The One Thing that Stops Grace

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I’m rereading this theological fantasy series right now. You’ll hear a bit more about it tomorrow in my email newsletter. (Not signed up yet? Click here.) The Archives of Anthropos were written by the late Christian author, psychiatrist, and pastor, John White. I first read them as I was a teenager, and then again to my husband after we were married. But reading them now a decade later, I’m struck fresh by the wisdom and truth that White weaves through his story.

In Book One, there is a boy who is supposed to be the Sword Bearer. He has an impressive sword and a mission to accomplish. But because he stubbornly refuses to drink the wine of free pardon, he cannot get his sword to leave the scabbard. He is powerless on his own and is currently pridefully refusing the power of the Changer. I’m so irritated with this character right now and so convicted at the same time.

I find it ironic that the only thing that stops God’s grace is our stubborn pride.

No sinner is too sinful for God’s grace. We can never be too far away from it. Yet He allows us to resist. He wants to give us the Kingdom! But He doesn’t push anything on us.

Often we think of pride as feeling superior, like we don’t need God or His grace. That we are fine on our own. But reverse pride is just as dangerous, maybe more. Reverse pride is deciding that we are too messed up, too bad, or too far away for God to reach. That somehow we are outside of God’s grace.

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The wine of free pardon is available to anyone in Anthropos. The initial sip is full of bitterness and fire, but those who choose to drink are filled with inexplicable joy and peace. They receive supernatural healing and strength. I get this.

Surrendering to God’s grace, admitting we need it and that we have nothing to offer in return…it’s humbling. And letting go of control can be terrifying. Control brings feelings of safety.

But, you guys…grace is amazing! It’s beyond our wildest imagination. Free pardon. Based on total Jesus and on nothing me. It’s crazy and insane and beautiful. And once you’ve tasted it, you can’t go back. Not just grace for salvation, but grace for life. Grace is not just a word or a concept, it’s a force.

I wish there was something I could do or say to convince you to jump into the abyss that is God’s Grace. To leave your pride and stubbornness and control on the top of the cliff and just jump, screaming, eyes shut, arms flung wide.

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It’s not worth clinging to those broken, plastic toys.

But God will not force you, and I can’t either. He will woo you, draw you, tantalize you, but ultimately He will let you decide. And if you choose to stubbornly resist, He will let you.

Too many of us have experienced grace for salvation and called it good. We don’t know what we are missing.

Receiving the full force of God’ grace doesn’t take any action on our part except for repentance and an open hand. Repentance means that we agree with God. We admit our pride and fear and desire for control. We agree that those things are holding us back, that they are wrong. Then, with head bowed and most likely teary eyes, we just open our hands. And we let God overwhelm us with His grace. This is not about us. It’s about Him.

I pray with all my heart that you will experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ. That you will choose to drink deeply of the wine of free pardon. And that you will never be the same.

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Ever Read One of Those Books?

I’ve been reading a book this summer at camp that has totally wrecked me. It’s called Jesus Centered Life: The Life You Didn’t Think was Possible with the Jesus You Never Knew by Rick Lawrence. If you want a deeper, more real relationship with Jesus apart from the religion and “should’s” so often associated with Christianity, please grab a copy of this book. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to let the quotes speak for themselves.

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My heart resonates with the message of this book! It’s not that the writing is so fantastic, it’s that the message is a real Jesus, wild, unchained, passionate, everything we ever wanted.

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This is what I say all the time to people…why are you so consumed with doing good, Christian things? If they say, “Because it’s right” then I keep asking questions. I truly believe that a real and tangible relationship with Jesus will change us from the inside out. We won’t have to worry about “doing right things” because they will automatically flow out of our love for Jesus and out of His life in us.

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This prayer cut me to the heart, exposed all the other things I am pursuing, and left the one desire that is stronger than everything else. I just want Jesus!

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Can you pray this with me? Have you discovered a God who is so real, and so incredibly good, that you can give Him everything? Surrender is where the beauty happens. The beauty of brokenness. And the true joy of surrender…

I’ve only gotten through half of this book, and it has destroyed me…it has awakened such longing for Jesus, such desire. There is nothing else I want in the world, as much as I want Him. And I am willing to do and to lose whatever it takes to experience more of Him, to know more of His heart, to be with Him where He is…

A War Between

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Working at summer camp is like being under a microscope inside an incubator.Everything seems like a bigger deal than it really is: all the issues are magnified, and problems between people heat up. Personality differences surface, stress creates conflict, and I get the opportunity to clearly see my ugly sin-nature every day. Yay me…

Camp tends to show you who you really are, and sometimes it’s not pretty. So far I’ve learned that I am an emotional control freak. But, I would rather rant about an issue than actually try to solve it, particularly if it involves confrontation. (Sound familiar to any of you?) I’m not very good at giving things to God and resting. Minding my own business is hard.

But, there are moments when I am a loving, generous, caring woman with a true servant’s heart. Moments when I feel God’s Presence and listen to His voice, when I get to pray with people and share Jesus’ love. It’s like two versions of myself are at war in my heart. Wait, didn’t Paul talk about that? Yes, he did, in Romans 7.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:15-25

I can totally identify with Paul right now. When life is smooth and things are going my way, it’s easier to think that I’ve got it together, that I’m not that bad, and that I can do it on my own. But when life gets bumpy, and I lose control, I see a side off myself that shocks and horrifies me. The other night I could literally feel the battle. I was in the middle of an emotional rant to my “safe person” and the Holy Spirit started poking me and telling me to stop, but my angry sin nature was telling me it’s fine. Agh!! So hard!!

How can there be these two Christy’s living inside of me? Who am I really?

I know that I’m a sinner, a wretched mess, but I am also a forgiven child of the King, blameless because of Jesus and filled with a power that is not my own. How is this possible?

Welcome to the backwards, inside-out, impossible Kingdom of Jesus Christ!

There really is a war happening inside of us every day. Working at camp just happens to magnify it for me. And you know what? That war isn’t going to stop until we see Jesus face to face and He gives us new sinless bodies. It’s a process, friends, and it’s not easy. But there is good news: we do not have to fight alone!

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Which brings me to this question: what if it’s not actually about fighting our sin nature? What if it’s about surrender? If we surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit, He will fight for us! But that’s the hard part. Surrender is hard!

Ranting feels good. Those people are wrong. Where is the justice? Someone needs to do something! And I’m supposed to let go and surrender?

And like that, we are back to the battle, the war waged in our own hearts…holding on or letting go. Will we let go of control and allow the Holy Spirit to take over? Allow Him to change us? To give us power to live like Jesus?

It’s a constant battle for me right now. A battle that is in my face thanks to an awesome place called summer camp. 🙂 If I stop and think, I know what I desperately want. I want peace and joy despite my circumstances. I want to laugh and live and love with a passion bigger than me. That kind of life is only found in Jesus…and it’s worth every fight to surrender!