Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Grace for Love



I have loved God for most of my life.  I prayed and asked Jesus in to my heart when I was nine years old. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday.  Oh the excitement!  I called everyone.  My grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and friends.  I wanted them all to know.  I understood who Jesus was in my life but the problem became that my approach to Him was one of a religious approach.  I based my relationship with Him on a list of things that I could and could not do and not what Jesus had already done for me through His work on the cross.  I used this system to judge those around me to determine whether they were “good” enough for me to befriend. That is religion. I was a “rule keeper.”  It was not until I reached my thirties that I realized how much I had missed the mark.  I did not understand grace to its fullest.

Back in New Testament times, Paul had his work cut out for him when he was given the job of preaching the gospel to the Jewish people.  They had spent years trying to keep the Law and spent years living under “the system” in which righteousness was attempted through what they did.  God had given Moses the Law (back in the Old Testament) so that one day the Jewish people would see their need for a Savior (Jesus) as they realized that there was absolutely no way they could not keep the Law on their own. 

For those who understand grace (what Christ died to give us) this is very good news. Everything that we receive from God is attained only by our faith in Jesus and nothing by what we do. However, to those religious people who feel they must "do" something this is not good news. Our human flesh cries out with the desire to have something to which we feel proud.  It wants credit for the right done when we get it right.  However, with God’s design, credit can never be given to man because Jesus has already done it all!  

So how do we steer clear of a religion that says do and instead focus on a relationship with Christ that says trust?  It starts with faith. Every gift we receive from God is attained by faith and not by works.  We certainly want to do good things to be a reflection of Christ but those things we do, "works" will not earn us any favor with God. He wants our works to come from a pure heart that is free of any motive in which we think we will receive more from Him. When we follow Christ, our heart desires to serve and love others so that they may know Him too.  Following Him makes us into lights of the world (Matthew 5:14) and people are watching. They are looking for vibrancy, love, peace and joy and those things cannot be reflected fully when we are following a set of rules.  Peace, love and joy are only truly reflected when Christ shines through us.

To illustrate the above we can look back to Moses when he came down from the mountain after receiving the Law (The Ten Commandments). He had been in the presence of God and because of this, his face shone with a glorious radiance.  Because his face shone, he wore a veil when talking to the people because over time the glory would fade.  The glory Moses enjoyed was not permanent. It was a “fading glory.” It came because Moses spent time with the Holy of Holies but once reunited with the rebellious hearts of the people, the glory on his face would fade.  The veil he wore represents separation.  The Law represents separation because the Law brings with it condemnation. In Paul’s writings to the Corinthians, we read that when the Law is read a veil lies over the hearts and minds of the people.”

But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

2 Corinthians 3:13-15

As long as we continue to read the Bible as Law, there will be something separating us from God and hindering us from having an intimate relationship with Him.  This means that we have to stop being “religious” or legalistic, and just come to Jesus. This means not hiding behind a veil of rules attempting to accomplish righteousness on our own instead of walking in an intimate relationship with Christ.  It is laying down all “my” works and seeing The Work that He did on the cross. We want the glory to shine on our faces permanently. And this only comes when we are walking with Christ. When we walk with Him, we are able to come into His presence just as we are with open hearts and unveiled faces and the glory becomes permanent, never fading away.