Tag Archives: Freedom

Freedom

Grace 101

 

“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Galatians 5:1 NASB

This is the time of year our nation celebrates freedom.  It’s a big word and we use it to mean different things.  Chances are that it means something different to a fourteen year-old than it does to her parents.  It means something different to an employee than to an employer.  It may even mean something different in one country than in another.  But what does it mean in the context of grace?

Freedom is a hinge concept.  Legalists will tell us that freedom is far less than we think.  Liberals will tell us that it is far more than we think.  Grace people often get into trouble when we try to explain what it means.  Some have said that it means we are free to do whatever we want.  Others say that we are free to do what is right.  All of this is confusing and misses the point.

Freedom in Christ means deliverance from bondage.  We were slaves of sin, under condemnation and shame, bound to evil in our hearts.  We belonged to evil.  It was our master and the realm in which we lived.  When Jesus came to us, He reached into that evil and pulled us out.  He paid the price, did the work, lived the life, that was needed—and He set us free.

Sin owned us, but Jesus set us free from sin.  The law held us in condemnation, but Jesus set us free from the law.  Failure defined us, but Jesus delivered us from our failure.  This is what our freedom is about.

You see, you and I could always do what we wanted.  Nothing stopped us from sinning.  When we wanted to disobey our Lord, we found ways.  We have always lived in that “freedom.”  So when someone says, “Well, you aren’t just free to do whatever you want!”  You answer, “I always have been free to do what I want and so have you.”  The point is not that we can do things now that we couldn’t do before.  The point is that we are no longer slaves to sin and citizens of evil.

The moment you received salvation in Jesus, that moment you were set free from evil and all the strings it had attached to your life.  In that amazing gift box, Jesus has given you freedom.  You are no longer under condemnation, no longer in shame, no longer bound to sin.  You are free to make changes in your life and He will guide you and enable you.  You are free to live without fear of rejection, secure in His love.  You are free to love others without expectation.

The ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil are no longer your ways by definition.  You are free.  You are free from your past, from the ways and habits of your family, and from the judgments of others.  You are free from the old life, the old you.

And your freedom in Jesus is not just defined by what you are free from, but also by what you are free to.  You are free to experience joy and creativity and rest.  You are free to feel free.

Fireworks and parties and games and laughter are every bit as appropriate for the believer on any day as they are for our nation on the fourth of July.  We have been set free by the Lord who loves us.  That’s something to celebrate!

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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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Ready to Receive – What?

Grace 101

 

You are ready to receive what God wants you to have.  You believe and you have pushed past your doubts and fears.  You reject the lie that says you are unworthy and you acknowledge the love of God.  But what is in the gift?

Someone I know well was recently awarded a cruise by his company.  He knew from others that he would receive many gifts and that all requirements of the cruise would be provided.  It was an honor for him, a thank-you for superior service, and he was looking forward to the trip.

But he really had no idea what he was going to receive.  He didn’t know what to expect.  Should he take this?  Should he take that?  How much money would he need?  You see, he had never been on a cruise before and had never received any special award from the company before.

Now, suppose that someone met him at the airport to take him to the ship.  This person would be his guide through the whole process.  The first thing the guide asks is whether he brought enough money.  What?

“Well, there are a few things you will need to take care of for yourself.”

Uh oh.

“The cab fare to the ship.  The key deposit for the room.  Breakfast and dinner will be provided, but lunch is your responsibility.  And I hope you brought work clothes.”

It doesn’t take long before the free trip becomes something different.

I am afraid that we do something like this to new believers.  We tell them that salvation is a free gift.  God loves them and wants to give this to them.  Their sins will be washed away.  Heaven will be theirs.  And it’s all free!

“Well, there are a few things you have to take care of for yourself.  You won’t want to sin anymore because you will have to go through a process of confession and penance to pay for any new sins.  And you have to read your Bible and learn to pray right and evangelize your family and give your tithe and work in the church wherever we need you.  But these are just ways we celebrate the free gift of salvation.”

People who find the love of God in Jesus usually have no idea what they should expect.  They understand the idea of Heaven, someday.  They might even believe that their sins are forgiven.  But no one has told them much beyond that.

Then, when they get to church, they begin to learn that the free gift has a lot of strings attached.

“Do this.  Don’t do that.  If you don’t live up to the expectations you might lose your place.  At the minimum, you won’t enjoy the trip.”

So, they get involved in the church, with a lot of others who have received this “free” salvation, and they begin to work hard to maintain the little hope and joy they picked up at the beginning.

And that’s where a lot of believers are today.  Still on board the heaven-bound ship, paying for their own meals and working to keep the ship nice.  And they wonder what it would have been like if it were not free.

Now, suppose someone else was on board that ship who understood what free meant.  This person is having a great time, paying for nothing and working for nothing.  When he sees you, he asks why you are working and what you are paying for.  “But didn’t you get a free trip?” he asks.  Your guide quickly steps in to separate you from him, calling him a trouble-maker who is cheating the system.

Sometimes people who teach grace are thought to be dangerous.  After all, if people are content with striving to earn something that has been given freely, they should be left alone.  The grace message, some say, cheats the system.

Okay, all of this to say that we need to be upfront with what we can expect to receive in this free gift.  If we know what to expect, then we can evaluate the message of others to see if they understand what free means.  Over the next few weeks I will be taking the Grace 101 posts into a series of topics that will encourage you and, I believe, make you stronger in your faith.  These will be the things we should expect to receive in the free gift.

You will be surprised at how large the gift is!

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When Receiving Doesn’t Make Sense

Grace 101

 

Is receiving enough for you?  Do you feel you should do more to be “really” saved?  Do you feel like just receiving is being too passive?  Do you struggle with letting God give what you need when there are so many commands for right living in Scripture?  Does it make more sense that we should be working hard to keep favor with God?

There are often reasons people feel this way.  Let’s look at a few:

  1.  You feel guilty for your past.  It is one thing to hear that you are forgiven and quite another to feel forgiven.  But there is no truth contrary to God’s truth.  Whether you feel like it or not, all your sins have been forgiven in Christ.  You did nothing to earn or deserve that forgiveness.  It was a gift of His love.  That’s the truth and you can go through life denying it and missing the peace or you can accept it and be grateful. 
  2. You feel guilty for your present.  Your life doesn’t measure up to the standards you have learned.  You should be able to stop doing some of the things you do.  You feel that you don’t deserve to be saved.  Well, let’s establish right from the beginning that you didn’t deserve to be saved and you don’t deserve to stay saved.  But it wasn’t about your behavior then and it isn’t now.  There are certainly dangers in sinful behavior, but losing your salvation is not one of them.  Let the Lord lead you to right living, but trust in His love.
  3. You are getting bad teaching.  Many churches and preachers know nothing except the law and performance spirituality.  Sunday after Sunday they call Christians to repentance and salvation.  They take the gospel of works to people who are already saved.  Make a distinction in your mind between the message to the lost and the message to the saved so that you can discern which you are hearing.  If you are constantly hearing the message to the lost in the context of the saved, you may want to find another church.
  4. The evil one is whispering his lies.  You may not be able to do much about his whispers, but you can learn to ignore them.  They are lies, after all.  You don’t even have to argue with him.  Just tell yourself the truth.  If the evil one whispers that your secret might not be forgiven, just tell yourself that God knows all the hidden things and has forgiven all your sins.  The love of God is our strong weapon against the lies.  If the lies of the evil one consistently draw you to the truth of God’s love, the evil one loses.

These are just a few reasons that come to mind when I ask why some people would have trouble receiving God’s grace.  Jesus said that the truth will set us free—free to receive the wonderful grace of God’s love!

What are your thoughts?

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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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Avoid them

 

What good is having a blog if you can’t use it to rant just a little? 🙂  I have been in a discussion on another site with someone who is arguing against the grace and love of God by telling believers they should be focused on sin and condemnation.  It is frustrating, time consuming, and fruitless to get into these arguments.

You know the people I mean.  They just can’t stop.  Their logic is stretched and their words are cutting.  These guys pull out verses and claim certain Greek skills and ignore any real challenges to their ideas.

Paul met these folks, probably much more often than you or I do.  His advice?

9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. Romans 16:17

Avoid them!  Don’t let them suck you into their traps.  It’s hard.  I find that I want to speak out against their lies and errors.  But it is a trap.  It distracts you, upsets you, and you don’t win.  They will have the last word, no matter how stupid it is.

Yes, sometimes I do speak up.  I seem to think that I can get a word in as a teacher.  But I have learned that it will be unfruitful.  The best I can do is help others see the foolishness of the other’s position and statements.  I confess that I almost always come away feeling used and dirty somehow.

In the discussion I have been in this morning, the arguer referred to the pain and struggles of those who have come out of legalism as “dog poop” and “dog piles.”  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  When logic fails, be prepared for the jabs and depersonalization.  Like the narcissist, the legalist will use whatever means he can to “shut you up” so it can look like he has won.

Then, if you ever do manage to paint him into a corner, he cowers and cries and wonders why you are so mean.  He ignores his own attacks and cruelties and projects that on you.  By trying to counter his statements, you are hurting him.  And, again, he wins.

So Paul says to avoid them.  That makes a lot of sense to me.

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Free Will is not Free Ability


Grace 101

The other day I mentioned the Calvinist vs Arminian debate.  If there is any way to kill a blog like this, getting into that discussion would be it.  No, I am not going there.  I just want to clear up something that puzzles many people.  Yes, I have my perspective on the theological issues, but I am not planning to write about that.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was a one way deal.  They could choose to sin, but they couldn’t come back.  Why?  Because they died!  That’s what God told them would happen.  If they ate of the fruit, in that very day, they would die.  And they did die.  Because they were dead, there was no way for them to return to the life God wanted for them.

This really isn’t hard for us to understand.  If you have ever stood on the edge of a cliff, you should understand this.  You have the freedom to throw  yourself off the cliff.  But once you do, you don’t have the freedom to fly back up to where you were standing.  That opportunity is gone once you “die” to the security of the cliff.  When you take that forbidden step and submit your life to gravity, you have to suffer the consequences.

Now, let’s push that illustration a little further.  Suppose, on the long way down, you change your mind.  Are you free to do that?  Of course!  You can change your mind.  You just can’t do anything about your circumstances.  You still have free will.  But you no longer have free ability.

In the “Fall” (pun more than intended) Adam and Eve chose to step into sin, but they had no ability to step out of sin.  No matter how much they regretted their choice and wanted to get back to the Garden, the Scripture says that the way was closed.  The choice was made.

Notice that God set up a system of sacrifice even then.  He told them that the life and blood of another would cover their sins.  He still loved them, but there was a distance between them and Him.  Somehow, and it is a mystery, that blood covered their sins and allowed them into the presence of God.  But not back to the Garden.  He would speak with them and care for them, but it would not be the same.  No matter how well they obeyed from that point on, it would never restore what they had lost.

And when the Law was given, with all its rituals and rules, it was not given to restore the people and give them life.  It was to cover their sins and point them to another day, when their sins would be gone forever.

So those who are lost in sin can still desire communion with God.  They can feel a sense of what has been lost.  They can live in awareness of their sin and fear of their future.  Apart from the Lord, people can still feel empty and alone and anxious.  Something is missing, but they don’t know where to find it.  And, no matter how much they might discern or how much they might desire, their will is not enough.  They simply do not have the ability to save themselves.

That’s why we needed a Savior.

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Filed under Freedom, Grace 101, Grace definition, Theology and mystery

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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Because He Loved Them

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton   No Man is an Island
 
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night

 

Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things.  We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants.  So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants.  Right?

But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do.  He wants us to love one another, and that is rare.  He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t.  This is the Almighty God!  Why doesn’t He get what He wants?

Because of love.

Listen to God’s own description of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love “does not seek its own.”  That means it does not demand its own way.  Love allows the other person to be a real person.  Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity.  Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys.  Love lets others be who they are.

And God loves us.  He loves all people.

So God doesn’t force anyone.  From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever.  They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him.  But they were free.  They were intelligent and able to make moral choices.  He allowed them to grow and create and live.

And, when the time came, they chose.  They chose something God did not want.  He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it.  We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.

They did it their way.

Because they were free.

Because He loved them.

He let them go because they wanted to go.  He warned them.  He grieved when they did it.  But He knew they would.  Because they were free.

And they lost so much.  He knew they would and He told them they would.  But He didn’t stop them.  He already had a plan in place.  Because He loved them.

God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one.  Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way.  They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone.  He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.

So He set in motion an amazing plan.

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Filed under Grace 101, Relationship, Theology and mystery