Tag Archives: definition of grace

Too Good to be True

Grace 101

Let’s face it.  If we are pointing out enemies of grace, particularly those areas where the path is hard from years of tradition and wrong thinking, we don’t have to go any farther than our own minds.  I define the flesh as the system we developed to handle life.  Perhaps we could broaden that to simply the things we learned and accepted about life from the world, our family, and the devil.  I have written several entries about the flesh, but it is worth pointing it out again here.

Most of us learned that life worked a certain way.  We were told that hard work and integrity paid off in the long run.  We were shown how to manipulate the system to avoid some of both.  And we learned that life had a certain “cause and effect” law that had to be acknowledged.  If you played the game, you had a chance at winning, or maybe just at staying alive.

We learned that behavior and performance were keys to success.  If you didn’t rock the boat and performed well, you would be accepted.  If you met the expectations of your parents, teachers, boss, etc, you would succeed, or at least be left alone.  Everything was about doing.

And, since that was what we already believed about life and ourselves, we opened ourselves to a religion that taught the same thing.  If we were good enough, maybe God would accept us.  We would have to play the game and see.

Then along comes this message from God.  He says that He loves you just as you are and that you could never change enough to please Him because 1) you are too messed up even to know how to change and 2) He will make whatever changes He wants to see in you.  His love isn’t about your performance or behavior.  It’s about His love.

He says He will do whatever it takes to get you to Heaven forever; in fact, He has already done it in Jesus.  He says that all your sins are already washed away and you can’t keep them even if you want to.  He says you are good enough right now to be accepted by Him because He loves you already.  No amount of service or sacrifice, obedience or devotion, will make you more acceptable or more loved.

But that message doesn’t fit with what we thought we already knew.  The ground around our thinking is already hardened by a system of performance and behavior.  We like the message of grace, but it is just too good to be true.  So, in our hearts and minds, we resist.  We want to believe, but we also want the message of grace to fit with our fleshly ideas.

Remember that sin you would like to forget?  Of course you do.  When God tells you that He loves you, does that old sin come to your mind?  Do you miss the joy of His love because you want so badly for that sin to be gone?  God says He doesn’t even remember it.

Maybe that old sin is something you still do.  Does that make it even harder to believe that God doesn’t see it?  Is it hard to believe that there is no sin on your account before God, no matter what you did this morning?  This is the truth about grace that doesn’t fit with the flesh.

“There is a price to pay for doing wrong and there is a reward for doing right.”  That has been hammered into us for so long that we believe it without thinking.  When God says that Jesus paid the price for your wrong and that no amount of right will earn you the love He has for you, it’s hard to accept.

Accept it anyway.  It’s the truth.  That’s grace.

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The Trodden Path

Grace 101

 

In Jesus’ parable of the sower, some of the seed falls on the path.  The path is a well-used and recognized walkway around or through the garden.  If you step off the path, you pack down the prepared soil, so you are supposed to stay on the path.  Anyone who walks through the garden without using the path is a troublemaker and trespasser.

You can probably see some parallels already.  The old way is the right way, the only right way.  The traditions and values of the past are sacred.  Don’t mess with what has always been.  If you want to be recognized and valued, you have to stay on the path.

The problem, of course, is that the path isn’t very receptive to the message/seed.  It is not prepared to receive anything new.  In fact, it is hardened against any change.  You can talk all day about grace and the love of God in some churches and among some people and no one will respond.  No one expects to learn something new, so they don’t.

I remember, from my first church, how some people would sit in the back, in the pew they had used for decades, cross their arms over their chests and wait for the sermon to be done.  There seemed to be no way to get the message through to them.  They simply were not interested.  They had been in church all their lives and what they had learned in the past was good enough for the future.

Traditions are not bad.  In fact, they are usually just the definition of “how we do things.”  But traditions can certainly stifle any good news.   Most churches and organizations make traditions quite quickly.  Even newer groups settle to regular styles and perspectives.  Doing something different is uncomfortable.

The message of grace doesn’t fit well into most church traditions.  Oh, they use the word and they hold it high.  But I have watched as the eyes glass over in some groups when I talk about a relationship with Jesus.  Relationships are messy and personal and unpredictable.  They really don’t fit into tradition because each one is new and special.  Jesus interacts with each person in a unique way.

So the message falls on the trodden path.  Never mind that the message was there before the path.  This is the true gospel!  God loves you and provides all you need in the person of Jesus Christ.  He wants you to trust in the person and work of Jesus.  That’s not a new message.  That’s the first and foundational message of the gospel.

But, over the years, the gospel has become trodden under the feet of so many and their ways.  Yes, they say, trust Jesus, but you have to be a member of our church; or you have to be baptized our way; or you have to avoid certain activities and lifestyles; or you have to start doing something.  It goes on and on.  There’s good soil under the path, but it is so packed down from the traditions and policies and doctrines that it cannot receive the seed.

That’s why the grace message seems new.  It reveals the heart of God apart from all the human additions and traditions.   I can’t tell you how many people have said that they never heard this message in their church.  They wonder how it could be true when the church doesn’t share it.  But it is not a new message and, when you begin to understand, Scripture opens up in wonderful ways.  So many have said that Scripture makes sense now that they understand grace.  That’s because you can see the message of the Scripture without the smoke of the traditions.

But we’ve never done it that way before!  Yes we have.  Before all the stuff was added; before all the people with their human interpretations started telling us what to put on the message; before the path forgot that good soil should bear real fruit.  This was the message the disciples took to the world.

God loves you so much that He provided the way of salvation and sanctification and glory through His own work in Jesus on the cross.  He knows all about you, your compromises and failures and fears.  He still loves you and calls you to Himself.  In Him you will find wholeness and peace and victory.

Jesus is the only real answer.

Jesus is the only message of grace. 

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Enemies of Grace

There are enemies of grace.

Over the past few years, as I have taught about grace, I have noticed that some people simply don’t want to hear.  Others hear but don’t believe.  Still others hear and believe, but they find little peace and victory.  It can be a frustrating and saddening puzzle.

But this process is familiar, isn’t it?  Some hear and get nothing.  Some hear and respond and still get nothing.  Only a few hear and respond and find the freedom and victory.

Jesus told a parable about the sower who found this same thing happening.  Let’s be sure we are in the right perspective.  In those days, seeds were scattered by hand, strewn over the prepared soil.  That’s what this man did.  He reached into his pouch, took out a handful of seed, and threw it over the soil.  Then he moved on to wait until harvest.  But what happened to the seeds?  Well, this is their story.

In order to get to the very edge of the garden spot, some seeds fell on the path.  The path was hard and simply would not allow the seeds to take root.  And the birds were waiting for the seeds.  They came to eat whatever they could grab.  Finally, even the seeds that did take root or sprout were choked out by the weeds.  Only a percentage of the seeds would survive and produce.

Through the next few posts, I want to look at enemies of grace, the things that work against the message that could change people’s lives.  Using the Scripture illustration, I want to group these enemies into three categories: the establishment, the predators, and the competition.

The work of the enemy is part of the story of grace and we will do well to seek to understand it.  In fact, this may help all of us to understand why the grace message is so often met with opposition and why some people just don’t seem to care.  Some of us have watched formerly good friends walk away after we share the message.  Pastors have watched their congregations dwindle or have been asked to leave.  Counselors have been told not to use a grace-based counseling method—even in the church.  I hope this series of posts will explain what is happening.

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I Am

Grace 101

Did you ever notice how confident Jesus was about His identity?  He doesn’t try to “find Himself” or seek to assert His individuality.  The youngest report we have of Him after His birth is when He was twelve.  At that age He told His parents that He had a call to do His “Father’s business.”  It appears that His identity was secure even then.

And consider how often Jesus uses the phrase, “I am. . .”  “I am the Way.  I am the Door.  I am the Good Shepherd.  I am the Resurrection.”  He understood who He was.

Of course, when Moses asked for the name of God, the Lord told him simply, “I AM.”  That was enough and the Jews called the Lord, “He who is,” from that time on.

The “I am” statement is powerful.  Not only does it communicate our identity to others, it establishes it in our own hearts and minds.  Believers should use it often as we face the accusations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I have shared this somewhere before, but this list of statements from Freedom in Christ Ministries is very good.  I have included the link to their website, which has a lot more information on identity.  You can get this list from them as a printed poster, but just read these through—out loud— regularly to remind yourself who you are now.  (The formatting is better on their site.)

http://www.ficm.org/index.php?command=textwhoamiinchrist

I am accepted…

 

John 1:12 I am God’s child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of   Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I   am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price   and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and   adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven   of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne   of grace through Jesus Christ.
 

 

I am secure…

 

Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my   good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation   brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed   and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will   complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of   fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one   cannot touch me.
 

 

I am significant…

 

John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the   true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed   to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation   for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in   the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom   and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through   Christ, who strengthens me.

 

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Forgiveness

Grace 101

 

The natural and right effect of the law is to convict the sinner of his or her sin.  Although I am quick to say that no believer is under the law, the law had a very important part to play in drawing us to Jesus.  By showing us the horror and consequences of our sins, it revealed the need for a Savior.

So one of the most important things the new believer ought to find in the gift package is forgiveness.  Jesus promised that He would wash away all our sins.  We longed for forgiveness because we were convicted concerning our sins.  He offered complete forgiveness.

Yet, many believers can’t seem to find it in the box.  They look right past it in their attempts to make up for what they did.  Instead of looking for the full gift, some believers look for methods or systems to try to please God.  They think they just have to find the right way to be forgiven.

But forgiveness is part of the gift.  It’s free, just like the rest of the gift.  Jesus went to the cross, long before you and I had committed any of our sins, to provide that forgiveness for us.  He paid the price because we could not. 

Perhaps this is the part some people miss.  We could not do enough good to make God want to forgive us.  He does not overlook sin on the basis of an abundance of good works. Giving our lives in service to God or to others will not earn forgiveness.

The only source of forgiveness is the heart of God and the only motivation God has to forgive us is His love.  Our sin is from the realm of evil.  It is an affront to God’s holiness.  And, more than that, it hurts people.  Sin hurts others and it hurts us.  Sin is so contrary to the will and the heart of God that you and I could do nothing to make Him forgive us.  There isn’t anything good enough.

But He does forgive us.  He forgives us because He loves us.  When you and I came to Jesus, our sins were separated from us.  We were saved out of the realm of sin and darkness.  There is no sin on our accounts today.  All has been forgiven.  All.

How much is all?  You may think that certain sin is too great for God to forgive, but it isn’t.   You may think that sin today, after you have become a believer, can’t be forgiven—but it is.  You may think that you would never be able to forgive a sin like yours, but you are not God.  Only God can forgive your sin . . . and He has done it.

Forgiveness—full and free.  That’s part of the gift!

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The Gift of Gifts

 

Grace 101

At our house on Christmas morning, the potential for chaos has always hung over our heads.  With ten people opening gifts, and we love gifts, we have to maintain a sense of order.  One simple rule is that you have to be sure the gift is for you before you open it.  In those rare times when the rule has accidentally been broken, someone is disappointed.

So how do you know this gift is for you?  Well, in our situation, the whole thing hinges on who the gift is from.  You and I have received this amazing gift because of the relationship we have with Jesus.  When you came to the Lord for salvation and expressed your need and the tiny spark of faith the Spirit had brought to life in your heart, God came to you and loved you in the Person of Jesus Christ.  At that moment, Jesus gave you His life.  Your old life died and His life rose in you.

I realize there is a lot of theology in that simple paragraph.  The point is that whatever God wants to give you comes because you are in Christ and Christ is in you.  The gift is yours only through Jesus and the gift is yours because of Jesus.  Call it “union” or “the exchange” or the “higher life” or whatever you want, but the life in you is His.

In fact, the real gift is Jesus Himself!  We who were enemies have now been reconciled (Col 1:21).  We who were lost have been found (Luke 15:32).  We who were dead have been given life (Col 2:13).  All of this has come to us packaged in a Person!

God’s grace, which is the substance of His giving to us, is manifested perfectly and completely in Jesus.  Jesus is God Himself, come to us in human flesh, to be our life and fill us forever with His love.  That’s what God has given us!

So the package we are going to unpack is filled with the blessings that are ours because of the relationship we have with Jesus.  In all honesty, I can’t imagine that we will ever begin to see or to understand much more than the things that lie on top of the box.  Eternity will be occupied with discovering the riches we have in Christ (Eph 2:7).

But what we find will be enough for us to be filled with wonder at His power and His love.

And remember: these are gifts, not things you and I earn.  These are the things that came to us when Christ came to us.  They are ours by inheritance, by marriage, by union, by blood.  The Scripture uses all kinds of great illustrations of the relationship we have with God in Jesus.  But my point is that these gifts are ours as gifts.  We didn’t earn them or deserve them, just like we didn’t earn or deserve our relationship with Jesus.  He came to us because He loved us—and He came bearing gifts!

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Who is under grace?

Grace 101

Yesterday I wrote about the prodigal son and his older brother.  In the process, something interesting came up.  The older brother, I suggested, represented the Christian legalist.  The younger brother represented the believer who uses his newfound freedom to cultivate sin and rebellion.  I said that neither was under grace.

Now, of course, technically that statement was wrong.  Neither of them lived under grace, at least in the sense of enjoying the benefits of grace.  Both still appeared to be in bondage, one to the law and the other to his passions.  They didn’t know life under grace.

But all believers are under grace.  The fact of your position in Christ decides whether you are under law or under grace.  The unbeliever, still in his sins and on his way to hell, is under law.  Law brings conviction and moves the unbeliever’s heart to cry out for mercy to the Lord of love.  But those who have come to Jesus are under grace—whether they know it or not.

The profligate (isn’t that a great word?) wasted far more than his money.  He wasted his father’s love.  He wasted his freedom.  He wasted his joy.  He wasted the grace given to him.

So did the legalist.  He wasted the abundance that was his.  He also wasted his father’s love and the freedom he had.  He allowed his joy to turn to resentment and anger.  He also wasted the grace given to him.

The difference between these brothers is still active among believers today.  The legalists look at the prodigals and speak against their freedom.  The prodigals look at the legalists and speak against their bondage.  But both ignore their Father!

The truth is that anyone who is in Christ is under grace.  That includes both the legalist and the prodigal.  And—get this—God loves them both enough to stand ready to welcome them into joy whenever they are ready to look to Him again.

The legalist might try to keep himself under law, perhaps because he is afraid or has trouble accepting the love the Father gives, but he is not actually under law.  He is, because of Jesus, under grace.   And he simply needs to understand that the self-imposed rules and standards add nothing to the work Jesus has done for him.

And the prodigals do nothing to change the truth of grace by their behavior.  They are still loved and forgiven and accepted.  Their behavior may hurt them and others, but it does not discredit the love of the Father.   They need to understand that the freedom of grace is not freedom for sin, but freedom from sin.

The legalist might think that sin will separate him from his Lord, but he is wrong.  The prodigal might think that there is no consequence to sin, but he is wrong.  And both miss the point of grace.

Grace is a simple and regular walk with the Lord of love.  No worrys.  Rest and fulfillment and joy.  We rest because the work is done.  We are fulfilled because our Lord moves us to participate in His work without fear of failure or anxiety over results.  We live in joy because we are with the One who loves us, never to be parted from Him.

The Father’s love is the source of all grace.  When our eyes are on Him, everything else is good.

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Under Grace

 

Grace 101

 

The parables of Jesus are so well-known that we often forget their message.  Take, for example, the story of the prodigal son.  The primary application is the welcome the father gives to wayward son when he is ready to return home.  We rejoice to see the forgiving love of the father.

But there is another message here, I think.  There are two sons in this story and, if you read carefully (Luke 15:11-32), you will see that the father divided the inheritance between the two.  In other words, both are gifted and set free.

One of the sons takes his inheritance and lives wickedly.  He rejoices to be free of the father’s rules and expectations.  With no limitations, he squanders his inheritance until it is all gone and he finds himself destitute and alone.

The other brother does not believe that he is free.  He does not celebrate.  He remains faithful to the rules and expectations of his father even though his anger builds.  He tries hard to do his duty.  He becomes resentful and seems to hate his brother who left.

But neither brother is under grace.

There are believers who do not seem to believe they are under grace.  They continue to live according to the law.  Their lives are built around standards and rules and principles and they struggle to feel good enough.  Their hearts are often filled with work and resentment.

There are other believers who use the idea of grace to celebrate rebellion.  They let themselves experience things that were forbidden under law and rejoice to feel no guilt.  They push boundaries and standards to the side as they enjoy their new life apart from the law.  But they sometimes find themselves in bondage to masters more cruel than the law ever was.  Alcohol still forms physical habits.  Promiscuity still has a price.  The sins the law warns us about still hurt us.

You see, neither of these believers walk in grace.  To walk in grace is to walk with Jesus.  Grace is a relationship through which good things come to us.  Under law and standards, the relationship is secondary and the privileges of grace cannot be enjoyed.  Under rebellion and immorality, the relationship is still secondary.  But the relationship with Jesus is what saves us and gives us victory.

Suppose the two brothers had received their inheritance and, in humility and love, had turned back to their father.  Suppose they had said, “Thank you Father, for your kindness and generosity.  Teach us how to use what you have given in ways that will make our lives as rich and joyful as yours.”  Had they done that, they would have experienced the laughter and joy of their father and a wonderful relationship with each other.

For some, grace is a high church word that means little for daily life.

To others, grace means anti-law, freedom from rules and expectations.

But, in Christ, grace is a relationship.

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Hyper-grace?

There have been several articles lately referring to the idea some call “hyper-grace.”  It appears to me that the discussion started with an article in Charisma magazine and has branched out to other venues and teachers.  I may take a stab at answering some of their criticisms in future posts, but I would like to discuss this word, “hyper-grace.”

It is a negative word, meant to put people down.  The prefix “hyper” comes from a Greek word that means “over.”  Someone who is hyper-critical is overly critical.  A thyroid gland that is hyper, is over- producing.  The idea is that it is too much, more than necessary, more than what is good.

When connected to the idea of grace, the word apparently means “over the top grace” or simply “too much grace.”  But can you have too much grace?  How does that make sense?

There have been those who have said that we must maintain a certain level of law or performance in our message.  Maybe 90% grace is okay.  Maybe 80%.  After all, grace is nice; but there are still rules and expectations and sins to deal with in life.  Even in the Christian life.  We are still responsible for teaching believers how to behave.

I believe and teach that everything God does for us is grace.  Grace is the activity of His love.  Law, I suppose, is what God asks of us.  That certainly fits with the idea of Scripture and with the teaching of most of those who think that we still need to teach law.  God does His part and we do ours.  Right?

But the whole message of the gospel begins with the understanding that we have failed to do our part.  (God knew we would fail, of course.)  So the plan from the beginning was not that we would do our part and He would do His.  It was that He would do His and He would do ours!  God does His part and God does our part.

Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17)  Paul said that Jesus was the end of the law (Romans 10:4)   The law had become a curse for us and Christ delivered us from that curse (Gal. 3:13)  The story goes on, but the point is that God in Christ has done our part.  There is nothing left for us to do but accept what He has done.

So let’s think about this word again.  If it is all grace—salvation, justification, righteousness, glory, Heaven—and we have done nothing (law) to achieve any of it, then how can any teaching of grace be over the top?  If grace goes all the way to the top, how can it be wrong to go all the way with it?  There is no such thing as
“hyper-grace.”

Now, I know there is error taught among some of the grace teachers.  There is also error taught among the law teachers.  That’s the way things are and always have been.  Error does not negate truth.  Error simply exposes lack of understanding or compromised motives in expressing truth.

When someone comes against what you believe with words like “hyper-grace” or “cheap grace” or even “antinomianism” (yeah, you probably won’t have to worry about that one), remember that this was the basic charge leveled against Jesus by the Pharisees and Paul by the religious leaders of the Jews.  The idea that God would do it all, that we would be saved and kept saved entirely by His initiative and action, goes so strongly against what the legalist teaches that he has to attack with false charges and nasty words.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it so well:

There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of "justification by faith only" can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace. . . . I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the gospel.

For the whole quote, which is worth reading, go to this page.

Just because some don’t understand or some misuse the teaching of grace doesn’t make it wrong.  In fact, understanding grace makes everything right.

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Stolen Treasures

A recent article at Recovering Grace, entitled “Moving On,” prompted me to think about the reason it is so difficult to move forward after being victimized by legalism.  As I have worked with those hurt by legalism over the years, I have often heard stories about what happened five, ten, maybe thirty years ago.  These folks still struggle against the lies they were told and the anger they continue to feel toward those who misused them.  I have come to the conclusion that a great deal of the difficulty of moving on has to do with the treasures that were stolen.

Each of the following could be an article in itself, but let me just introduce the problems legalism created by stealing these treasures.  You may think of more precious things that were stolen, but these are the ones that have come up most as I have communicated with victims.

The character of God.  Legalism presents an angry and vengeful God who wants to see us fail and then will punish us when we do.  He rejects us when we sin and puts us into situations to test our faithfulness.  He even punishes us for the things our great-grandparents did.  But this is not the God of the Bible.  Yes, I know the Bible speaks of the wrath against sin, but the message of love—forgotten by the legalist—is the primary message of Scripture.  God loves us and draws us by love.  When the love of God is set aside and His anger becomes the focus, where do we go when we are afraid?  The Lord may be a strong tower for His people, but the victims of legalism can’t run to Him and feel safe because they think He is angry with them.  I have often asked parents this: “When your children sin, and they will, do you want them to run to God or away from God?”  The character of the God you introduce is important.  Stealing away the love of God and substituting an angry or vindictive spirit is damaging.

The message of the Bible.  So many times people have told me that they simply cannot read the Bible anymore because all they see in it is condemnation.  The message of love and peace the Bible brings was stolen from them and replaced by a system that almost always forced them to see shame in its pages.  Not only was the Bible blamed for bringing the challenges of the legalist lifestyle, it was a constant killjoy.  “Because the Bible says,” was the refrain that supported every legalistic action, no matter how cruel.  But the Bible tells us of the love of God.  It was given to proclaim the message of His heart toward us—which is very good.  Stealing the real message of the Bible is a great sin against both the believer and the seeker.

The new heart of the believer.   How many times did we hear, “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked”?  Victims of legalism are told never to trust their hearts, which meant never to trust their own judgment.  Sadly that meant that they were only to trust the judgment of those above them, which opened them to all kinds of abuse.  How can anyone go through life successfully and joyfully without the ability to trust their hearts?  I remember, when I first understood the great error of this, asking why we should delight in the Lord.  The Scripture says that if we delight in the Lord He will give us the desires of our hearts.  But if our hearts were as wicked as we were taught, why would God give us those desires?  Of course, we were told that He would change the desires of our hearts to the right thing, but that didn’t really help much.  The truth is that the believer has a new heart, one which the Lord uses to communicate with us.  When He connects to the new spirit in us, He connects to the new heart.  (See Ezekiel 11:19)  But when legalism stole away our ability to look within and trust our hearts, it took away our opportunity to hear the voice of our Lord.

The love and joy of others.  Legalism is a system of condemnation and comparison.  It sets us up to put others down.  If I can’t ever be good enough, I can at least be better than you.  We learned to judge and condemn others, rather than to understand them.  We learned to compare ourselves with them, rather than to listen and care.  We learned to keep them at a distance just in case, rather than to love them.  In legalism, we learned to mistrust God, others and ourselves.  But the Lord gave us each other for good.  We learn love from each other and others give us an outlet for our love.  Relationships are good.  Yes, they can be difficult, but they are meant to teach us about ourselves and how to trust God.  The message from the beginning, according to John (1 Jn 3:11) was that we should love one another.  But legalism pushes us away from each other.

 

I have come to believe that those who leave legalism must rediscover these treasures.  Some will seek them outside the faith.  Others will stumble around trying to find them within different legalist systems.  But they know, in every part of their being, that the treasures are worth seeking.

So let me summarize what I have found.

God loves you.  He has never not loved you and He has never stopped loving you.  Nothing you have done has changed His love for you.  All that He has done, through Jesus, has been because of His love for you.

The Bible consistently tells of this love, if you can look past the old legalist system to see the truth.  I have suggested that people read through the book of John just for one purpose, to see the love of God.  The message is very clear.  From beginning to end, the Bible tells of God’s love.

Those who have come to Jesus have received from Him a new heart.  It’s true!  The old has passed away and the new has come.  If you listen for God’s voice, you will hear words of love and affirmation.  Never will He condemn or shame you; that’s another voice.  Always He calls with a kind voice of acceptance.  And you can trust that He will lead you, through your heart, because of His love.

Others are good for you.  Yes, they struggle and stumble through life just like you do.  They sin and they hurt people.  But you don’t have to trust them in order to enjoy them or even love them.  You are called to trust the Lord.  He may lead you to people who are very different from you and you will learn from them.  We were meant to live in relationship with many people and God expresses His creativity in the styles of their lives.  Put away your expectations and let others fail.  Then you will begin to see how God loves you even through others.

Whatever time it takes, seek the treasures.  They are still yours.

 

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