Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fear of grace

I've recently come into contact with someone named Matthew through the wonderful world of Blogger. Matthew came to the Lord about a year ago, and he has recently taken the plunge into something that he admits he's often afraid of - living solely by God's wonderful grace and trusting the life of Jesus in Him rather than trusting in religion or self-effort in living the Christian life. We've exchanged a couple of emails, and as I read his blog I see so many similarities between his questions and thoughts and the questions and thoughts that I've had and continue to have ever since I took the plunge a dozen years ago.

I can truly relate to the "fear" of living by grace. I remember back to that time 12 years ago when I had been wondering and worrying about giving myself completely over to God's grace. I truly feared that I would fall into licentiousness, or at least that I would get lazy in my Christian walk and would perhaps stop caring about my life in Christ. For a period of time I hesitated, but one day I remember seeing myself in my mind (not a "vision," so to speak, but just an image in my mind) standing near the edge of a cliff. I couldn't see what was over the cliff, but I knew that somewhere down below was a sea of grace. In other words, I knew that "grace" was beyond the cliff, but I couldn't really see what it looked like or what it was all about. But I had heard enough about it, and I can remember finally taking that "virtual" step off of the cliff.

I really didn't know what would happen, but I realized that my step turned into a dive and I found myself free-falling ever so briefly and then there I was, floating restfully in the sea of grace. It's hard to explain the imagery of the mind, but the gist of all this was that I took the plunge and I was no longer trusting in my own strength to live the Christian life and I was solely trusting in grace. I can't begin to tell you how my life changed. The roller coaster ride of feeling joyful when I felt I was performing well, and feeling very low when I wasn't performing so well, was over!

And no, I didn't get lazy in my walk with Jesus. Rather, my walk became restful (soooo different from lazy) and I took on a new-found JOY in serving and walking with Jesus!

And let me tell you about one of the biggest changes that took place at that time. It's in regards to sin. What I'm about to say will scare the living daylights out of legalists. And I can understand, because it was one of my biggest fears that kept me from giving myself over to grace. Part of my plunge into grace involved the decision to stop trying to stop sinning. I fully understand how haphazard and irresponsible that sounds! But follow me through on this - Up to that point in my Christian walk, I had tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried to stop sinning, many many many many many many many times, but the sum total of all my trying was a seeming victory here and there, but mostly a LOT of guilt from failure and from not measuring up to how I thought my "victorious" Christian life should truly be.

So... I gave up trying. Have I had a perfect track record since that day? Of course not! But you see, in addition to simply giving up trying, I also began to trust in the powerful, sufficient grace of God for each and every moment of life. I came to understand that my life in Christ is not a matter of focusing on all the sins that I need to stop doing and all the good things that I need to start doing. My life in Christ is... Christ's life! As I abide in Him, that is, as I simply rest in Him, I live and move and have my being in Him. As I previously learned, if I go off track and "I" try to get myself back on track, my life becomes even more of a mess! As if "I" can keep myself on track or get myself back on track! But His life in me has a way of gently and perfectly restoring the things that I have absolutely no power over.

Mankind was never meant to live an independent life anyway. "Life" has always been by grace. There is no real life apart from dependence upon God, no matter how hard we try and no matter how well we are at faking the real thing.

1 comment:

  1. This is very encouraging. I needed this.

    There are times when I feel myself drifting and thinking there has to be more to it. But your testimony of living in grace reassures me to have patience.

    Thank you so much for the kind words. =)