Peeling Back the Layers

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I continue to learn the truth of grace as the layers of legalism peel away.  Grace is so deep, so lavishly given, I don’t believe the depths will ever be plunged.  And even as we experience “utopia” in heaven, I have a feeling all the praise will be in response to His scandalous gift…over and over and over…throughout eternity.

If you haven’t understood the freedom of living in Christ, you may be walking in self-righteous piety and expecting all rules to be “kept” as you carefully examine those around you.  And I say that from a place of experience.  It really can’t be helped.  If you are dutifully behaving before devotedly loving, you will be looking at everyone else to be sure they get it right too.  You may have a list of rules you believe are the “proof” of salvation and quickly recite them in your “gospel” presentation.  But it’s not truly the good news you’re sharing.  It’s another millstone being wrapped around your captive’s neck.

I’m learning more about grace.  He keeps taking me to deeper and deeper levels.  And please understand, that’s not a pious thing.  It comes from a place of being in desperate need of forgiveness.  As the dark, hidden corners of my heart become more and more exposed to His Light, I see how gracious He has been to forgive me from the foundation of the earth.

From the time I burned out from religious duty to today — this new understanding of grace — it’s been sixteen years.  Sixteen years of many lessons learned.  Much obedience, much teaching, much loss, much hurt, much misunderstanding, much sacrifice, much pain, and now, most recently, much rebellion. 

Remember, I was a “goody-goody”.  I never rebelled.  Now my parents may think I did, but they were much “goodier” than me.  I must say, there is a reason teenagers rebel.  Working through what they’ve been taught, or not taught, causes trial and error and growth and hopefully, eventually, maturity.  I did mature in many ways, by the grace of God.  And I thank God for my parents and their strict rules, for I was saved much heartache.  But I didn’t go through the “usual teenage angst”.  And now, I’m learning, it’s not so pretty this side of  forty.  Okay, forty-five.  (Shoot.  Forty-seven.  For a couple more months.  👿 ) 

My CR sisters have begun calling me a rebellious little sh**.  And I have been.  Many of them have begun to learn what it means to live with Christian discipline. I am learning what it means to be loved, for even a sinner such as I.   The pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other…and I’m getting a new glimpse of grace.

Do you love Jesus?  We talk so much about how He loves us, but I have found if one hasn’t fallen in love with Him, then it may not be understood what all you’ve been forgiven.  I learned of the love of Jesus from a very early age.  I sang about His love for years and years before I understood what it meant.  I honestly wondered about the verse, “We love because He first loved us.”  Really?! Did He REALLY love ME?? That didn’t make sense to me, for I knew of rules and duty before I understood His love and grace.  Love was conditioned upon my keeping the rules.

But now…I’m beginning to see His mercy, His grace, His love…it’s deeper than all my sins:

“Therefore I tell you,
her sins, which were many, are forgiven,
thus she loved much;
but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”
~Jesus

Only sinners are in need of a Savior.

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11 responses »

  1. “If you haven’t understood the freedom of living in Christ, you may be walking in self-righteous piety and expecting all rules to be “kept” as you carefully examine those around you. And I say that from a place of experience. It really can’t be helped. If you are dutifully behaving before devotedly loving, you will be looking at everyone else to be sure they get it right too. You may have a list of rules you believe are the “proof” of salvation and quickly recite them in your “gospel” presentation. But it’s not truly the good news you’re sharing. It’s another millstone being wrapped around your captive’s neck.

    “I’m learning more about grace. He keeps taking me to deeper and deeper levels. And please understand, that’s not a pious thing. It comes from a place of being in desperate need of forgiveness. As the dark, hidden corners of my heart become more and more exposed to His Light, I see how gracious He has been to forgive me from the foundation of the earth.”

    I was just looking at other blogs with the “grace” tag, and…whoa! I’ve come across yours, ConsiderJesus, and… Yes, yes, and…YES!!! You definitely have got this down *exactly* as it is… I, too, am right there with you on the other side of this life-sized “pendulum”: Now I *much* prefer wanting to give ~ and to receive, too;-) ~ GRACE! Whereas in my growing-up years, it was ALL “about” keeping the rules, sticking to the rules, pinning down others’ ears(!) who weren’t as good at rule-keeping as were the rest of us, but NOW… {Sigh} Anyone who desperately needs forgiveness, is one who should be (oops! did I just write that ‘should’ word in there?!) among the MOST grace-giving, forgiving, accepting of others who are busily “making a list & checking it twice” of other Jesus-followers. I love what Jesus said to Peter (paraphrased)… “those who have been FORGIVEN much LOVE much…” Bet we could swap out the word “love” for “give grace” much…

    THANKS for speaking clearly what God’s “up to” in your life! — from a former rule-keeper – who wants to be known as a grace-giver;-)

  2. Everything I have read about the faith of the Christ Follower is that it comes through a personal relationship with God. This relationship in not defined by anyone else’s rules but God’s. God’s rule is love.

    The need for forgiveness is what drives guilt. Guilt is a very poor reason to do anything.

    Learning to use love as the basis for living in the world requires a great deal of faith. The fear that love will not be returned needs to be replaced by the certainty that it will be. The more certain you become that God loves you, the easier it becomes to live by his faith.

    There are rules created by the world you now live in. How well you comply with these rules determines how well you will live in society. God’s rule of love determines how well you will live in the Heaven.

  3. I have understood more clearly this year than ever before, that we humans can only give what we have received. Our imagination is powerful; but not so powerful that we can imagine God–imagine love. If we try, we fall miserably short. It is absolutely inevitable. We are only capable of loving exactly to the extent that we have been loved. So the pressure to perform … is 100% not of God. Because it couldn’t possibly work. All we could do is try to pretend as well as we can. There is no substance unless we have first received. “We love Him because He first loved us.” He must do the first loving. He knows this. “Before you called I answered, and while you were still speaking, I heard.” I find the immeasurable goodness of His love to us in that while we were yet sinners … hopelessly lost, without the smallest hope of loving Him back … Christ died for us. He demonstrated His GREAT love for us … before we could think. Before we could hope. Before we could ever begin to imagine a love that great … He poured it out.

    I realize this in such a new, life-changing way, that (as selfish as it may sound) the cry of my heart is now, “Father show me how much you love me! I don’t have the smallest hope of loving anyone, or impacting anyone for You, or doing anything worthwhile or long lasting unless You do this.”

    Because I can only give what I have received.

  4. Hey, Nor. Yes…poverty of spirit…the recognition of why we need Him.

    Welcome, Grace Reigns. Your enthusiasm is contagious. A huge smile spread across my face as I read your comment. Thank you for your encouraging words. And I totally agree, once we realize how much we’ve been forgiven, how do we not extend that forgiveness, that grace, to others? I’m with you. I do NOT want to be thought of as a rule-keeper (anymore) but a grace-giver.

    Hey, Ed. I’m thinking through your statement: The need for forgiveness is what drives guilt. Guilt is a very poor reason to do anything.

    If I hadn’t felt guilty I wouldn’t have sought forgiveness. I believe we are convicted of our sins by the Holy Spirit. And the forgiveness comes through Jesus. Hebrews 10:22-23 puts it this way:

    Let us draw near (to God) with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy.

    My heart is clean from the guilt of my sins (an evil conscience)…and now I am to hold, without wavering, to the promises given: forgiveness, power to overcome, eternal life. Only by His grace have I received forgiveness and am no longer guilty. Now, I can walk in forgiveness and love others with grace. He (Love) freely gave and I am to do the same (love Him and others).

    Amen, Sparkle! I feel I’ve had a fresh glimpse of His great love and lavish grace. You helped me see last year that His love is like a husband’s. And now I’ve experienced the truth of that Love. He will not turn His back on me…He remains faithful even when I’m not. In much forgiveness is much love. He is the Lover of my soul. His Love draws me nearer and nearer to His heart. And out of my devotion to Him, I can love as He loves. It’s like I’ve said so many times before: I can obey from duty, but I run the risk of being an uptight rule-keeper. The Pharisee doesn’t understand his need of forgiveness. He’s keeping the rules just fine, thankyouverymuch! But the sinner, the one who understands his poverty of spirit…then…I (the sinner) obey from a deep love of my Savior and I will extend the grace, mercy, and forgiveness I am so thankful to have received. Devotion before duty leads to grace given and love extended.

  5. Michelle, you have had a more rewarding experience with guilt than I ever did. 🙂

    You are right that guilt can motivate us to to do something important that we might otherwise have not done.

    Guilt can be a useful first step towards something we need. In my view there should always be a second step. The question, why should we do it.

    It the only answer is guilt, than I don’t think that is good enough. If the person this guilt is coming from is someone we care about, then we are acting out of love, not guilt.

    It the answer is because we have sinned, and seek forgiveness, then we are acting out of need, not guilt.

    What ever your answer was I am happy to see your guilt trip has lead you to something as wonderful as faith.

  6. Yes, Ed. It has been an amazing place, to be free from the guilt of my sins. Paul talks about the godly sorrow which leads to repentance vs. the worldly sorrow that leads to death:

    For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. ~2 Corinthians 7:10 (NLT)

    Now false guilt??? That’s another thing altogether! Hate it. HATE IT!!! 👿

    😉

  7. God is so good! Like you, I spent many years trying to obey the rules–that didn’t work out so well for me–I never managed it at all. Spent a lot of my time feeling guilty and condemned–when I wasn’t feeling righteous and superior. Talk about neurotic! Now I’m just forgiven. Sure I don’t deserve it, but I’m not about to insult His gift by wallowing in condemnation. I’m free, and He did it. No I don’t deserve it, but He loves me! Really! And I am rapturously in love with Him.

  8. “Spent a lot of my time feeling guilty and condemned–when I wasn’t feeling righteous and superior.”

    Perfectly expressed, Cindy! Yes, I did look up the definition of neurotic for one of these posts, but decided I didn’t want to be THAT real. 😆 Freedom in Christ and to truly feel forgiven and loved…it’s amazing!

    Thanks for stopping by and please, come again.

  9. You helped me see last year that His love is like a husband’s. And now I’ve experienced the truth of that Love.

    So SO glad. It is more blessed to give than to receive. The blessing of being in the right place for you that day is one that makes the sunshine come out in my heart. The Body is indeed beautiful.

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