The Quotable ‘Mike’

CC BY-NC, Enokson, Flickr

Enokson NC

“We may hang onto God, but we’ll always be trying to fix ourselves, always trying to pay a debt that has already been forgiven. If we don’t realize that the burden has been removed, we’ll continue dealing with the agony and frustration—the guilt—that comes with trying to lift it, never experiencing freedom.”

from What to Do About Grace

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On the Original Human

I’d like to know your thoughts on this thesis:

The fall of Adam and Eve reduced the human race to a cruder form of its original self requiring its education and technological evolution and maturation.

Leave None Behind

CC BY-NC-ND, U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos, Flickr

CC BY-NC-ND, U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos, Flickr

We are a church culture that ranks sins. A few get to tell glowing testimonies of how they were freed from their flaws while others know not to breathe a word about their past misdeeds—at least not the whole story—for fear of being scorned by some or investigated about the extent of their freedom.

This is shameful. It demonstrates that some of us have not understood the nature of sin, that we all stand under the same curse and that the mite of sin is as great as the vilest and most flagrant. We have also not understood the holy nature of God, his seamlessly pure moral character, or the extravagant grace that rescues us all from equal depravity.

Keep the Main Thing…

I like the way Paul addresses the fact—and how do we miss the point?

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

So profound! Paul highlights issues that were specific to Corinthian society and his hearers; so we gain a telling picture of Corinth. What I love here is that one’s particular “sin background” is non-essential; instead, believers now stand redeemed by the work of Christ—and that’s all that matters, not the once-but-delivered ailment.

If we’re not careful, we will make a big deal about sin and lose love for sinners and fellow believers who wrestle with internal conflicts. We would do well to remember the words of Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God.” Make sure, the writer explains, that no one—sinner or saint—lacks of the Lord’s great kindness.

Assessing Our Approach

Therefore, our churches must be spiritual communities where harbored sin in people’s lives breaks our hearts and where we have mastered a quick prayerful, loving, and restorative response, in the same way a body heals itself.

Compassion is the key. It characterized Jesus’s approach with others. And Paul, in Galatians 6:1, reminds us to compassionately restore those in indiscretion mindful that not only are we too susceptible to sin, but also to their kind of sin.

Sin will (and should) always be an affront to God’s holy nature in us, yet we must stop being surprised and shocked by the personal matters family, friends, and peers share with us. We are all human and err. Amazement only makes one feel bad about divulging their troubles; it also makes them question if God really cares about them.

Sin ain’t pretty. Yours wasn’t. So we dare not offend the Lord by being insensitive to others and impede ministry before it starts.

This isn’t just about sinners bearing all, if you’re still missing the point. Christians trip up and get bound, too. The context for Galatians 6 is the believing community; so Paul continues, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2, NKJV).

So our churches must be havens where certainly the godly can unpack their burdens and receive guidance and healing prayer. We should think this normal, but it isn’t hardly the case. It is sad that some Christians are scornful, judgmental, untrustworthy, and unloving toward their own—how can the lost ever be saved!

A New Culture

I’m concerned we err because we take our cues from the non-Christian culture around us, not the word of God. But the kingdom of God is our culture, a new and shockingly transformative one, and its implications are monumental. No, we don’t think and act the way the world does; our actions and responses will indeed be revolutionary and countercultural and make non-Christians wonder about our dissimilarity.

And our difference should be most evident in our relationships, the one aspect Jesus seems to deem the very purpose of our lives (cf. Mark 12:28-34). Thus, we take none for granted, neither those with the most need for an assurance of grace nor those who already possess it but need strengthening.

We will best love others and be most real with ourselves when we stop cherry-picking sin and esteem the marvelous grace that rescues us all.

More on this topic: The Need for Transparency

Where Freedom Ends

CC BY-NC, srietzke, Flickr

CC BY-NC, srietzke, Flickr

Most of us know exactly where we’d be if we didn’t have the Lord in our lives. We like to act as if sin were so obscure and a bygone issue for us. You know—“there’s no telling” what or how many things we could be caught up in. I usually don’t buy that from people, however, because our flesh hasn’t forgotten the taste of sin and we repeatedly trip over certain indiscretions. Don’t feel bad about it.

It’s important to be aware of our relation to sin; it will make us watchful of vice and keep us relying on grace. It’s also good to know that our deprave nature doesn’t impinge on the work of Christ for us. We are free in him despite our sinful condition. I’ll explain by using an illustration.

My elementary school was three separate buildings. Outside the main building and field area was a fence. That fence protected the space and kids from a few things: a busy street, railroad tracks on the other side, and any possible bad person who could enter the schoolyard.

Children had the freedom to play within the yard safely as long as they remained on the yard, the protected space. Further, the fence granted everyone freedom to learn and play, even children who may have had curious or mischievous desires to run off, who were no less free for having those desires. But no such freedom (to learn and play) existed outside the fence.

The Choice to Stay Free

Galatians 5:13 expresses this concept perfectly: “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom” (Message).

I’ll use myself as an example. I am no saint. (Surprise!) I love God with every part of me, except those unlovable parts that cannot love him—features of my person permeated with sin and craving of sins Michael fights. I’m okay acknowledging this, and it’s why I say we know where our hearts could lead us.

But just because I battle impulses averse to my calling in Christ and sometimes wish to venture beyond that “fence of grace,” it doesn’t negate the grace of God in my life, or in yours. It means that we have to teach ourselves how to walk in the Spirit in order not to gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

Let me point out something from the illustration. We possess freedom only within the guidelines of holiness, for we have been freed to live for God. It is not ironic that Paul uses legal language and refers to the law of the Spirit of Christ freeing us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

One’s freedom exists in obligation to the person or thing that frees. A government permits individual liberties according to the laws of the land. Ours is a holy obligation to our Savior to live with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). But leaving the play area ends our freedom to enjoy these things.

Participating in sin doesn’t mean we cease belonging to God. His grace will still keep us in our sinfulness—as mercy—but why leave ourselves to the mercy of God and risk consequence?

Let’s fight to stay free. Let’s love our freedom too much to leave it for the briefest moment in which Satan can take advantage of us. Let us cease viewing the grace of God as barring us from something and instead see it as liberating us to relish all good things. Stop obsessing over the fence and what’s beyond it and enjoy the yard.

In your time of temptation and struggle, stop, think, and say aloud to yourself, “This is where my freedom ends.”