Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Vast Sea of Grace - Part 4

Well, Part 3 was going to be the end of this. But I "accidentally" came across some of my notes from September 5, 2001 that sort of go along with this, so I thought I'd add some more. I was actually in the process of looking for something completely different, for a completely different reason... and a wireless notebook accidentally popped open to these notes from 2001. I curiously began reading what I'd written back then, and my jaw fell wide open as I realized how much it related to all of this. I thought maybe I'd simply type up those notes verbatim, but the way I take notes can generally only be interpreted by me, so I'll attempt to give the gist of it!

My notes started off like this (and this is verbatim):
"Instead of only focusing on trying to be obedient to God, it's good to have a good foundation of 'why.' It's one thing to know what He wants us to do, and often that's all we know. But to have a foundation in the Heart of God will shed perhaps a better perspective. To know 'do unto others as you'd like done to yourself,' and to do it only because of obedience, might get the job done, but not with the right heart."

I think what I was trying to say is that "just doing what the Word says" (as if it were that simple) might yield some results, but that doesn't mean obedience came from a heart of love, which has been built up over a period of time as a result of growing in grace.

I went on to write about "loving your neighbor as yourself" being not simply a command that God gave just for the sake of giving a command, but it truly is a reflection of the reality of who He is. I gave an example of that in Part 3 of this series, from 2 Cor 3:8, where it says that Christ who was rich became poor so that through His poverty we might become rich. That really is who God is. To love our neighbor as we love ourselves isn't something we can do to make ourselves more righteous. Rather it's a reflection of God's very nature.

And the only way for us to even begin to reflect God's nature is by His grace, not through obedience to commands. We seem to often have it backwards. The only way that I can even begin to have such love for my neighbor that I would do even one little thing for him (from a genuine heart of love) would be to first understand the value of that person apart from anything he's ever done to earn that value and apart from anything evil he's ever done. I would also have to understand who I am as someone who is in union with God Himself.

Again, I could go about my life, trying to obey commands, and even have some success, and still not have one ounce of love. Let's even take it this far: I could hear Jesus' command to love my neighbor as myself, and understand that to be truly obedient to that means that I sell all my possessions and give to the poor, and therefore in an effort to be obedient, I do actually sell all that I have and give to the poor. But yet I could do all this and still have absolutely no love. It would be obedience based upon... obedience... rather than doing it because I've grown in grace and I'm naturally reflecting God's love. I could say, "Lord, Lord, look what I've done in your name," and He could reply, "Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you."

Which brings us back to the vast sea of grace! As we swim around in it and as we become rooted, grounded and established in it, over a period of time, we find more and more that "His commandments are not burdensome... for whatever is born of God overcomes the world... and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." (1 John 5:3-4). I believe the reason we end up finding that His commandments are not burdensome is because it ends up not being us who performs them. His love working in and through us, by His grace, is what is doing it all along. But if it's up to our own attempts to walk in anything that comes from the Word of God, then we bind ourselves to a heavy burden that we can never bear!

Grace, grace and more grace! What we need is to lay down our burdens, unshackle our hands and feet from the bondage of the law and legalism, and swim freely in the vast sea of grace!

Entire "Vast Sea of Grace" Series:
Prelude: Just follow the Word, right?
The Vast Sea of Grace: Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- >Part 4<
Summaries: So close but yet so far -- Far Cry -- Be a Man


  1. This is a wonderful post, Joel. It really gets to the heart of what obedience means. Like Paul said, "I could give my body to be burned, but if I have not love, I profit nothing."

    Obedience to commands is not necessarily obedience to God.

    You know I was outside a few nights ago and I looked up at the moon. It was a clear night, and the moon was shining very bright. The Spirit spoke to me I think and said told me that it isn't the moon producing that light. It's reflecting the glory of the sun. The light comes from the sun. The moon is just a big ball of dirt. (He remembers that we are but dust)

    It reminded me of what John said when he said, "In Him was life. And the life was the light of men."

  2. Amen.

    I could do and and do and do a lot of great things, but it's nothing unless it comes from a heart of real love. And the point in these posts is that real love can't be conjured up or forced. It's something we grow in, and as we grow in it, it begins to overflow.

    I like your word about the moon and the light. Like the moon, we're "vessels" that simply reflect the light of Another. We're mere clay jars apart from the true glory of God who lives in us, and we remain clay jars to show that the all-surpassing power is His and not ours.