John 16:8-11 (the message)
“When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgement: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgement takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.”
Everyone wants to be good at something. Some of us know early on in life the areas in which we thrive and excel. Some of us discover ourselves in adulthood and others of us never at all. Have you ever known someone who seemed really good at God?
Sometimes our sincere motives to know and serve God can morph into something else. This is a matter of deep and honest, painfully honest, introspection. Sometimes as He moves in us or uses us, our journey with God can become the area of our life in which we excel. Hmmm….
This encapsulates the idea of striving and grace. For me, this has been one of, if not the most, life-changing lessons I have learned. And still learn. And will be learning. And really it has everything to do with motives. When I am striving to be “good at God,” or excel in spiritual matters, often I am trying to meet a need within myself. A need to be good at something. To find my place of value in the world. If I try hard enough to please God or even manage to obtain a measure of respect from others with my efforts or knowledge, this could potentially fill a self-esteem need all while masking as virtue. What if I start off with a pure heart but in deepening spiritual maturity a shift happens and without intending to I find my motives mixed? And how in the world can I tell?!!
Striving, regardless of the motives, produces angst. Trying really hard to know God via the best foot forward method is burdensome because the results rest in our clumsy human hands. Relying on Grace, however, produces rest and peace in our hearts and lives. Grace doesn’t award any accolades. No pins for our spiritual lapels. Grace at work in our lives moves us to give God the accolades, the praise, the credit for every answered prayer, every provision, every moment we spend in His presence. Grace erases the “I put this in and I got this out” equation. Grace reads…I have nothing to offer and He loves me anyway…I have nothing to give yet I am blessed beyond measure…I couldn’t earn intimacy with Him no matter how hard I tried and now that I realize it we are closer than ever…I am free from obligation and compulsion and now I can’t get enough of Him.
I am learning to recognize in my own life where my motives and reliance lie as I know Jesus more. When my prayer and obedience becomes performance (aka striving) I live a nail-biter, stomach clinching version of the Christian life. Am I doing this right? Is He okay with my effort? Is it enough? What do I need to do differently? I am angst-filled rather than peace-filled. But when my motives are not for proving myself to God or anyone else, I can flow in Grace. I can ride the wave, if you will, of His love and mercy which reaches me as I rely not on myself but on Jesus. Just Jesus.
Grace produces rest and peace. At rest and peace, regardless of circumstances, I can do all things He means for me to do. Can be what He means for me to be. Live freely and lightly just as He describes it in Matthew 11:28-30. Grace produces joy. Unspeakable. Grace settles me down. Grace is not a free pass for sin and disobedience…Grace is the only possible way I can shift from legalistic rule-keeping to heartfelt obedience! A run-in with Grace is the changing agent, then the conduit, then the outward expression of the love of Jesus in our lives. It cannot be earned. Cannot be worn with pride. Cannot be achieved. Grace is found in accepting it. In the scripture above, Jesus is telling His disciples about Holy Spirit…He comes to expose the error of the world’s view of sin and righteousness and judgement. The basic sin of mankind is a refusal to believe in Jesus. The Amplified Bible says believing in Jesus is to “trust in, rely on, and adhere to…” What caught my heart this morning was Jesus telling His friends that “righteousness comes from above.” Our right-standing, our acceptance, with God comes only from trusting in, relying on and adhering to Jesus. It’s from above…not in my control…absolutely real and found as I stop clinging to my efforts and cling only to the Son. This is Grace.
And Grace just won’t let us be good at God. It allows only for God’s goodness in us.