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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trusting grace

In the Old Testament way of worship, sacrifices and offerings were expected. Lambs, goats, bulls, and even birds or grains were brought by the one who desired to worship.  These would be prepared in a particular manner and either consumed whole on the altar, or portions would be consumed and others would be enjoyed by the priests.  We have lost touch with this type of "worship" these days as Jesus declared this "form" of worship no longer necessary when he offered himself as the "perfect sacrifice" for our sins.  Yet, in our worship today, we often find we are still all actively trying to bring some "gift or payment" for sin which we think God "demands" of us.  We have this illusion that our sins can be somehow "covered over" by something we do or bring to God.  It is kind of like the bargaining chip where we say "I'll do this" and expect it to somehow meet God's demands for a "way into heaven".  Nothing could be further from the intent of God's heart, nor the plan for our salvation.

Sacrifices and offerings are not what please you; gifts and payment for sin are not what you demand. But you made me willing to listen and obey. And so, I said, “I am here to do what is written about me in the book, where it says, ’I enjoy pleasing you. Your Law is in my heart.’” (Psalm 40:6-8 CEV)

Nothing we bring to God in the way of "good works" could ever encompass the demands of the cross.  We can do our best and still fall short of being able to live a sinless life.  Therefore, our "best" is still not "good enough".  This is exactly what has become the stumbling block upon which so many who call themselves "Christian" today find themselves tripped up.  As long as we are relying upon what we can "bring" or "do", we will always be "bringing" or "doing" something far less than what is needed to find ourselves "forgiven", "grace-filled", and "restored".  These are three "tasks" clearly outside of our ability to "do" or "bring" into our own lives!

We think God "demands" something of us in order to be his kids.  Indeed, he has "demanded" something of us in order to be his kids - but it is simply that we trust in the finished work of Christ on our behalf.  The "perfect" cannot be added to - we are simply asked to move from the system of belief where we are always trying to "out-perform" what God has already done into the place where we accept his provision and walk in liberty because of it!  God doesn't expect us to "do" this "salvation thing" on our own.  He stepped in, provided the best and most perfect sacrifice, all so we could enjoy the beauty and majesty of celebration in his presence.  To this end, he made a way for our permanent experience of his presence - all through the work of grace.

Now, that doesn't mean any of us is off the hook when it comes to the way we choose to live our lives after we say "yes" to Jesus.  That moment in time is just a turning point for us.  We turn away from living in a way which in unpleasing to God and we turn into his open arms.  Now, it is impossible for us to live on our own in this thing we call grace.  Most of us will constantly try to add to grace in some manner.  This is how silly we are - for grace is perfect all by itself - nothing can be added to grace!  What God does for us is help us to turn our ears toward his voice - to learn to listen for his direction in our lives.  Then he even gives us the "want to" and the ability to do as he requests or requires. Obedience is our response to his grace, but even obedience is mostly his "doing" in our lives!

A transition of heart is all God is really after - he will work on the rest in the course of time.  As we make this transition of heart, something awesome starts to happen.  Wherever it is we direct our heart (mind, will, and emotions), we begin to spend time.  Time yields a greater understanding of the one we spend time with.  In turn, this deeper understanding begins to bring a closeness which is hard to break.  If we look a little closer at what is happening as we enter into this transition of heart, we will see God is helping us lay down our desire to be "doing" and we just settle into what he has "done" in our lives.  Before long, we find ourselves responding as we should - obedience is the outcome of being in his presence and his presence being in us!

So, instead of trying to bring "just the right" sacrifice to God, why not start trusting him to bring the right amount of grace into our hearts which will help us connect with him on a deeper level than ever before?  Just askin!