As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I, along with four other guys in the worship arts ministry, have been going through a study on grace. Its been said you can't truly give grace until you've truly received grace. If I'm totally honest, I've had a real problem with receiving grace. Its the difference between a head knowledge and a heart knowledge. Just recently, I found myself engaged in a conversation with someone who, apparently, has been through some similar struggles. If we're honest, that's what most people want to hear. They want to hear something that relates to "real life". They want to hear about the difference that a relationship with Jesus Christ has made in my or your life. Not what we've heard about in someone else's.
The Bible says that its by grace we're saved through faith. Again, we have to understand that grace is defined as a gift that is given and is not attainable by any other way. We don't deserve it and there is nothing we can do to earn it. Its not something that is inherited or "grandfathered in". Based on those facts, we make a choice to trust God and receive the gift of salvation. That's where faith steps in.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen." (Heb. 11:1) We hope for peace. We hope for wisdom. What happens is, when everything we do, say or think is driven by our desire to please the father, these things become ever closer and attainable. Gal. 5:6b says "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." God is the definition of love. When we obey God's command to "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor", the result is fruits of the spirit and there lies the substance. When people see someone led by the Spirit and displaying a supernatural love that's not based on investment returns, they see the evidence of an almighty, loving God.
Those "fruits" don't just appear without making the effort to follow. "I thought you just said there was nothing you could do to get to heaven. Why are you talking about effort?" Funny you should ask. James 2:17 says "..faith without works is dead." When mom used to tell me "Dinner's ready!", I didn't just lay there and expect to get full. I had to get up and get going to sit at the table where my nourishment was so freely given. Those "efforts" are based on obedience. Not on how good I may think I am or how hard I think I may be working. If my work is not the results of a direct order from God above, then its all in vain. This is where I've had a serious struggle. Letting go...
Losing your identity isn't something that comes without pain. After all, you worked hard to be who you are, right? People know you for who you are, right? Again, vanity... Upon the day of your salvation, you became a child of the King. You became a follower, a slave, a CHRISTIAN. The Bible says you have a new name in glory. (So much for my birth name...) A dear friend of mine once told me, when I was going through a troublesome time, that I was going through the crucible. I've never been a scholarly person so I asked her to explain. She began to tell me about the purification process. When the goldsmith begins to purify the gold, he turns up the heat and all the impurities float to the surface where the goldsmith is constantly removing the impurities. The goldsmith knows the gold is pure when the only reflection he sees is his own. How many times have you felt like God was telling you to do something or go somewhere and, because you trusted your own judgement, God got trumped. That's right. You trusted your own intellect over God's. That's when the friction began and it started getting hot.
For all the husbands reading this, God tells us in the book of Titus (2:5) that wives should be subject to their husbands. The problem is, we always seem to stop reading there. The very next verse basically tells us, as husbands, to live with self control, integrity, and live by a Godly example. In other words, MAN UP! Give your spouse a reason to be subject or submissive. When she sees that you are trust worthy and love her to the point of laying down your life, chances are she'll be prepared to live by the same standards.
Jesus was not only prepared to lay down his life for His bride (the church), He did! When we understand that the blood that was shed on the cross at Calvary has the power to cleanse us of EVERY sin, then we can get on with our Christian walk without hesitation or, in my case, false guilt. He accepted me when and where I was even with all my baggage. When Jesus layed down his life for me, He took all that baggage (past, present and future) and took it upon Himself. That leaves me with no choice but to be submissive to the Bridegroom.
I'll leave you with a quick story. I once heard a preacher tell a story about a hunting expedition and the method was simple. Place a banana in a cage with an opening just small enough for the monkey to get his hand in or out. Once the monkey reached for the banana, it became a real problem for him to get his hand back out of the cage while it was still wrapped around the banana. He was trapped by his own desires. Because he wanted the banana so badly, he remained there until the hunters came with the expected results. The moral of the story is this. The enemy is coming to steal, kill, and destroy. LET GO!