Previously, I blogged about grace–the wonderful place of God’s absolute love. Since my revelation of grace, I have been fascinated with the many definitions of grace that are out there. A few are: “unmerited favor; unconditional love; God’s empowerment for his assigned tasks; God’s gifts; God’s riches at Christ’s expense; God’s love and mercy; the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done; the kindness of God we don’t deserve”, and there are many more.
My personal definition is that grace is every gift that God pours out upon us for our good and for his purposes. God is building our houses of character from the top down by setting the timbers in place upon the solid bedrock foundation of Jesus. These timbers are love, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control and so many more. These are all grace! Our part in the house-building is obedience of the listening, loving, and responsive sort. Yet, even this very inclusive definition of grace falls far short of expressing what grace is, because it must be experienced to understand it. It seems to me that grace is such a difficult concept to grasp that it cannot be adequately put into words. It also seems that grace is an elusive state to inhabit long-term. We tend to return to rules and striving.
Now, add in the concepts of law and works , and watch how you really muddy up the waters. Paul says that it is all grace, and there can be no return to the law, yet that seems to invite the abuse of the freedom that we have been given in grace.
To me coming out of the law camp and into the grace camp, it seemed like an “either or” type of scenario. You either strive to keep the rules as one living under the law, or you accept God’s grace completely with an attitude of thanksgiving and cooperation.
Now, I think there is a third camp to inhabit. The camp of joyful grace. It is not moving out of grace back into the law. This is not even moving to a place in between. Joyful grace is a new, further-in and higher-up place of obedience to Christ motivated by great love for him. The spiritual disciplines become the spiritual privileges. Reading scripture becomes letting your beloved father talk to you. Praying becomes a walk with Papa, holding his hand and talking things over with him. Obedience becomes saying yes then watching God unfold the adventure. Suffering turns into learning to pray and do warfare in the midst of a tough time, knowing that at the end of it, it will be clear that Christ has been with you through it all. Mistakes and sin become opportunities to grow, knowing that God’s love is not dependent upon performance.
I liken these 3 camps to the sections of the tabernacle of the Israelites in their early days with Yahweh. In the tabernacle, there were 3 parts: the outer court, the inner court and the Holy of Holies where God resided in the ark of the covenant.
In my walk with Jesus I started out as an acquaintance of God, in the outer court. I was his child and relied upon Jesus for salvation, but I was trying to live by rules. I did not get the idea of grace at all.
In the last few years, God drew me into being friends with Him, into the inner court, the Holy Place. Grace finally brought an end to my striving. Grace also brought a willingness to let God do all that he wants with me and in me, without my asserting my will (much anyway). That was the subject of my last blog entry on grace.
Now, I understand that there is an even more intimate place for lovers of God. This is the Holy of Holies. It is the place where saying “yes” is a joy. In such a place, we hunger for his riches because they give us more of Him. This is not an easy place to inhabit either, because there is always that tendency to go back to the horrible slavery of Egypt. In this place, however, we choose to draw near to him out of love, not duty, so that he can draw near to us.