Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Surrender to grace

Over at Idle Musings today, the title of James' post, "Be a Loser," reminded me of the old Steve Taylor song, "Jesus is for Losers." :) But that's not the point of this post.

James quotes from a Christianity Today article (incidentally written by a Canadian singer/songwriter who I haven't heard about in a long time, Carolyn Arends) that has to do with Jacob wrestling with God, and God dislocating Jacob's hip, and Jacob getting a blessing out of the ordeal. The article uses this story to talk about our need to stop "living in our own resources" and instead rest "in the middle of God's goodness, power and provision." For the full gist, see the article that is linked to in James' post.

What I personally wanted to highlight was James' "idle musing" about all of this:
Of course, my question is always, "Why are you depending on your own strength in the first place?" One of the basic tenets of Christianity is we can't do it, we need God to do it for us, so why do we continue to struggle and strive and generally exhaust ourselves for nothing? Why not just surrender and let God have his way with us from the start?
As I read this I began thinking about how quickly Christians turn from grace, and God's strength, to their own strength and resources. Take these two hypothetical, pretend spiritual journal entries, that may just be more based in reality that we might think:
Day 1: I'm saved by the precious grace of God! I'm free! I was weak, and a sinner, but now in the Lord, and in Him alone, I find my strength, righteousness and peace! Woo hoo!


Day 366: I'm tired. I feel so much guilt. What a heavy burden. I don't know how much longer I can do this.
The amount of days between those two entries will of course vary from person to person (perhaps for some it will be weeks, months or years), but the point is that somewhere between the first entry above, and the last one, some very important things changed. Grace seems to have disappeared from the picture. Dependence upon God's strength is gone. It's been replaced by self-dependence. It's been replaced by a fleshly struggle to try to maintain the Christian life.

Whereas in Christ we were supposed to have our heavy burdens lifted, and replaced with an easy yoke and a light burden, the experience of many is just the opposite. It seems that in their Christian experience they put on even heavier burdens than they had in the first place, and instead of relaxing in the yoke with Jesus, they're trying to pull the heavy load themselves.

We seem to leave Grace behind... thinking it was only for Day 1, when we were born again. My, how we've promoted a cheap and weak gospel! We've led people to God through grace, but after that it's seemingly all up to us!

Grace is the essence of the Christian life. Jesus is grace personified. You can't separate grace from Jesus. You can't have a "Christian life" in any way, shape or form apart from Jesus or apart from grace. When you were saved on Day 1 through nothing less than God's grace, that grace remained with you, and remains with you forever! His strength, His righteousness, His peace, His joy, His... everything... is yours by grace, and grace alone. Surrender to it.


  1. Unfortunately, we, the church, have been guilty of teaching that after the initial experience of salvation, EVERYTHING is dependent on the new Christian. There is a reason that people call Christianity the largest behavior modification program in the world. We encourage people to accept salvation then spend the rest of their life teaching them how to clean up there act. We are in essence saying that although the cross can save them, it can't keep them. How arrogant to think we can do what the cross could not! It's demoralizing to strive for something that we can't achieve. People need to know that they died at the cross and it really is Christ who lives in them! He accomplished what we couldn't.
    THe church needs to hear Grace, the finished work, and our identity in Christ!

  2. Thanks for the link.

    I have a friend who always says, "We know we are saved by grace, but we spend the rest of our lives trying to prove we didn't need it!" Too sad, too true.


  3. I think it's been like this with me,Joel-we come to Christ and receive a free pardon-perhaps we don't know quite how that applies forwards as well as backwards-and then, rather than going on to learn how to more fully walk by faith-yet wanting to be sanctified-we make the mistake of trying to live by the law as a rule of life. We think that God gave us the Spirit to help us keep the law...rather than to serve as free slaves in a new and living way that is Christ in us,as us,as we rest from our works in Jesus' finished work. We think sanctification is 'going on'in a synergistic addition to where we started at justification-rather than 'getting' that we are new creations where all things are new,complete in him,so that his indwelling life can progressively permeate our souls.

  4. Yeah, here is my progression:

    Phase 1: YAHOO! FREE AT LAST....
    Phase 2: Father forgive me, for I have sinned and am so unworthy...
    Phase 3: Hey, this religion stuff ain't in the Bible!!! I am SO ANGRY!
    Phase 4: YAHOO! FREE AT LAST....

  5. Joel,
    Great blog entry. I love especially what you said here:

    "Grace is the essence of the Christian life. Jesus is grace personified. You can't separate grace from Jesus. You can't have a "Christian life" in any way, shape or form apart from Jesus or apart from grace."

    ~Amy :)

  6. RJW,

    That's pretty much been my observation during most of my church life. It seems to be all about behavior modification. Week after week it's a new set of principles or rules to try to apply. Really, the same stuff could be preached by any motivational speaker to any crowd, Christian or non, and the results would pretty much be the same.

    Of course I think we all need changes in our behavior, but that's not what the cross and the resurrection of Jesus was about. It's about dead people coming alive and having a brand new life and identity in Christ. As we grow in all of this, the fruit will often manifest itself in changed behavior, but again the focus is Christ in us, not behavior modification.


    That quote is right on the mark (unfortunately). Indeed how sad and how true.


    Great points. I think that's the case with far too many people. Saved by grace through faith, but then trying to maintain it all by themselves. The desire is naturally there, in a saved person, to want to live uprightly and in holiness and righteousness, but you are so right - so many people leave faith and grace at their initial salvation and try to live by law instead.

    What seems to be so misunderstood is that we had to die to 'Mr. Law' in order to have this brand new marriage with Christ, and so "law" keeps on being taught.

    I'm hoping that more and more people will, by the Spirit, begin to wake up and understand life in the Spirit, through grace and not law.

    Tyler Dawn,

    Thank God you're in Phase 4! :D


    Yep indeed. Put another way, "No Jesus, No grace. Know Jesus. Know grace." :) Sounds like a good bumper sticker...

  7. I go back to what Paul said.

    "The only thing that counts is FAITH expressing ITSELF through love." Not dedications, not obligations. Faith expressing itself. Naturalness. Natural fruit.

    Paul says the love we have springs forth from our faith in the Gospel. You wanna learn to love more? Focus on the lavish grace and love of God. There is no principles or rules. There is only faith, expressing itself through love. Here there is only freedom. It is God who works in us, not ourselves.

  8. Wow, Matt, I just quoted that verse on my blog at the end of my post like 20 minutes ago.
    But, anyway- Joel, great reminders in this post- that his yoke is easy and his burden light. We need that with all the curve balls life throws at us.
    I think there is a bumper sticker that Jesus no grace, Know Jesus Know grace. But if I'm mistaken, you should make one!

  9. Matthew,

    Why must you always bring it back to what the scriptures say???!!! LOL

    Great words. Faith expressing itself through love. As you know about me, because I've shared many times, it has been the constant teaching of rules and principles that has hindered faith expressing itself through love in my life. Many of the principles are not bad at all, but in many ways they've replaced intimacy with Jesus Himself, and a true life of faith.


    Curve balls... yes indeed life is full of them! Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light. We need to always remember that.

    The bumper sticker I had at one time, long before I really even knew what it really meant, was "No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace." I think "grace" works very well in that saying as well!

  10. Tyler Dawn,

    I don't know if you'll be back to see this, but I LOVE your comment!! It says it all! What a fantastic cycle... in the end!! I agree, thank God, you did come full circle! Would that we would all!!

    Great comments here, and great post, Joel! Thanks to all!!