Last week, I wrote about the power of God’s love to set us free from the Law, from sin, and to give us the ability to pour out grace and love others. This week, I want to take it to another level, with the intention of helping clarify what God is doing in our lives.
I have probably written more blogs about the grace of God than anything else, and I know I preach on it more than anything else. I am consumed with God’s grace. It has the power to change me. Before I knew about the awesome grace of God, I was bound in my feelings, emotions, temptations, and struggles.
This week, I have been meditating on a passage in Titus. Paul writes this letter with the intention to remind Titus what to teach the people he has been called to shepherd. So Paul writes to teach men to be temperate, self-controlled, filled with love and patience, and to teach the women to be reverent, not gossipers or slanderers. The young women should be filled with love, self-controlled, and kind. Young men should be examples of all things good, filled with integrity, and self-controlled. And then Paul writes a strong passage to Titus:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”- Titus 2:11-12
Do you see it? Paul writes about what the grace of God does. The grace of God doesn’t teach us to sin and get away with it. In fact, it teaches us to say no to sin, to selfish desires, to worldly passions, and to the desire to reject God. I believe this clarifies the why, as to “Why must we teach the grace of God so strongly?” Man’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts, clearly, and man thinks that rules, boundaries, and limitations help us to manage our selfish desires, passions, and sins. However, God says He created Grace to do that.
To God, the law was given in order to enslave us to those things, therefor, the rules and limitations that we so greatly value actually bind us to the things we think they will help us to stay away from. For example, if I lived in a house with 30 rooms, but every time I entered 1 room I felt fear, I would choose to never enter that room. I would limit myself to 29 rooms. That seems great, but what happens if in another room I began to feel lustful? I would have to stop going in that room, and I would be limited to 28. And what if every time I entered a certain room I remembered a fight I had with someone, and it made me mad? I would then be limited to 27 rooms. Soon, I would find myself bound to a single room, afraid to leave it… Rules, boundaries, and limitations don’t set us free. They enslave us to a lifestyle that is quite the opposite. I’m not free at all. I would own a house with 30 rooms, but be forced to only live in the 1 (and actually be filled with fear to ever leave).
The grace of God is the complete opposite. It shows us our value, which is: God sent His only Son to die for us, to pay for all of our sins, both past and future, so that we could be free. The grace of God also shows God’s love for us. It doesn’t lead us from one fear to another, His love sets us free from fear by literally casting all fear out of us. His grace demonstrates the power of His love. As we learn and grow in our understanding of the power of His grace, we become motivated to honor Him, and so we change our desires, from selfish passions to selfless- godly passions. We become obsessed with advancing the Kingdom. We become obsessed with helping people get free from their sins and backwards thinking. We become obsessed with helping Christians that don’t understand God’s grace, by teaching them and showing them what Holy Spirit can do.
The more we pursue His grace, the knowledge of it, the experience of it, the depth of it… the more free we become, and thusly the more determined we desire to share it with others. This is the power of God’s grace. It doesn’t just cover up sin. It gives us the ability to live truly godly lives. We can live in our 30 room house without fear, enjoying the entire house, oblivious to the temptations, fears, and struggles that used to dominate our lives. Are those things gone completely? No. But they no longer dominate us. Instead, they only serve as a reminder to who we used to be, to who we’ve become because of the wonderful grace of God.
God’s grace is more than just an idea or theory. It is the power of God to bring transformation, and it sets us free from everything else. It’s easy to say no to something you don’t want. The only way to change your desires is to find something better. There is nothing better than the grace of God. Bless you…
I have had a single verse resonating in my mind all week, and it feels a bit cliché since this week, we in the US celebrated July 4th, but the more I meditate on this verse the more it resonates within me. Not only so, but the more I have read it, the more I have realized the necessity to read the whole chapter and the need for us to be aware of this critical passage.
I have long believed that Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians with a singular purpose in mind, and I have found that many pastors and teachers of the Bible disagree with me. I fundamentally believe Paul’s purpose was to address people’s predisposition to long for rules to follow. I believe Galatians pivots on 1 verse (not the verse I have had resonating inside me all week long), and have taught that in the past. Galatians 5:9 says, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough,” and I believe he was saying the Law of Moses, the little particulars people were getting hung up on (and still are), is the yeast. In Galatians 2:16, as well as 2:18-21, Paul made the case that you cannot live by the law and also live in grace. He says we must set aside one or the other (21). We either set aside the law, or we set aside the grace of God…
As clear as that is (Hebrews 8 presents an equally clear case of removing the law and living in the grace of God), I find many pastors try to teach both, often stating things like, “Paul wasn’t referring to the Law of Moses, but to the other laws the Pharisees had added and enforced at the time.” I cannot see how this is remotely possible, since the Galatians were not a people immersed in Pharisee doctrine (these were Jews and Gentiles living in Greece). I find it heartbreaking when I read or hear about pastors who teach their members to live by the law while preaching about the grace of God. Galatians 3:17 says, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always…” and then he presents his case in 3:21-31. The Law creates slaves to sin and a need for a Savior. To live by it AFTER the Savior has come is to deny the work of the Savior all together. Galatians 5:4 says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Isn’t this crazy? Christianity has often had a real struggle with freedom, often choosing to focus on each person’s individual behavior, instead of focusing on the finished work of Christ. Let me be clear: you cannot save yourself. Your efforts to be pure will never work. No one is righteous, not even one. But thanks be to God our Father, who has given us a new righteousness, that comes apart from the Law, that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely through His grace. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law (I just quoted a few verses from Romans 3).
This leads me to the verse I have been meditating on: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
God wanted us free. The Law created slaves to sin (Galatians 3:23). Its purpose was to point us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). And now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law (Galatians 3:25). God wanted us free. It’s a beautiful reality, and very difficult for us to fully comprehend. I don’t always feel free… I’m sure you are the same. And the devil doesn’t seem to understand I am free. Sometimes, I feel like I am in a war that I cannot win. You know what’s beautiful? You can’t win. You’re not supposed to win a war against the devil. Jesus already won! Your job, according to Galatians 5:1 is to stand firm (Romans 5:2 tells us we stand on the grace of God), and to not allow the burden of guilt to bring you back into slavery. We don’t have to defeat the devil, only resist his ploys with the knowledge that Jesus has made you free.
Lastly, Galatians 5:13 tells us, “You were called, dear brothers, to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love.” Paul is being very thorough in this letter. When we participate in backbiting and devouring each other with gossip, resentment, jealousy, anger, malice, and the like we are not loving each other.
God has called us to be free. But He has also paid for us to be free. He has done everything He can. It’s up to us to live freely, and the only way to do that is to love God, love ourselves, and love others. And what would that look like? What would it look like to actually be a people who love each other so much that we pour out grace when others wrong us, make mistakes, and disappoint us? What if we loved each other the way God loves us? And herein lies the point of this blog…
You are free to love people, to live free, and to give grace. It’s up to you. Bless you…