Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The "Prone To Wander" Fallacy

One of the verses to the old hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," goes like this:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
I realize that the hymn in its entirety, and even this verse, is an expression of the writer's hope in grace and mercy, but yet I see him hoping in an anemic grace.  For one, I see him stating some mistruths, and secondly I see him asking God for what God has already given him!  My intention is not to criticize the writer, but to point out more of the fullness and power and vitality and far-reaching-ness of grace that seems to be lacking.

One of the first thoughts I have is that the hymn speaks of a "wandering heart."  It even says we are prone to wander, and prone to leave the One we love.  The word "prone" implies that it is our default position.  The word means "having a natural inclination or tendency to something."  To have a heart that is "prone" to something means that the heart is always set toward it.

To say that a "wandering heart" is the condition of a person who is in Christ is to be ignorant of the fullness of the reality of what has happened to that person due to the grace of God and the life of Christ that richly indwells them!  We have been given a new heart.  God took away our old stony heart and replaced it with a brand new heart and a new spirit that is one spirit with Him and that partakes in His nature!  He has made us a new creation. This new creation life is not prone to be a wandering heart.  It's not prone to leave God.  The complete opposite is true!  Our new heart has already been established in Christ, and sealed and anointed and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor 1:21-22).
Again, we are joined together with God as one spirit (1 Cor 6:17) and have become partakers of His very nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Peter encourages us in the far-reaching effectiveness and sufficiency of God's grace by saying that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises..." (2 Peter 1:3-4).  This hardly suggests a heart that is "prone to wander!"

Do we get this?  Or do we continue to give more credit to the flesh than to the Spirit?  Yes, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Gal 5:17), but is not our confidence in the overcoming strength and power and sufficiency of the Spirit?!  The fact that the flesh lusts against the Spirit is no reason to believe that the lusts of the flesh are what we are prone to do or follow!  Seemingly unbeknownst to many Christians, "the flesh" is not who we are.  However you want to describe the entity or power known as "the flesh," it in no way whatsoever represents the reality of who we are, and it is in no way an equal match for the Spirit!

Just because we do things that don't line up with the reality of the New Creation that we are, doesn't mean we are "prone" to do those things.  If we "feel" prone to wander or prone to leave the God we love, those feelings don't make it a reality.  We are putting more trust in our feelings than in the sufficiency of God to keep us.  He Himself has bound us to Himself, and Himself to us, and we cannot for a moment do a thing to break that binding!  Do we not realize that it is not "we" who keep ourselves bound to Him, but He who lovingly and faithfully and forever keeps us safely and securely bound to Him?  If we have become partakers of the divine nature, then do we not realize that it is our natural inclination to walk according to the Spirit!

Having been wrongfully taught that they are victims of two warring natures (a sin nature vs. a righteous nature), rather than being taught that their old nature died with Christ and then a brand new nature was born and made alive with the resurrected Christ, many Christians are confused and perplexed about their behavior, and they think that because they sometimes sin (or even often sin), that they are helpless victims who will always have a propensity to sin until they leave their earthly bodies.

Now I'm not saying that I never do anything that goes against the reality of my new nature.  That's not the case for me or for any Christian.  But just because we do things that are contrary to our true new nature does not mean that we are prone to do those things or that it is our nature to do those things.  It doesn't even mean we like to do those things!  I know that I may get temporary pleasure in doing certain things that are contrary to my nature, but yet the reality is that I hate it when I do those things. And because my true nature is one that is infused with the divine nature, it's my very nature to be identified with the Holy Spirit and to do "divine nature" things.

Be assured that as a Christian, you are not a "sinner."  You are not identified by your behavior.  You are not prone to wander.  You are not prone to leave God.  You may "feel" like it sometimes, but those feelings are not the reality.  The grace of God has provided something for you that is far greater than a helpless existence as a sinner who can't help but sin and who ebbs and flows and wavers in your relationship with God.  He has sealed you in Himself and has established you as a saint who is seated with Him in heavenly places.  Rest in who He is and who He has made you to be, and get yourself established in His unconditional love and grace, and you will never have to worry again about this fallacy of a heart that is prone to wander!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

GIG 250 - Does Grace Free Us to Do as We Please?

As children of God, we "abide" in Christ, just as a branch abides in a vine. God produces His fruit in and through us as we rest in Him. A branch itself doesn't produce fruit. A branch bears the fruit that came from the life of the vine.  The life is in the Vine.  As branches in the Vine, we can do nothing apart from Christ.

The grace of God - not law or religion - is what motivates us and also enables us to live godly lives. And not only that, but God has given us a brand new nature. This new nature is the essence of who we are. The things that our new nature wants to do are natural expressions of the life of Christ that we've been joined together with.

Some people say that if we remove law, rules, religion, etc, and preach the grace of God, this will cause people to go out and do whatever they want to. Well, in light of all of the above, what do you think? Would this really be a bad thing?? :)

Click here to listen to the Growing in Grace podcast.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Love Over Law

There was already a law that said, "Do not commit adultery," but the law had no power to make the woman keep it. If there was to be future triumph over sin in the woman's life, it would not be the law that would provide it. Love, mercy, grace, compassion. That's what the woman received from Jesus.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Video blog: Such a Magnificent Gift That We Can't Repay

Do we really understand the magnitude of the gift that we've received from God? The One through whom ALL THINGS WERE CREATED and in whom ALL THINGS CONSIST and are HELD TOGETHER (Jesus Himself - see Col 1:16-17) /emptied Himself/ and allowed Himself to be put into a woman's womb, be born as a baby, grow as a child and... man, get beaten and whipped and have nine inch nails driven into his feet and wrists - and not only that, He BECAME SIN FOR US (2 Cor 5:21)!!


The good news is that He's neither expecting us nor wanting us to repay Him. It's a GIFT! It's an insult to the Spirit of Grace if we even begin to think there's something we can or must do to repay God. Again, He's not looking for us to do that. He gave the gift, not looking for something from us in return, but because He "so loved the world!"

GIG 249 - If It's Not About Morality and Religion, Then What?

As we talked about last week, life was never meant to be lived according to what some have called the "religion tree" or the "morality tree" (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil).  But if people think life in Christ is based in any way on their morality or performance, they end up resorting back to religion - to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They know no other way to live, than according to their own knowledge of good and evil.

But if life in Christ is not about morality and religion, then what is it about?  If it's not about our own pursuit of right and wrong, then how do we know how to live?  It involves getting away from the religion and morality tree, and in many ways it begins with understanding our new identity in Christ.  We're not trying to become something by maintaining a certain level of performance or morality.  Rather, God has already made us righteous and He's already given us a brand new identity that He is already fully pleased with and that He fully accepts!  So rather than "doing" in order to try to become what we think God wants us to be, we are meant to rest and relax in who He has already made us to be, and to live from our new identity.

Click here to listen to the Growing in Grace podcast.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Guilt and Shame Lifted Away

"Sinners" don't need to be guilted and shamed into changing their ways. A common misconception in the world today is that Jesus came wagging his finger at people when they sinned. But that's exactly the opposite of what He did. He loved people and accepted them like they'd never been loved and accepted before. He lifted away the guilt and shame and set people on the path to freedom.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

GIG 248 - Freedom from the Religion Tree

According to one definition, "religion" means "to bind," as in being bound to a list of obligations. Religion was never meant to be how mankind lived, or how they related to God. Where did religion begin? This week we go back to the Garden of Eden, to the time when Adam and Eve chose "religion" by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Were Adam and Eve pursuing "sin" as we would call it today? Were they pursuing a certain form of "sinful" or "evil" behavior? Actually, the Tree wasn't just an "evil" tree. It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good AND Evil. Their problem wasn't that they were pursuing "sin," but really that they were pursuing a form of godliness!

In the pursuit of the knowledge of good and evil, they were trying to be like God on their own - through their own sense of morality.  They were exchanging a free relationship with God for religion.  It became bondage for them, rather than providing further freedom.  And people still do the same today!  We have exchanged the life of freedom in Christ for a life of following moral obligations.

Some have referred to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the "Morality Tree" or the "Religion Tree."  We need to get away from the bondage of this tree - living by our own morality and religion - and get back to the Tree of Life!

Click here to listen to the Growing in Grace podcast.

Bang the Drum - Let Your Freedom Ring!

This song is from a band that came right out of Waterloo, Iowa. The band's name was Fighter, and the female lead singer (not featured on lead in this song) was Amy Wolter, who is the announcer for our Growing in Grace podcast.

This is a totally rockin' and cool anti-legalism, pro-freedom-in-Christ song! It's the title track to Fighter's "Bang the Drum" album. I first posted this three years ago, but there was no video on youtube to go along with it. Now someone has posted the song (see below).
Fighter - Bang the Drum

You don't remember me but I know you all too well
I lived inside your legalistic prison cell
Caught in your religious talk
Your rules became a stumbling block
And I fell

Too many years I sat behind your bars of doubt
That held the fear and bondage in
And joy of freedom out
Till I heard the drums of liberty
And grace revealed the key that left no doubt
So let me out!

Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!
(Oh let your freedom ring)
Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!

You taught me well to cross my t's and dot my i's
What looked so good to men would soon begin my own demise
I worked to keep my record straight
But all I learned was how to hate my life

I lost my balance on your rope so high and tight
When I fell I found a knife of condemnation in my eye
Then I felt the blade go in my back
And a noose around my neck to hang me high
But you told me a lie!

Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!
(Oh let your freedom ring)
Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!

I live in liberty in light of what I saw
This covenant that Jesus made
You turned into a law
That law was there to show my need
But he who God sets free is free indeed - yeah!

Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!
(Oh let your freedom ring)
Bang the drum - Let your freedom ring!

A few years ago I wrote an article entitled Let Your Freedom Ring for my church that was based upon this song and how I relate to the lyrics.

Happy Freedom Day!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Mick Mooney - Searching for Grace - Part 4

In the fourth and final part of my interview with Mick Mooney, creator of the Searching for Grace comic strip, we cover a range of subjects, but stay mostly on the idea of walking by the Spirit and not walking according to religion. Mick says that being under grace is being under the very nature of God. He also talks a bit about the idea of rules and accountability partners vs. walking according to the Spirit of God.

Many today seem to be trying to walk in the Spirit inside the confines of "religion," which is of course something too small for God to fit in! Many try to fit the various aspects of their faith into the things they are doing (programs, institutions, etc), and end up twisting theology to fit their systems.

When the world looks at us, they shouldn't see religion, but rather a genuine expression of the nature of God. Mick goes into all of this and much more this week, so I hope you'll tune in and hear the good things he has to say about living a genuine life in Christ, apart from religion!

Check out the Searching for Grace comic and other things about Mick at searchingforgrace.com.

Listen here: gigcast.graceroots.org

The Essence of Life Is Grace

Grace is not merely one "subject" of many in the Christian life. Grace is the essence of the entirety of the Christian life. Grace is not only for "salvation," but grace continues to be the essence of all of life.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hole Hearted

This song had a HUGE impact on my life in early 1991. I had the album (in the form of a cassette tape) that this song from Extreme appears on. The cassette is called Pornograffitti.  Most of the songs on the album do not contain what anyone would call "spiritual" or "Christian" lyrics by any stretch of the imagination.  :)  But at the end of the tape, the two final songs seemed to have a "sobering" affect on me.  Both Song for Love and Hole Hearted would melt my heart during that last year before I truly began my walk with Christ.

A sample of the Song for Love lyrics:
These walls of hate
That separate one from the other
Time to rebuild
Bridges of love
One to another
Come on, let's sing a song

A song for you
A song for me
A song for love

All for one and one for all together
Singing a song for love
You and I are none without the other
Singing a song for love
The entire song is great.  But it was really Hole Hearted that played a huge part in the change that eventually occurred in my life, a year later.  Long story short, I've "always" been a believer.  As far back as I can remember in life, back to my childhood, I've believed in Jesus.  But somewhere along the line, I got the fallacious idea that a relationship with Him was based upon my behavior.  And since my teenage years were pretty much identified with partying and other things that "I'm not supposed to do," I never felt that I could have a close relationship with God until I somehow got my act together.

I did believe that it was only through God Himself that I could ever actually do that, which holds a grain of truth but yet kept me in the erroneous thinking that I had to keep on waiting and waiting and waiting for the day that the Lord would miraculously start making me "live right," and then I'd finally be able to have a relationship with Him.

And so "Hole Hearted" comes along:
Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I'm not blind, why can't I see
That a circle can't fit where a square should be

There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart can't be filled with the things I do
As I said, this song melted my heart.  I was taking part time courses at Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids, which was about 80 miles from my home in Waverly, and I drove there 2 or 3 times per week.  I can quite vividly remember listening to this tape on my drive a few times, and balling my eyes out when this song came on.  The Lord was definitely calling me in a way like I'd never known.

And yet I still had this false understanding that I couldn't truly know the Lord until my behavior changed.  At the time, the lyrics "And this hole in my heart can't be filled with the things I do" meant to me that I couldn't really have a relationship with the Lord until I stopped doing the "wrong" things and started doing what was "right."

Well, years have gone by since that time, and since then I've come to realize that one thing really is true.  The "hole in my heart" can't be filled with the things I do.  However, that doesn't only apply to the "wrong" things that I do.  It also applies to the "good" that I try to do in order to try to maintain a relationship with God.  As a "committed Christian," even the good stuff that I would try to do to please the Lord and maintain a good standing with Him would still never fill any void that I felt.  The song - or at least my interpretation of it - was only half right.

I can never be fulfilled through the foolish and sinful choices I make in life.  In that respect, a circle can never fit where a square should be.  It's simply the truth.  But it's equally as true that whatever I try to do within my own strength to keep myself "right" with God can also never bring true fulfillment.  The only thing that can truly make all the pieces fit has absolutely nothing to do with my behavior.  It has only to do with knowing the unconditional love and grace of God, not so much as a doctrine, but truly knowing Him.  The only time the pieces fit is when I throw out the circles and squares and I simply rest in Him.