Friday, April 11, 2014

what Grace teaches me

Today, in the real of life I struggle with so many simple things. I know that God has these standards, things like speak kind and love your enemies and all of that. It’s really easy for me to do great getting the big things right, stay married, don’t rob a bank, keep from murdering and so forth. But yet, it is so, so, so (and maybe one more so) hard to live out the most simple of things. 

Today, I remember that my words matter. 

Sometimes the Bible gets a bad rap. We see it as set of rules, a vague ideology, or just a bunch of good ideas. But the Bible, the gospel, is much more. It is a testament to grace. It is a song that we must tune our lives to. 

I’ve heard all the things, that Christianity is just rule following, doing right, and shunning evil. Sure we do that. I avoid what I know to be wrong, most of the time. I strive to do right, on the good days. I think there’s this perception that the Christ follower blindly follows rules, like a robot.

But Christ has a different story. His life is a testament to grace. A testament is simply something that serves as evidence of a specific fact; Christ’s testament or his story gives us evidence of his great grace. As a Christ follower I don’t follow the rules of the Bible just because they’re there. If I can be completely honest, I often don’t like following all the Biblical commands anyway. Do you know how hard it is to pray for those who persecute you? Have you ever tried to avoid godless chatter? And isn’t it incredibly difficult to allow no corrupt talk to come from your mouths?

I don’t walk those lines of rules just for the sake of following rules. I choose to honor the commands God gives in his Word because of grace, and grace alone.

Titus 2:11 and 12 says “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” 

The Biblical dictionary defines that word grace as the merciful kindness of God. I read that scripture again and say “For the merciful kindness of Godteaches me to say no to ungodliness and corrupt longings.” 

I don’t follow the rules because I’m afraid of God. It’s God’s grace and merciful kindness that teach me to live my life God’s way. And his grace motivates me to stay close to his truth. God’s grace and merciful kindness teach me how to live life safely. Because what it really comes down to is that I’m like a dumb little lamb. I end up in the wrong place (at least mentally) and I need a mercifully kind shepherd to put me back on track. His kindness and grace motivate me to make better choices in my life. His kindness and grace give me incentive to make choices that honor him. 

When my kids were babies, Zac’s great grandma would often line her fireplace hearth with pillows. Every time we visited, we’d find that row of bricks covered. Her kindness to our small crawling babies caused her to employ protective measures to keep them safe. We all knew the bricks held potential for pain and injury, and we were always grateful for those pillows. The rules to stay away from the bricks weren’t there because she was mean, they were there because in following them my children had the best chance of keeping safe. 

It’s not really much different with God. His kindness and his grace motivate him to establish guidelines for our lives. We might not always like them, but they’re there for our protection. Because of God’s merciful kindness I am motivated to make the right choices, even when it’s hard to do so. 

His grace teaches me. It teaches me to make God honoring choices. It teaches me to shut my mouth when I’d rather gossip. It teaches to pray for those who persecute me, when I'd rather punch them in the face. It teaches me to give as a sacrifice, when I’d rather go buy new shoes. God’s grace, and his grace alone motivates me to choose better.

It’s not about just going through motions, following rules, and living right. Those are the results, not the cause. Today I remember that it is all because of God’s grace and merciful kindness to me. 

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