Monday, October 06, 2008

Rooted in love and grace - Participation solicitation!

Please read to the end... I'm asking for input from YOU!

About a month ago I wrote a blog post called Even Keel, in which I explained how the Lord had steadied me in my relationship with Him through growing in understanding His faithfulness, love and grace in my life. In response to that post, I received this message from a woman:

I'm reading your post on even-keeled and just struck by it... so I wanted to personally jot a message rather than comment. It overwhelmed me - to the point of tears, actually.

I have been sooooo up and down spiritually.... I always know I love God, I always know God loves me... but I get so defeated in the Christian life... I don't pray enough, I don't give enough, I'm too selfish....

Yet, I know it isn't about what I do, but about what Christ has done.

I want [my daughter] to grow up knowing that - and to have it deeply inbedded in her.... and yet, I don't get it. I get caught up in the legalism that has plagued me my entire life...

What got you from being caught up to fully understanding rooted and established in Grace. I get so frustrated, because even when I hear you and Kap talk on the program, I am still thinking "but what about.... (fill in any legalistic thing we are supposed to do)" I don't want to be there. I don't want to waver back-and-forth with the feeling of God's presence or not feeling... or all that - I want it deeply imbedded. In fact, even in saying this I'm wondering what I can DO to make this happen....

Anyway - thoughts?

I replied back and shared some thoughts about the process through which I began to get rooted and grounded in God's love and grace, and about how I'm still growing. I then asked for permission to share her words because I think that a whole ton of people can relate to all this, and perhaps I could use her words to ask what other people think.

So let's have it! What do you think? Have you been through any of this? Are you going through any of this now? What has your experience been? What have you struggled with, or what has hindered you? How have you overcome? How has the Lord established you in His grace? Do you have words that can possibly help others as they desire to get out of legalism and be rooted and established in God's love and grace?

Whether you are a "lurker" here, or someone who comments a little, or a lot, this is open to you. (Also, feel free to spread the word). If you'd like to share, my thoughts are that you could either share some brief thoughts in the comments section here - or write about it on your own blog or website and link to it here. Go in whatever direction your heart takes you. This isn't about "right answers." The main thing that I'm personally thinking about is encouraging one another in growing in God's grace, as well as sharing honest struggles and victories that we have along the way. Maybe we can all help each other out.

Depending upon the amount of activity this does or doesn't generate, I'll tentatively plan on gathering together the comment highlights as well as the links to other blogs, in another blog post here in a couple of weeks.

16 comments:

  1. One thing that has spoken to me lately concerning reading my Bible or praying or doing anything that a Christian "should" do when we get in "funks" is found in Song of Solomon..

    SoS 8:4: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

    Allow God to work in us and we work it out. He initiates, we respond.

    I know that doesn't answer any particular question, but I felt like I should share it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Catching a glimpse, however small, of God's incredible, overwhelming love for me.
    Not just seeing myself as "a sinner saved by Grace", but as His very heart, His very purpose...His Bride.
    Discovering that because of His love, not mine, I have been given His Life and that all I do is receive ALL that HE IS through belief. Not just for salvation, but for everything, every area of my life.
    Knowing that NOTHING can separate me from God's Love in Christ Jesus: nothing I do or don't do will cause God to see me differently. I don't win his approval nor can I lose it; I am accepted because I have been BORN into God's family.
    Realizing that I died at the cross in Christ and that the life I live is not mine, but His. I am dead to the law. God has no expectation of me or my performance; He just wants me to accept what He already accomplished.
    I agree with Matthew; Song of Songs gives a beautiful picture of this fantastic love story because at the end the Beloved comes out of the desert(our own works) LEANING ON(supported by) her Lover.
    It's all about what Jesus did; I can't add to that. I can rest in it, though; it will carry and keep me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. From the Middl East10/06/2008 9:05 PM

    I look at my children and ask myself if there is anything either could do to keep me loving them or cause me to love them more.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A couple things jumped out at me - as I too have traveled down portions of the same trail.

    1) Ups & Downs = "I don't feel the presence of Abba/God (Daddy)

    I find He is growing the believer. Firstly, feelings are deceiving (much of the time)...So what is reality, it is what or who God tells us we are in our precious Jesus Christ who is our life. Imperative to know who we are in Christ aka (Who I am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson -> google the site). He bases our identity based on scripture.

    Essentially behaviour does not identify who a believer truly is...say you just had an argument and then gossip about the situation to another (you are feeling full of rage and hurt) - guess what, you are still the salt and light of the earth, you are still a daughter/son of the most high, you are the righteousness of God...on & on....this is when Satan (the Accuser, remember His job description, Destroyer, Father of all lies) is all over most believers. You have to learn to KNOW who you are IN Christ - FEELINGS Deceive.

    2) Journey away from legalism & not feeling warm and fuzzy cause you feel God is not present. This is most cool lesson to learn. Rotten thing to go through - repeatively until you get it. Legalism and condemnation...KEEP your eyes on Christ, not the body of Christ or anyone else. (Not to say He does not surround you with all you need including true Saints/cheerleaders/mentors/men and women of God). Let me repeat...keep your eyes on Jesus - take your eyes off and look at the body...you will be disappointed every time...even if you look at me.

    Keep Jesus front and centre - here is the hard part. There are going to be many times you do not 'feel' like He is present. Scripture says He never forsakes us, nor leaves us. Are you going to believe what scripture says or what God says. I know some readers will not agree with me - but I think this is a test; or better said a hallmark of a lesson in our walk with Him. The only card you can play is that you have to believe what He says. I find that He then presses in you realize He is still with you; you begin to recall all those sweet times of His tangible presence, you recall all the times of His sweet faithfulness. It is an acid test of the relationship you have with Abba in Christ...your heart aches for Him. He is your life - Col 3.3-4; Gal 2.20...you are discovering it to be so.

    Just tell Him how much you love Him and your going to love Him despite what your feelings are saying. "I love you - and I am not going to stop loving you, whether I feel you present or not. You are faithful based upon your track record, dearest Father."

    Don't let a pebble in the trail take you off course - stay with the shepherd leading us sheep.

    ReplyDelete
  5. ...It's hard to argue with that, WC. What a great encouragement you are to the sons and daughters of God.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was able to relate to the struggles she described in the email.
    I might still be able to give her all the tips in an attempt to help her but the truth is I still have struggles. Sorry if it sounds negative. But on a positive side, my struggle with my identity has been unbelievably decreased since God started showing the truth about His love, grace and acceptance.

    To tell an example, I seek less approval from people. When people do not approve/recognize/respect me, I am quite okay with it and most times it doesn't offend me (at least). I think it's due to my unconscious awareness of who I am in Christ - perfectly loved, fully forgiven and perfectly accepted.

    To come to this point, I didn't deliberately do anything. Instead, through bible, books, blogs, radio etc God shows me His unfailing love and how precious we are as His children to Him.

    The more I know/aware of His love, the more I am at peace. I am not talking about learning all the systematic theology and figuring out all the rocket science. I am saying a simple thing - the more we know His love for us, the more we are at peace, rest and contentment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Matthew,

    I think what you've said here, as well as on your blog on the same subject, fits in perfectly here.

    "Allow God to work in us and we work it out. He initiates, we respond."

    Amen to that! SOOOO much that is taught today puts the "responsibility" on us to work on ourselves to know and love God more... but really it's His work in us - His initiation of it all - and our response to Him in faith as all of it gets 'worked out' of us.

    ReplyDelete
  8. RJW,

    What I like about all of what you've said is that the focus is on Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and His love for us and His life in us, rather than a focus on doing, doing, doing, and trying to perform this Christian life for Him. We are God's family, His children, His Bride. We are accepted in the Beloved, Jesus Christ Himself, on the basis of His love and grace and nothing we've done. This kind of continuous focus on Him and not me - which I believe is what life in Christ is all about - is what has helped me to become steadied in the good news.

    ReplyDelete
  9. From the Middl East,

    You have shared very succinctly something that I believe really gets to the heart of God's love for us. Thanks so much for sharing that.

    ReplyDelete
  10. WC,

    Thank you for taking the time to encourage the body of Christ. I know all of what you've shared comes from your experience in loving Daddy and being loved by Him.

    You've hit on so many important keys, such as a focus on Him and our true identity in Him apart from our behavior or performance, as well as something that is also very important - knowing that the Accuser does his job well, and that we must not rely upon all those deceiving feelings that keeps us from knowing and being grounded in the Truth.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bino,

    Your first part here was refreshingly honest, in saying that you still have struggles. I can truly relate to all of this as well. That's one of the things I'm hoping to hear from people. Just the fact that we still deal with struggles in understanding and appropriating God's love and truth.

    As for the rest of what you said, I think it's very helpful that you shared the kinds of ways in which your struggles have decreased due to learning more and more about God's love, grace and acceptance. As I see it, you've essentially boiled it down to the simplicity that is in Christ. The Christian world - including myself - can get so caught up in theology and figuring things out that we miss Christ and His love.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well... one thought I have - this board is so refreshing! Thanks for sharing everyone.

    One piece that hit me is that you need to know who you are in christ - but that is hard to do if what I'm hearing isn't from the Word - so I think that is key for me. Somehow, personally, I need to knwo the Word well enough that when the enemy shouts lies at me I can shut him out with truths from the Bible. Now - I gotta believe who I am in Christ - much easier to believe the world who surrounds (even the church).

    I had another thouht... what if we as bleievers were able to counter-act some stuff we hear. Say you are listening to a sermon and legalism creaps in... what if we were able to say - "I see what point the pastor is trying to make, but isn't it great Christ has done it for me?"

    This is such an abstract thing - it is hard to put grips on it withouth getting into DOING again! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Dear A

    Dont's worry about silly debates with the body...or the Accusor.

    When the Accusor arrives: simply state "I am found Hidden in Christ who is my life - deal with Him!"

    Knowing who you are in Christ by discovering it in Scripture should be a pleasure - never a 'ism' or a hardship. Neil T. Anderson has a good site - google 'Who I am in Christ'

    When ever you are confused about something that a Pastor has said or an 'authority' - go the root...meaning ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth...be patient. He is our teacher...lean on Him and not others. I think we let people speak into our lives who have no place or authority. Christ delights speaking His truth into our lives.

    Hang in there and don't let anyone take you down another trail.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous,

    One thing in particular that you said really stands out to me:

    "Now - I gotta believe who I am in Christ - much easier to believe the world who surrounds (even the church)."

    I have found that often it has been especially the church that has made it hard for me to understand my identity in Christ. We really need to get rooted and grounded in our identity in Christ, but sadly the church focuses on do's and don'ts and methods and principles for living, but often leaves out (or barely touches on) our new nature and identity in Christ.

    The Bible says we're saints but we're taught that we're sinners. The Bible says we've become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus but the church teaches that we have to work to earn it. The Bible says we're complete in Christ but we're taught that all our efforts are going to get us closer to that mark.

    As Matthew said in an earlier comment, there is some "working out" to do but it's more of a response to God's working in and through us rather than a working to try to attain something.

    WC has mentioned Neil T. Anderson and I highly recommend his books/materials as well. Victory Over the Darkness is a great book.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Joel,
    What can be said, I see alot of comments, and good things to say said by everyone.
    I understand all of the concepts of grace and accept them, but it is such a constant struggle, I really understand the writer of that letters frustration. I know everyone who can breath has to of some degree experienced these same problems, but it still seems like everyone else is doing and relating far better than I am (I know its not about what I do just have a hard time with it). It does not take much for me to fall like a rock in the doubt that I am not good enough because I do not do enough, or think rightly enough. Perhaps God will get annoyed and brush me off like I have "felt" so many people do, or just plain patronize me. I know it sounds bad, but those are just some of the fears and worries that come from somewhere in my mind. I don't want to go on, just say that I know what it feels like to "know" the truth of it not being about what I do, or who I am in this world, but have a really hard time keeping it for myself. I am working on it and believe that possitive steps and changes are occuring. I know I changed my blog, lol, thats just another insecurity, I got freaked out and felt out of place and did the delete and run thing, some day I will get the confidence to allow some of how I feel out but its just not now.
    Ron

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ron,

    Thanks so much for sharing your honest thoughts. I think many people can relate to you. I've been growing in understanding grace and my identity in Christ for well over a decade now, and I still have those times of "knowing the facts" but yet not really living confidently in the truth.

    That's one reason why I so very often stress that growth is by no means instantaneous, and in fact is a lifelong process. And it's especially true in the performance-based church of today in which grace and our identity is barely taught, if taught at all. Because of all that, when a person begins to understand grace, there is a lot of "unlearning" to be done, and it takes a long time.

    As much as we can, we need to keep ourselves encouraged in the truth of the gospel. I think we need to hear things over and over and over again before they're truly internalized.

    ReplyDelete