On Walking by Grace Instead of a Focus on Mortifying Indwelling Sin
1) If I only put the effort into correcting the errors in my kids’ schoolwork, then that is all I will get to do. That is because if I don’t spend the time to teach them well in the first place, I will by necessity have to spend all of my time pointing out where they messed up. It would be better to be proactive and teach it right from the start than have to go and react to the mistakes. I need to enthusiastically equip and nurture them for success, not set them up for the disabling, de-motivating discouragement of always being told how wrong they are.
2) A gardener has to spend time weeding a plot of ground, but the point is so that she can plant a lovely and fruitful garden, not so that she can have barren land. (See Mother’s Seeds.) Yes, we have to correct one another at times, but if we aren’t doing something beautiful, too, it’s just plain empty.
What a hope and comfort! We have not only been saved “from” something horrible, but saved “to” something so infinitely and eternally magnificent. Who is this God that I’m going to worship and serve now (while “my body is weak”) and forever (when I will never again be troubled by transgressions)? What is his grace-filled plan for me now that he has rescued me from sin? He is our Creator just as much as our Redeemer. Seeing his beauty and embarking anew on grand adventure of “kingdom life” have become a wellspring of worship for me in the past few years.
“God didn’t create you not to do something; if that had been his goal, he never would have formed you, because if you never existed, you never would have sinned. God made each of us in his image, and he wants us to recapture that image, to surrender to his work in our lives, so that we “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).”
I had written these thoughts as part of a longer letter to my pastors, but didn’t send it. I like to sit on things like this before I fire them off. Just a week later, one of them preached an amazing sermon on grace, which prompted me to write a poem called “Grace Will Lead Me Home.” They followed up with a whole series on that theme, too, early in 2010. Though we ended up leaving the church later that year, I still commend them for that series. So I am not sharing this article to criticize that church, but because it is what I want to communicate to others who may be thinking about these things, too. Since I already wrote it, there didn’t seem to be any sense in reinventing the wheel.
I mentioned some books by Gary Thomas in this article. I have been corresponding with Gary by e-mail for several years since I had been reading some of his books that I had found in our church bookstore. When Gary told me he was coming to Orlando in January 2008 to do a marriage seminar for another church, he mentioned that he still had that Sunday morning free to speak at another church in the area. I jumped on it, and he came to our church. It was a blessing to hear him speak. (If you want to hear it, go to Metro Life Messages and scroll back to January 27, 2008 to a sermon called “The Beautiful Fight.”) His books have gone a long way to shifting my paradigm of the Christian life in recent years, and I am grateful for it. Sacred Marriage and Sacred Influence spurred me to write Help for HurtingMarriages. My poem “Corpus Christi“ was inspired by another of his books. I also wrote reviews of his books Holy Available and Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad About Feeling Good. I’m eagerly awaiting my review copy of his upcoming book Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul (about health and fitness), which I played a small part in editing in the early stages. :-) He is now writer in residence at the huge Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. You can read his articles, watch video clips, and more at his web site,www.GaryThomas.com.
I hope that the closing comments in these past two paragraphs have not distracted you too much from what I wrote in the rest of the article about living by grace instead of a focus on sin. Take a peek back for a moment, and tell me how you have experienced these things in your life. I would love to hear your comments.