Father, it is your will that I blog about this and I feel overwhelmed. Please guide my words so that your will be accomplished. Amen.
For anyone who seeks to draw near to God, and reads the scriptures this concept can be a big confusing. I myself was lead to write about this topic when working my book’s brain map yesterday, and I wanted to stop because this topic seems simple, but really it is more complicated as you dig in. I prayed and now I’m going to write as the Lord lead me yesterday. We are given two seemingly contradictory messages when we read the scriptures. On one hand we are warned to obey God, that not one letter of his word is to be left out, and that our bride groom is coming back to retrieve only those who truly love and obey him, and who have been shown approved. This strikes fear in many believers hearts, because as they read scripture, they understand that it is possible that they could fail to be approved when that day comes if they somehow neglect to obey him. So, they fearful run around, frantically they are working out their salvation with “fear and trembling”, literally.
We are also told that we cannot attain his kingdom by keeping the law, but rather, the law is only meant to convict us of sin, but the way to be approved is by our faith (Galations 3:1-14). So on one end of the spectrum we are warned to obey God and to keep the law, on the other end of the spectrum we are told that we are being foolish if we attempt to attain approval through keeping the law. So, what does all this amount to? What does this mean? Should we just do what we want to if we are no longer bound by the law of sin and death? If we are as scripture says now heir with Christ because we believe what we’ve heard, and that we are no longer bound to our flesh and we are no longer the heirs of Adam, but rather now we are the joint heirs of Jesus simply because of our faith, you’d think that this gives people free reign to live as they want, right?
Let me help clarify the answers to the unspoken questions regarding this for you. Let me first ask a question that I myself have asked, what is the difference between walking by grace and walking in the flesh to fulfill the law? There is one simple, yet vital difference. The difference is whether we are including God. I want to use my diet challenges/eating habits as an example if you will bare with me, I have a point to all of this. A few weeks ago I felt inspired and decided that I was going to go back on an all fruit and veggie diet because of my lack of energy. I recalled a time a year ago when I went on an all fruit diet, how well I felt energy wise including how easily I lost some weight. So, when I first got the idea to go on this diet, the holy spirit spoke to me and said “one week” like it was supposed to be a fast. However, considering that I’ve been hoping for some motivation to lose my extra weight I decided to ignore him (not completely) but I decided in my own flesh I would just go on this diet. Well, the grace to do that kind of eating lasted 5 days tops, and once I went off of it I never went back on it. But let’s say that I would have kept doing it, because in my mind I’m thinking about how much sense it makes, it has an appearance of righteousness with its self imposed worship. So lets say I stick with it and lose some weight, then the fruits of this diet would have been pride, judgmentalness of others (often the fruit of our own labors apart from the grace of God), and then condemnation after I failed several times to be able to keep these rules. You see, anything that we attempt to do outside of the grace of God, despite how holy it appears, despite how much these actions make sense to our rational mind to be inside of God’s will, is doomed to fail. Because our flesh is weak, and there are things that only by God’s grace can we accomplish. Now, the bible talks about shipwrecked faith, it says that those who disobey God have shipwrecked faith. These are the same people who will come up with rigid rules and have condemning attitudes towards others about the way they should live their lives. They get into the flesh, because the truth is that sometimes it is easier to do something like a rigid diet (in my case) then it is to truly obey God’s will (abstain from overeating). We neglect the true will of God, and instead make rigid rules to cover our strained consciences. Using myself as an example again, I will say that because I don’t want to listen to God and submit my behavior of overeating to him, I’d rather overeat on a plate full of green beans and eat all the oranges and bananas that I want, ignoring the overfull sensations of my stomach, yet feel the freedom to eat as much as I want to. Do you get it? How does that apply to your own life? Is there an area that you have ignored God about, but yet are trying to compensate through a work of the flesh? Dieting is an American approved work of the flesh that compensates for the behavior of gluttony. If I say to a person “im trying to watch my figure” and then pick up a donut (even though I haven’t eaten all day long and I’m finally hungry), then I am guaranteed to be judged, because that is not the American way (Colossians 2:16-23).
Those of us who stop obeying God’s voice stop hearing God’s voice, even though he still speaks. So, how do we overcome this “shipwrecked faith” in which our conscience just is not sensitive anymore? I like to think of God as an injured spouse in such situations, let me explain. Let’s say you have a married couple, and the husband decides that he just doesn’t care about the wife. He forgets how wonderful she is and stops paying attention to her, stops listening to her whims and starts chasing after other women, but eventually he decides that he wants to rejoin with her. Well, luckily for him she is still there, doing what she’s always done before. She isn’t going to change in order to make him love her more, because she is already good enough. The reason why there is a rift between the two is because he stopped appreciating her. It is this way with the father. Once you leave him, betray him, stop listening to him it becomes your job to come back to him. The word says “you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart”. He was talking to his disobedient children who had left him to pursue and love false Gods. God is still the same. His will for your life is still the same, his voice to you is still the same. You have to get your heart in a place to hear and appreciate him again by purposefully seeking him and at first it is not easy because you had stopped appreciating him. Now you must love him again, and he is wise and he knows the difference. He will make you work for it. If an ex lover who had cheated on me decided he wanted to join back together with me and at first he says “i’m changed” but I know from experience that he’s said “im changed” multiple times but never meant it, I will not take him at his word. God will not just take you back the first time.. he will expect you to prove it. This is my experience with him personally and this is what his word says. If that ex lover said to me “I want you back, come and get me..” then just sat there and expected me to make the efforts to come back to him, I’d laugh in his face or simply ignore him, because by that time I would no longer need his company, and such a lack of effort on his part would mean he hasn’t changed. God is like us this way, he wants us to be near him bad enough that we will do anything to obtain that intimacy with him once more. And, this is for our benefit in the end.
The way to ensure that we are operating in his grace and not by the flesh is to make sure that he is the “headship” in our actions. If you begin you day of festivities on your knees asking him what his will is then listening, then you can be sure that the rest of the day when you act in obedience, you are following him and in his grace. Now if you start your day saying to him “ok God this is what I’m going to do.. ” and not even take the time to listen or even go to him at all, even though your activities appear righteous and obedient, then you are acting in the flesh and you are in the lead, not him. The difference is, who is in the lead? You or him? His word says that we cannot do anything apart from him. It begins with obedience and a willingness to lay down your will and pick up his cross and do his will. Sometimes he will call us to do things that we just don’t want to do. This is when relying on his grace is the most effective use of his grace. He says “my grace is sufficient for you” and the apostle Paul continues to say in the same passage of scripture “I will brag all the more about my weaknesses, because when I am weak, he is strong”. God designed it to where what he asks of us also requires a relationship with him. He doesn’t want us to succeed on our own, because he is the headship and wants the credit and glory. This is another way to weigh whether or not we are acting in the spirit or the flesh, who is ultimately getting the glory? I’d rather say “I cannot do this.. and if it wasn’t for God there is no way I would have ever been able to do this” to a person, giving God the glory then say “this is how you do it dummy, it’s easy duh” and then making myself look like I’m superior. The human self wants to look good to everyone and be respect, the self submitted to God recognizes that it cannot accomplish a single thing outside of his help. God wants a relationship, he doesn’t need us he wants us to be in relationship. He is like that husband that wants to be praised and to look strong and able and to be the provider for this wife and family. No husband wants people to look at their family and look down on the husband as a failure, no every husband wants to be seen as the provider and respected. This is God’s role in our lives, he wants the glory, he wants the credit and so he allows us to struggle.. because we are only going to have that grace when we lay our hearts and our wills before him. God is also like the husband who desires a wife who will truly respect him, submit to his authority and who will love him enough to seek him above all else in our day!
So how do we tap into this grace to overcome? We do this by praising him and recognizing the grace he gives us as he says “my grace is sufficient”. We present our supplication to him, and we listen to his voice. When we sin against his voice we admit it and start over again. We praise him for the discomfort will feel when we sin, and when our behavior makes us feel bad, we thank him for this because that is grace. Anything that gives us the desire to overcome, to push us to obey is grace. We seek righteousness because he won’t force us, and we ask for his mercy.. and we keep trying until we finally overcome and succeed. This has an appearance of acting in the flesh, however when he is given credit and when we do it to fear and extort him, we are acting by his grace. We also overcome by his grace when we rely on scriptures and when we listen to his voice regarding that thing. The glorious part of this is that when we overcome by his grace, we are truly set free. When we overcome by the flesh, we really are never free. Finally to sum this all up, grace is about him being the head and us submitting to him. Amen