I have studied the concept of grace for so long, I thought I had it nailed. What more is there to understand about it? But once again, I find myself humbled. And learning as much about God’s timing as I am about grace itself.
I’m sure you’ve heard the concept of replacing a behavior/habit with another behavior/habit. Year’s ago when I quit smoking, I started eating with abandon. That didn’t work out so well — one day I found myself weighing over 300 pounds. My lungs might have been clear, but I couldn’t effectively use them because I was too heavy to exercise to any significant degree. Putting on my shoes felt like I had smoked a pack of cigarettes — that’s how out of breath I was afterwards.
Well, I’ve treated grace the same way.
It was clear to me, in the end at least, that Mormonism was a religion of works. I held callings (multiple at a time sometimes), and then did all the other things — made meals for the sick, paid a full tithe, attended the Temple on a regular basis (so I could do more works, but this time on the behalf of those who had died long ago), etc. Work, work, work, work, work. All in hopes of entering the most glorious “level” of heaven where I could reside where God lived full-time after I died.
When I finally read the New Testament cover to cover, I discovered this idea of being free from the law. God loved me, Jesus came to save me IN my sins because of that great love, I could rest in Him. So, for a moment, I did just that.
I accepted this gift of grace, I accepted Jesus in my heart, I gave thanks for what He did on the cross. And then the next day, I went right back to working. But it looked different – it wasn’t being driven by tenants of the religion. Left to my own devices, I sought out “how to be a good Christian.”
Well, of course there’s the 10 commandments, let’s start there. Those are for sure the rules to live by. And of course I should go to church on the regular, and I have been given a spiritual gift of teaching, so I should serve in the woman’s ministry.
I should also have some quiet time with Jesus every morning, which should include prayer, reading my bible and some sort of devotional or Christian “help” book.
I had traded one set of “laws” for another. And I was still feeling tired. Even in choosing my word for this year, which is Rest by the way, was a cry out to God to help me let go of all.the.things.
And then He did.
I’m taking a class through our church called “Transformed”. It’s based on Romans 12:2 which reads:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by resting you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Besides that powerful scripture (which I just reread myself as I wrote it) — Robyn, our teacher, suggested a list of books we might want to read. “Perfect,” I thought. “I need a new book for my morning ritual.” So I picked the one that spoke to me the loudest.
Grace Walk, by Steve McVey.
I had no idea I was about to rock my world. It’s a simple enough looking book. Again, I didn’t think there was much more I needed to know about grace, and then I started reading. And suddenly I realized the only thing I really understand was the front side of the cross.
I understood that Jesus died for my sins, that he took them on him and I was forgiven. Got it. I’d even said many times before that He did that freely because He loves me. And that for me was the definition of grace. And then I set about working to prove my worth – to prove that I was worthy of that love. And well, in doing so, I sort of missed the point.
What this book did for me, what God let the words do for me, was to show me the back side of the cross. And when He did that – suddenly all of Paul’s words started ringing in my ears, and they had new meaning for my heart.
When I accepted Christ, I literally died with Him. My old, sinful self was crucified, died and was buried. He rose again, and I rose with Him giving me NEW life. In some versions of the bible it literally says “the old man has died”.
Robyn quotes Steve McVey on this subject regularly. The old man has died. Period. But his old, wholly clothes live in my closet. And every day I get to chose if I will put them on. Will I carry the weight of my former self around with me, should’ing myself to death trying to work out my salvation (which isn’t in my power to do in the first place), or will I accept God’s grace, leave the old clothes in the closet and walk in the beauty of the truth he has granted me. That all was paid. I am free in Christ. I can rest fully in that truth.
And when I do something, it is out of the gladness of that freedom. Because Christ now lives in me. And He lives through me. There isn’t a list of should left to do. If I desire to sit in my favorite chair and bask in His truth, that’s okay. If I feel impressed to bring a meal to someone because well, because they are sick, or I made extra food, or because I just felt a nudge in my heart to do so, that’s okay, too. But I don’t have to. It won’t earn me extra heaven points.
And for the first time since I accepted Christ in my heart, I feel free.
I used to say that Grace was the simplest and most complex gift we have been given. I realize now it was only complex because I didn’t fully understand it. I even tatood the word on my forearm so I could see it every day. But today, that ink looks darker, the word has deeper meaning for me than it perhaps ever has before.
Sin is no longer my master, for I no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, I live under the freedom of God’s grace.Romans 6:14 emphasis added