lie pulls us away from Jesus and away from the support of those who understand the truth about who He is and what He has done.  Don’t give up on finding support.


Filed under Grace 101, Relationship

6 responses to “Support

  1. I left one church body in our denomination for another, in very large part because of the issue of legalism. I couldn’t see how much harm it was causing in the lives of the congregation until I got out of it and experienced a few weeks in a congregation (same denomination) where the focus was intentionally on grace. So I did leave to find another group. But in our more grace-centered worship just yesterday, we heard a sermon from Romans 14, and the pastor said we are still to hold fellowship with the spiritually immature, whom he equated with believers who are prone to legalism.
    And I didn’t know what to do with that. Given, my circumstances may be a little different, because I am an abused woman, and the legalistic church I left did not help me in my abuse situation. Instead, more and more abuse in the form of legalistic judgment was poured out on me, rather than affirmation of my always-suppressed attempts at living out the life of grace that was all I had keeping me alive.
    I did not despise the spiritually immature prior to their failing to help me and years upon years of their judgment being poured out on me. I did choose to fellowship with them, but all the while, I was being erased, damaged. Over time (and I’m talking about more than a decade and a half), the judgment just became too much.
    Paul specifically says that the spiritually immature are NOT to judge the ones who walk in grace. The ones who more fully know and claim God’s grace and its freedoms are not to despise the weak.
    I know I failed to hold on to my commitment not to despise them. I still have hard feelings toward some of the more vehement judges, who kicked me when I was down. Even out of their fellowship for months now, I still hold some bitterness. Paul had compassion for them in Romans. (Not so much in Galatians, Colossians, and Corinthians, though.)
    Is bitterness ever justified? I haven’t yet forgiven. (They haven’t repented either; but I know that’s not always a condition of human forgiveness.)
    I am thankful God freed me from that congregation. There are still some beloved friends there, who are more confident in their individuality than I was, given my conditioning from the abuse and abandonment by the church. But even though I miss those people (and have to make great effort to have fellowship), I am so very thankful that I don’t have to be there anymore.
    But I do still struggle with whether it was right to leave–does that mean I was weak? Was I supposed to stay and suffer more to help that legalistic church? Would they ever see? Am I wrong to avoid fellowship with the weak? How will they ever mature if just left to themselves?
    And then I remember that their maturity is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, and not me.

    It’s still hard. I’d rather have harmony, unity, oneness of mind. I’d rather see Christ overcome the world, starting in our individual church congregations.

  2. UnForsaken

    Oneness of mind–with Christ! What a great way of saying what we need to seek and what we need to leave to the Spirit for others.I came from a legalistic church and still am surrounded by UnEnabling family…frequent fasts from too much “fellowship” so I can refuel with God, and a careful choosing of those I spend time with has been the only way to keep my head above water! Still, I’m almost shocked when I actually meet a kind, honest, Caring believer !

  3. Penny

    “It isn’t fellowship that’s the problem, it is the lie. The lie pulls us away from Jesus”. Once again, you nailed it Dave. I am so sick of the lie, and so grateful for the truth. Thanks.

  4. UnForsaken

    Yes, Penny! The distortion of true fellowship is one thing that makes it hard to go to church. (“You should be involved or you’re unspiritual”) vs. (“God loves you”…no expectations for conformity). There has got to be a better way of describing this, but God’s love is somewhat ambiguous to us until we actually see it in someone . For me anyway, that’s when it ‘clicked” !

  5. Penny

    To my fellow-followers of “Grace for my Heart”: I just heard that October is “Pastor Appreciation Month”! I know how much Pastor Dave is appreciated by SO many of us here thru his blog; it has been my “support” thru many months now, a safe place to heal and grow and vent and learn and give back to others. Perhaps there is a small way that we can bless Pastor Dave, and “give back” to him thru our words of appreciation here on this blog, or thru donations to this ministry. If you are able to express appreciation for him thru words here, or by a donation to either the ongoing support of this blog or to the church in Colorado affected by the recent flooding, then let’s do it! (There is a donation link at the top of the page). THANK YOU DAVE, FOR GRACE FOR OUR HEARTS! I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW VITAL IT HAS BEEN FOR MY LIFE, TRULY A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS, A PLACE OF SANITY. MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR CHURCH IN COLORADO. “THE LORD BLESS YOU & PROTECT YOU; THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU, THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE”. (ps: o how i hope this doesn’t come across like it’s from a N. yikes)

  6. UnForsaken

    Ditto, Penny!
    And Pastor Dave, this blog has been one of the only ways I’ve been able to converse with a group of believers about deeper things that matter. Thank you for making this possible!

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