Monday, 4 August 2008

The Adventure of Learning About Grace

I heard a sermon recently where the preacher's ending line was 'God is both gracious and severe' but then he went on to emphasis the severe and seemed to me to just mention the 'gracious part.' My husband and I spent some time afterwards talking about the fact that we are under the New Covenant and even though the wrath of God and the Justice of God are very real - we do need to comprehend that God IS love - it doesn't just say that God is loving - it is His nature - you cannot separate God and love. But also His character is shown through grace - through the fact that God sent Jesus to deal with all of our punishment - His amazing grace stooped and saved us.

We are on holiday this week and I have brought a stack of books with me to read! (And I brought Todd Bentleys from CLC London on the way through on Saturday! Should be interesting!) anyway - a book that I am half way through travelled with us and yesterday I read some and again this morning and it is an adventure! The book is called 'Grace Choices' by Jeff Lucas and I simply want to share with you some of the things I have read in my adventure of learning about grace even in the last 24 hours! The chapter that I have read is chapter 4 entitled "I will refuse to argue with God's gracious forgiveness" and this is a chapter full of meaty, really helpful stuff - I would highly recommend it to anyone who is on the same adventure as me!

"How often we are like Peter, who had to be told not to 'call unclean that which God callled clean.' So often we do the very same thing: except we are calling ourselves unclean when God has a different verdict about us because of what Jesus has done."
(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas page 63)
Oh my goodness..... what revelation to me this small statement was - my arguement with God has been so often and yet in saying that I am unclean I am actually contradicting God all because of Jesus - even this one small thought has been mind-blowing! It has made me realise afresh the amazing sacrifice of Jesus and that it is indeed completely finished - Peter Day, my pastor has recently being reminding me that all my sin was paid for on the cross, his reminders have been that all our sin is 'future sin' all paid for on the cross and of course we hadn't sinned when Jesus died as we weren't alive! So God says that I am clean becuase the sacrifice has been paid already, the sacrifice was complete covering all my sin past, present and future so I need to stop arguing with God! I am clean!

"It seems that we humans are prone to reverse the prayer of Jacob, who wrestled with God and yelled, 'I will not let you go until you bless me....' We are more likely to pray, 'I will not let you bless me, let me go.' The issue is sharply focused when we consider God's offer to forgive us. Simply put, we struggle and fight with his kindness; some of us feeling unworthy of it (which is ironic - we are unworthy). For whatever reason, some of us seem to want to choose condemnation over freedom."
(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas page 64)
What a challenge - for me I need to change my attitude, my heart and my head and choose freedom - when the enemy comes in like a flood to choose freedom, to not listen to accusation and condemnation and live under a cloud but to choose freedom!

"Condemnation and shame all too often blight our lives and eclipse the light of grace.
Typically shame overshadows us when:-
  • We have been raised on a constant emotional diet of being told that we are no good.
  • We are part of a local church that is more of a 'guilt machine' than a community of grace.
  • We have sinned in a specific area and have repented, but can't forgive ourselves or accept that we have been forgiven.
  • We have a faith that is dominated by subjective feelings rather than trust in what God says to us about our being forgiven in Scripture.

Lucas goes on to say:- "When we choose shame over grace, moments of 'spiritual high' are blighted by mental 'video replays' of our embarrassing and shameful history. And we begin to lose hope, because we are blinded to any steps of growth and change........"

"Even the most proficient can be unaware of any giftedness or progress in their lives if they are preoccupied with shame. Whatever their accomplishments, they remain on the treadmill of failure. One committed Christian wrote of how she 'lugs around inside of me a dead weight of not-enough-goodness.'

(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas)

All I can say to this part of Lucas' book is how it has hit me - how much of this is spot on for me! Condemnation and shame are something that I have battled with since my earliest recollection - Sadly it is true. But things are due to change and this adventure of delving into grace I can see unravelling things in my head and in time I am praying that it will saturate through from my thinking to my heart! Lucas is so helpful in describing the 'video replays' after a spiritual high - I am sure that I am not the only one that has an encounter with God - something tangible has happened and a weight lifted and then within minutes or hours the goodness is robbed by those mental replays of some sin, some attitude, some lie of the enemy that I haven't met the grade or let people down etc etc - this is a time for change and those that know me are welcome to challenge me if they see me slipping back to living under condemnation or shame - I am a grace daughter - birthed and living under grace!!!! The dead weight of 'not-good-enoughness' has to be cut off and the simple declaration that 'I am, what and, who I am simply under the grace of God.' The relief that this brings no more striving - the thriving will come - I can almost feel it rising up!

Jeff Lucas goes on to deal with 'Choosing Freedom From False Guilt' and he gives some very helpful steps that although "not offered as a simplisitc solution to deep psychological scars but offered to help us to begin our exodus from shame." I found this very helpful which is why I wanted to include them on my blog:-

  • Realise that there is a strategy to rob you of grace: you are not abnormal or alone in these struggles - they are very common. We must not be ignorant about the tactics and schemes of the enemy (Eph 6:11), as well as the general struggles that human beings have with grace and free gifts.
  • Be clear about the issue - if you feel guilt because of current sin, then deal with that - do not try to reject genuine conviction by calling it shame.
  • Recognize that our feelings are not the final arbiter of truth. Scripture is - and God's word about His willingness graciously to forgive is our final authority (1 John 1:9). As Christians, we say that we believe in the inspiration of Scripture - why not accept and believe what God has to say about grace and forgiveness?
  • Refuse to argue with God's verdict - when He pronounces us clean, when we choose to rest in that decision.

I just found these so incredibly helpful - I know that the enemy so often tries to make me feel that I am abnormal with the battles that I face and even that can bring folks down and make them feel isolated - I have been there! If we bring this sort of thing in to the light and admit that it is a battle there would be many released from feeling alone in the battle! The enemy isn't very good at trying new tactics - in fact he doesn't need to because the old strategies that he has used time and time again prove still affective on God's beloved! I like the fact that Lucas does highlight that there is still genuine conviction - we can't simply dismiss things as condemnation or attack if in fact we have actually sinned! Feelings don't tell us the truth - this is where I struggle so often and why my prayer is that God would take stuff from my head into my heart so that my feelings are more in line with what He says! Finally the challenge not to argue any longer with God's verdict - the price is paid! I am clean - I need to learn to live and rest in this unalterable fact!

Finally Lucas ends this chapter with a quote from John Newton in his latter years although he has adapted the quote from Kenneth W. Osbeck Amazing Grace (Grand Rapids;Kregel Publishing 1990) and I want to also end on this quote for indeed we are great sinners but He is a greater Saviour:-

'My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:

that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour!'

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