Today in the lesson Lorraine Hill continues her discussion of legalism. And as for me, I wanted to share a little bit about how God relieved me of that burden. He comforted me and rescued me from that thing that grieved me so. How wonderful He is. God speaks to me in so many ways. Do I audibly hear His voice? No, not yet, maybe someday. But I don’t attribute anything to chance, or serendipity or (my least favorite) “luck”. I am certain that everything that happens is within God’s control and, therefore, is part of His greater plan. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Is 45:7)…The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9). We can trust in His plan because we trust in His character: The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Psalms 145:8-9). For some people this leads to the question: How does He balance His plan alongside our free will? That’s easy – He is God. He created space and time and is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20). And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I say all of this to explain how He has woven instruction into my life. Many of you know exactly what I mean and have similar experiences, but I wanted to explain for anyone who has not “heard” God speak to them. For me it went something like this:
- I read the book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, by John Eldredge. Great book about the nature of men and women and the nature of God. But something jumped out at me. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Cor 5:17). Eldredge cautioned us to stop thinking of ourselves as “sinners” and see ourselves as new creations in Christ. We are redeemed. The work is done. Yes, we battle the old nature but we are not defined by it – we are defined by Christ and His presence in our lives. We are not stuck in the past. We are moving forward. Wow. That never dawned on me. I always felt stuck in the first part of this scripture and didn’t live in the second part: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23-24)
- I always knew in my head that it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9). And that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1-2). Yet, I did not feel that freedom in my heart. It is a matter of Spiritual Warfare – the devil will whisper to you the things that really tear you down and they are easy to believe sometimes.
- So, in reading through the Word one day for a bible study I was teaching, John 15:1-11 hit me like a ton of bricks. Abide in the Vine…for apart from Me, you can do nothing. Let His spirit do the work. All you have to do it immerse yourself in Jesus. Let Him permeate your life. Live in His Word and allow the Word to live in you: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col 3:16-17).
- Studying John 15, God led me straight to Galatians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25). Here were the things I longed to see in my life but could not do on my own. I had always felt convicted by this scripture – that a lack of fruit was evidence of my unworthiness. I am pretty sure most people who knew me did not know that I struggled with these feelings…but in my heart I did. I wanted to genuinely experience the fruit in my heart – not just display them for others. Truly the lack of fruit was evidence of something else I was lacking…close and personal connection with God. I loved God but my heart was kept from maintaining closeness because I was distracted by my own unworthiness.
- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:8-10). Well I had the gloom down pat and I was very humble already. I just needed to draw near Him. I did and He did draw near to me. And, from this point forward, if I am ever a poor steward of our relationship, He calls to me and I humble myself and draw near and He is there. He is so good to me.