We make lots of excuses in life, don't we? Yesterday, I ate a brownie, a couple of cookies and more peanut butter on my toast than I am supposed to while watching my intake! Guess what I did? I "excused" my excess by saying I had been "good" for the entire week! Yes, I am "allowed" to eat "off plan" a little, but I know I can make even better selections when I put my mind to it - even if it is "off plan". What are we doing when we offer excuses for our actions? We are not "owning up" to the failure. So, let me just go on record - "owning up" is hard! When we "own up" to our behavior, we must also own up to what we know will be the next steps we need to take in obedience to get ourselves back to the place we need to be.
But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG)
Paul is writing to the Ephesian church - to encourage them to grow up in Christ, allowing Christ's character to become part of their being. In so doing, he reminds them of the "old way" of living - sinful through and through, steeped with disobedience, and in no way honoring of God, let alone bringing honor to ourselves. He infers we have been "going along with the crowd". In terms you might find helpful, we might refer to this as the "herd mentality". When one cow begins to wander to a little green patch of grass, the entire herd begins to move in the same direction. Soon, the "herd" finds themselves wandering away from where they were "put". Sound familiar? We found ourselves wandering just a bit (the first time we did not do what we knew was right) until we come to a place of being so far from where were "put"! Paul reminds us of the consequences of doing this long enough - we lose touch with God and with reality itself (vs. 17-19). What we don't see as "danger" in the first place may become the very thing which "disconnects" us in the end!
Now, Paul assures us this is not the life God plans for us. Thank goodness for grace! As we "learn Christ", we also learn "grace". His grace does not give us license (permission) to sin without excuse - but...when we follow disobedience's path, we know God's grace is enough to bring us back on course. God PREFERS our obedience each and every time, but he KNOWS our hearts will misguide us on occasion. When they do, GRACE abounds! Look at what Paul says: "But that's no life for you!" I have to echo this! Each step of disobedience is not the life God intends for us. In reality, we have "learned better" because we have "learned Christ". In reality, what we have learned has not perfectly connected with what we believe!
Until such time as belief and knowledge become one, we will struggle with occasional times of disobedience. Look at what I said there - occasional. This is different than the rebellion of never seeking God's way, always choosing our own will over his, etc. It is the occasional "slip up" in which we did what we knew better than to do. Paul says this "new life" takes some time to work out in our actions what we know on the inside. It begins on the outside and becomes evident on the outside. Truly, when you look at one who is revealing Christ on the outside, you can say, "I know this person, inside and out!" When there becomes a continuity between what we know and what we show, we call this wisdom!
It is God's work to reproduce his character in us. It is our part to respond to his "nudges" in obedience. To do what it is we know to do. Now, this seems way too simple, but in reality, it is quite difficult. Some say, "If you love someone enough, you do what pleases that person." I agree, but even I know I don't do a good job at it 100% of the time! So, what makes me think I will ALWAYS connect with God's desires in my life 100% of the time? It is a process. God is "working in me" what he desires to see "come out of me". It is a life-time venture - creating his character in my every choice which then becomes evident in my every action. Until then, all I can do is daily choose to align my thoughts with his - through time in his Word, in prayer, and in company with his children. As I do, I am placing myself in the best position to be able to respond to his "nudges" in obedience. Yep, I will miss it on occasion, but his grace is sufficient!
If you have read my blogs for any length of time, you will know I speak of grace quite often. It is simply because this gal knows how much grace she has received! It is more than I "deserved", but consistently exactly what I "needed". There is no "license to sin", but grace makes a way for reconciliation when we do. If you have lived with the fear of never being good enough for God's grace, then you have a wrong impression of grace. Grace is the result of us NOT being GOOD ENOUGH. When we bring God our "not good enough", he delights in creating his character where our "not good enough" once existed. So, don't run from your failures, or seek to cover them up. Instead, openly admit your "not good enough" to God - he is waiting to GRACE you with more of his character in just the right amount to make your "not good enough" excellent in every way.
Remember, God is working his character OUT in us. It comes from the inside first - until one day it affects the outside consistently. Just sayin...