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Grace again...yup

I came across a quote the other day that spoke to me deeply: "Who has a harder fight than he who is striving to overcome himself?" (Thomas a Kempis) Let that one sink in a little and it may just give you a moment of pause as it did me. The very thought of overcoming myself is almost maddening, for there are many complex issues within that are actually in conflict with each other, the Christ-centered beliefs I want to live by, and the way I should be living if I were living by the standards others would create for me to live within. The conflict is real for all of us - we honestly don't appreciate the full impact of this struggle until we step back and ask ourselves if what we are doing at the moment is actually what Christ would desire of us!

23 But anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong shouldn’t do it. He sins if he does, for he thinks it is wrong, and so for him it is wrong. Anything that is done apart from what he feels is right is sin. (Romans 14:23 TLB)

The Apostle Paul has been laying out various responses to those who were struggling with the rules of the Law of Moses and the liberty of the Grace of Christ. Law and Grace have a hard time most of the time, because grace changes the 'why' behind the rule. It doesn't always do away with the rule - for it is still a 'rule' to not kill your brother, or steal his belongings, or commit adultery. Those rules didn't go out the door just because grace entered it! In fact, the only thing grace does with the rule is make it possible to keep the rule for the right reason - because it is the right thing to do! Grace changes things for us because it moves us from keeping rules SO THAT WE CAN BE MADE right, to keeping the rules BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN MADE right.

Overcoming one's own desires is sometimes the fine balance between grace and rule-keeping. We know what is right - because our conscience and scripture don't contradict us. We want to do right because we know it is the right thing to do. We hate to do wrong - knowing there will be both consequences and end-results we may not like at all. Yet, the fight continues between our 'striving' to live right and our 'actually' living right! We get this all wrong at times - thinking it is us doing the work. I have said it before, but it bears repeating - there is a new force at work within us - it is no longer us in control.

It was Kempis who also said, "He who loves with purity considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver." It isn't grace we need to focus on, but the one who gives us the grace to live in right standing with a holy God! We consider the giver, not the gift. When the struggle is real within me over something I want to do, but know better than to do, I often have to remind myself God didn't give grace so I could ask for forgiveness - he gave it so I wouldn't need to! Just sayin!

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