Read the short New Testament book of Jude for my morning devotions today. This is a book for our times.
And it smacked me right in the face, reminding me again that my life as a follower of Christ--an imperfect, often haphazard, fitfully faithful one--is meant by God to be lived in simple response to His undeserved gifts of forgiveness and new life with my whole self.
Jude is upset with the scoffers within the Church, those who have come to regard the truth of God's self-disclosure in Jesus and in His Word, as dispensable. These folks in Jude's time saw grace as the license to do whatever sinful human nature prompted them to do. From Jude, as in other places in Scripture, we learn that that's simply false.
Grace isn't a license to ignore God; it's the freedom to be the person Christ died and rose to let us be...under Christ's lordship.
Reminds me of an old Randy Stonehill song: "He understands the human heart/His mercy is complete/But His grace was not intended as a place to wipe your feet."
I was talking with someone yesterday. I said, "Sometimes, God calls us to do things we don't want to do, things that aren't easy...Check that, every single day of my life, God calls me to do things that I don't want to do, that aren't easy." He also calls us--commands us--to not do things we want to do.
What Jude insists on is that when we follow our own ways, we are condemned.
When we travel the grace path following Christ, Christ sets us free for a deeper, more significant life. Often we can't see the depth and significance as we're unwillingly submitting, but submitting nonetheless, to Christ.
But we don't need to see. Only God does.
That, I'm learning, is where faith comes in. Faith is trust in Christ even when everything inside us chafes or doubts or fears or can't understand.
Faith says, "I'm no longer pretending to be in charge. Because every time I thought I was in charge, I know I was only pretending anyway. Despite my pretense, I surrender to the God of grace and love I know in Christ."
If you're like me, you'll have to surrender like that about a hundred times a day or more. Such surrender isn't natural to us. That's okay. When we surrender to Christ, we learn that grace, true grace, grace that is acceptance of us without approval of our sins, grace that is accepting of us and then rolls up its sleeves to change us into Christlikeness, is natural to Him.
If we're willing each day to part with our sins and our conceits of self-sufficiency and of having God and life and everything figured out and of being able to pick and choose what authority we will give God over our lives, Christ can help us.
If no such willingness exists, Christ can't help. He doesn't force His help on us. That's how grace works.