November 4, 2011
There are many people who want to challenge the concept of grace in its entirety. A little grace is fine. You get just enough grace to get saved and then we are to ‘crucify your flesh’ and live a godly life, following the ‘right and wrong’ rules. That is how we become holy, by seeking holiness and living a godly life.
Sounds good. Anyway it sounded good to me for years. For years I pushed towards holiness and tried to be godly. And on the outside everyone could see that I was ‘good’. My heart was right. I loved the Lord will all my heart, soul and body so seeking to do right was an extension of my love for Him. Or, was it?
In my recent post The Rules That Break Fellowship I talked about my never ending quest to follow the rules so that I would be right with God.
I love God. I wanted to go to heaven. I wanted to please God. I wanted a holy life. I wanted all the blessings of a child of God. But more than anything, I didn’t want to make God angry with me. The theology I had learned from a child taught me this.
Unfortunately I didn’t really KNOW the heart of God then. I am so thankful for this past year and a half of getting to know, really know the heart of God. And He has satisfied that unquenchable desire, and so much more.
Grace, too much grace that is, scares people. They don’t trust themselves to live by grace. So they receive just enough of the grace of God to become born again and declare that they are a Christian. Then they put grace on the back burner and begin living by the rules. To please God – and man or man’s theology.
So, I’ve heard it said –
Without the rules, how would we know how to live?
How would we know what to do and not to do?
I’ve been gnawing like a dog on a bone for months now about following the Holy Spirit. But we still feel the need to know the rules or doctrine (man’s theology) so that we can know that we are – OK.
Let me make the perfectly clear here. If you follow the Holy Spirit:
He will never lead you to do anything that violates His own spiritual fruits.
He will never lead you to be unloving or harmful to others.
He will even lead you away from things that will harm yourself.
He will lead you to obey the laws of the land, should they not violate your relationship with the Lord.
He will lead you to follow to the letter the God theology that God Himself wrote upon your heart when you became His child.
That pretty much included every pertinent rule that I can think of. I emphasize pertinent.
So why do we fight so hard for the rules and our theology? Yes fight! When you mention living daily by grace and the total leading of the Holy Spirit many people get so uncomfortable that their skin begins to crawl and a trickle of fear runs down their back. They are more defensive with this teaching than an animal backed into a corner protecting their food. They insist that the rules bring godly living, therefore righteousness and to even mention not living by them is sacrilege to them.
When praying and meditating more on this subject God showed me an analogy. I love analogies. They drive a point home and make it so clear. I believe that is why the parables make such an impression on us and are so memorable.
So, let’s think about bowling. The bowling lane is our path toward our different goals in life, the pins. Now at first when we can barely roll the ball we can have the bumpers put up on the side so that there is no chance of going into the gutter. Doesn’t matter how we throw the ball, we will get to the end.
I’ve watched my grandchildren bowl and they are so cute. Sometimes they even get one of those ramp things to aim their ball with. If they roll the ball hard enough then it will get to the end. Sometimes they even get a strike, but not often. I’ve even seen the ball just stop right before it hit the pins. During that time the hope is that they will learn to bowl on their own so that when the bumpers come down they are rarely needed anyway.
But after awhile it is embarrassing to have the bumpers up and after all, where is the challenge in that? So the bumpers come down and the ball goes into the gutter time and time again. But we get the ball back and keep trying. The more we try the better we get. And then we begin to get so good that the ball rolls from our fingers fast and furious and heads straight for the pins and boom – a strike! Always the bowler whizzes around and shouts a voice of exuberation!
Now once you are to that point you can still put the bumpers up, but what is the point? You aren’t going to be anywhere near them. Yes, on occasion I’ve seen an extraordinary bowler wiggle wrong or make a slight misstep that cause the ball to hit the gutter or maybe just knock down a few pins. But oh well, we’ll try it again. The game keeps going. You get another chance.
It is never anyone’s goal to hit the gutter, bumpers or not! Our goal is to stay out of the gutter. We know if we hit the gutter we won’t hit the pins (goals)!!
Rules are like the bumpers. When we are children we live under the covering of our parents. Hopefully they are showing us the character of God and His love for us. The teaching should not be about the law but about the love and grace of God. They should be encouraging us to read the word of God and show us that God will help us know what it means. We must begin to teach them to seek God and to listen to the Holy Spirit.
Now there are markings on the lane. I used to be a horrible bowler, but now I am slightly better. My oldest son taught me about the marks and some of the basics and almost instantly I became a better bowler.
Follow the marks. Let them lead you to your goal. If I do that, I don’t go into the gutter. I could put the gutters up. Just in case my ball was to head for the gutter. But then I would get so reliant on the bumpers that I wouldn’t be so diligent to follow the marks. I wouldn’t be so diligent to seek out good form. And then reaching the goal, a strike, would not have the same satisfaction if any at all.
Yes you’ve guessed it. The marks are the Holy Spirit. As long as you follow the Holy Spirit you will reach your (His) goal for you. Over and over we keep trying until we get better and better at following Him.
But oh my! What if our ball goes into the gutter? Gasp!!! Well it will roll down and be sent back to us. We experience disappointment and then we try again. Our friends slap us on the back, express encouraging words and we take a breath with resolve to do better next time.
You are not punished severely, taken out of the game or ostracized. Unless of course you are in a league, but then that would be like a church where the very people who should be encouraging you are actually the ones who are criticizing you for your mistakes or violating their theology. I’m so thankful that I no longer go to a church like that!
But the game goes on, gutter or not. You don’t quit because your ball hit the gutter. You keep trying to follow the Holy Spirit and eventually following Him will become second nature.
We know where the gutters are whether or not the bumpers are up or down. Life is just the same. We know what is the right thing to do without someone telling us. We just know.
10 FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,
AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,
AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
11 “AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,
AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’
FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME,
FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
12 “FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,
AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE.”
God desires us to seek HIM. For us to know HIM and His true heart. The New Covenant states that He will write on our hearts what to do, His law, His theology. That is where the Holy Spirit resides, in our innermost being, our heart. In following Him doing right will be instinctual.
Then this verse says that ‘they shall not teach everyone’. God desires for the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. He desires for us to KNOW Him and then we will know what to do without someone telling us what to do. And should we sin in all of this, He will remember them no more.
The first argument against all of this is people will just go off sinning without rules. If we take away all the do’s and don’ts then they will just go out and do all the wrong things. Yes they will do some wrong things. We have all had our balls fall in the gutter, but the game goes on and we try harder by seeking Him. NONE of us wants our balls in the gutter!
We discount God’s ability and desire to govern His people. But when we allow Him to govern with His abounding love we come nowhere near the gutters. We stay on track in the center and achieve the goal with power and precision.
What most people can’t seem to fathom is that when we do fail and our ball falls in the gutter, God does not stop loving us. He does not write us off. He is not done with us. He knows us and is not disappointed in us. He already knew what would happen and what we would do and as any loving Father, encourages us to get right back in there and try again.
Picture God saying this to you when your ball falls in the gutter…
“That’s ok. Try again. Now take a deep breath and this time focus on the marks in front of you. Focus on the goal and following the marks… There you go, much better this time!”