Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lives transformed by God's grace

In my last post I talked about the numerous "Objections to the gospel of grace" that I've come across in my several years of sharing the gospel of grace over the years. My original intent wasn't to just talk about all those objections but to share how those objections are overcome, not just through words and discussions (which can be very beneficial) but through the "proof in the pudding" of lives that are transformed by God's love and grace.

When you preach a gospel that is not based upon our performance but it solely based upon God's grace and the finished work of Jesus, it may very well seem as if you're preaching a gospel of licentiousness and lawlessness, since you're not adding a bunch of "musts," "shoulds," "ifs," "buts" and conditions to the pure words of God's grace and agape love. You're not relying on a bunch of external rules and commandments to get people to serve and to stop sinning. Without all these added extras, people think you're leading others into self-serving, sinful, destructive lifestyles. But is that really what happens when God's love and grace is spread around liberally???

I'll pick up where I left off in my last post when I said, "Let me tell you something about those who have been gripped by God's love and grace, and who don't have a focus on performance, but on a loving relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit." As God's pure unadulterated love and grace grips them, and as they become established in it and grow in it, they are the most humble, reverential, God loving people you could ever know! Are they perfect in all they do? Of course not! But their lives are transformed day by day through love and grace, and instead of relying on a bunch of external conditions, they grow in God's love and grace and their outward actions become more of a natural expression of God's life in them, rather than a plastic imitation.

As they learn more about God's unconditional love, grace and acceptance of them, that's not based upon their performance, they begin to look at themselves more and more in the way that God looks at them - not as unworthy worms, but as new creations, created in His likeness, with a holy and righteous nature. They boast about God. They stand in awe of Him and of the work that He does in them individually and in the body of Christ as a whole. They realize that apart from Him they can do nothing and with Him all things are possible... and He is in them at all times!

They find that they are FREE - not to sin, but free from sin! That makes all the difference as they relate to a God who isn't angry with them but who has set them free to truly know Him in a genuine loving, grace-filled relationship. They learn that they need not be afraid of God - EVER. They learn that they need not respond to Him out of fear of harsh discipline or hell, but rather out of joy from being loved and accepted as bonafide sons of the living God. They realize that they are not only forgiven, but that God Himself has come to dwell in them and has joined Himself to them, and they begin trusting HIS Life in them!

To be quite frank, they have a lot of crap to deal with, in regards to the legalists in their lives with their lists of commands, principles and conditions, putting pressure on them to perform and get out and serve. But as they become more and more established in God's pure grace and in their true identity in Him, they find themselves with a kind of growth in which they are much more naturally walking out the lives that God has truly given them. Many find that they just don't fit in where the church has told them they need to fit in and they find that they are much more naturally walking in the actual gifts and desires that God Himself has given them. They don't need someone telling them what to do or how to live because they become more deeply connected with their true Life source - Father, Son and Spirit.

Serving others, loving others, accepting others, forgiving others, etc, all become expressions of Christ's life in them, and not duties or rules to follow in order to maintain a right standing with God or to live a "good Christian life." Most of this doesn't happen instantly, either. Growing in God's love, grace and acceptance takes time (especially with the heavy weight of mixed-in legalism to deal with). There's no need to rush any of it. Legalists have a hard time with people not conforming on the spot. Grace filled people understand that we're not conforming to a standard but that we've already been been perfected and made complete, and that our daily lives are a matter of having our minds renewed daily to who we truly already are by the gospel of grace, and that the transformation comes across in many ways over the years, with no need to hurry any of it! It's God's work in them, not their own attempts to change.

I could keep going! You who are growing in grace understand all of this. God's unconditional love and grace are Life to you and you are resting in that. People can try to put you into a box but you know you can't be contained because the God who lives in you and is at work in you can't be contained! Life is a thrill. It's an adventure. It's a joy. It's amazing. You're not stagnant, because there is nothing stagnant about God's love and grace! Like I said, I could keep going! Suffice it to say, the problem in the church is not that unconditional love and grace are taught too much, but rather that they're not taught nearly enough!

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