Last Sunday I stood in front of a group of men and women and shared my story. Well, a very tiny part of it. We're all lengthy novels with chapter after chapter after chapter if we're bold enough to read ourselves.
I was asked to speak on obedience of all things. I introduced myself and then immediately likened the speaking experience to being an alcoholic my whole life, recently going through recovery, and then being handed a glass of wine. Me - the redeemed legalist, the former Pharisee - speaking on obedience. It was crazy. And a little scary.
You see, it wasn't until the birth of my second child that I discovered my own wretchedness while watching my idols of control and self-righteousness crumble around me. I could micro-manage one child, but two? Not so much. Read the verse above. I was falling short in just about every way.
I spoke about the lessons I've learned in the last eight years... how obedience is not a tool to make God like us but a response to his horrifically painful sacrifice on a cross. If we were to watch scenes of The Passion of the Christ every day and then go do life, well, it would be a hard for us to bask in cheap grace.
I mentioned how obedience doesn't offer eternal life, but it does provide protection. When we follow Paul's New Testament suggestions for social interactions, we're not hoping we don't run into certain people at the grocery store or at church. We don't have to avoid people out of shame for how we treated them in the past.
I now see obedience as not only an act of worship but also as an admittance that God's plan really is greater than mine. It's about surrender. And it's woefully hard sometimes. As I wrote last month, His ways really are higher than my ways. His wisdom is greater than mine. Obedience is a way to voice this belief.
And finally, obedience is freedom to love others. Christ's lists of commands was really short - 1) Love God 2) Love others. Instead of sitting around judging other people, we're freed up to love them. We don't have to be their God... they already have one.
"...All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ..."
You may have grown up memorizing that verse - that phrase, I mean - and used it as motivation to "be better". Or at least used it as bullets to fire at yourself. Or bullets to fire at others.
Be bold today. Recondition your minds and ponder the entire sentence.
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus..."
"... Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand." (Romans 3:23,24; 5:1,2)
Yes, we fall gravely short. Over and over again. But, yes, His redemption is very real.
So whether we've found our security in following rules or have distorted God's grace and forgiveness into tools with which to sin freely, the miracle mentioned in Romans allows us to stand before God without shame. And the baggage of legalism or the rebellious mockery of His sacrifice, well, it all begins to fall away.
Imagine if we lived like this.