Michael Spencer’s posts on grace (here, here and here) gave me an “aha!” moment about what was off-base, spiritually speaking, in the Geftakys Assembly, and other legalistic groups. That kind of perfectionistic performance-based teaching invokes a schema that is all about the individual. Do I have the right attitude – “Are you rejoicing, sister?” Am I praying enough – “Did you sign up for prayer tower?” Am I walking closely enough with the Lord – “How are your morning times, sister?” Am I following all the rules – “Your hair is a little short, sister.” Am I spending time with enough people – “Are you going through the Anchors with someone?” Am I working with my children enough – “Are you having mat times at home, sister?” Am I teaching my children the way of the cross – “Are you enforcing first-time obedience, sister?” Am I a good example – “There’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine, but you have to think about your testimony.” (Sorry, but I really needed that glass of wine.)
You form a picture of a God who is busy all the time scrutinizing the lives of His children for flaws and failures. That’s his preoccupation, that’s what he is really, really interested in – pointing out all the mistakes, and searching, searching for the rare soul who is doing it all right. Those few – those very few – successes are his delight! Those few successes are what the whole human project has been about since the book of Genesis, and they are the ones in the book of Revelation who help Jesus win the final victory! Yaaay for the Overcomers!
God’s other main endeavor right now is preparing great things for them!
Uh, pardon me, but that schema is bass-ackward! Emphasis on the “Aack!!” THAT IS NOT God’s plan and preoccupation! He created man because he wants to reproduce the love that exists between the Father and the Son. The angels were fine, they’re sentient and powerful and all. I mean, talk about performance! But they have no clue about relationship. He wanted beings who could share the love.
Of course, having the image of a God like this and and being able to freely choose to love him, we were also able to disobey, and the rest is history.
So is God all about trying to get us to shape up, already? NO. He sent his son to live the perfect life on our behalf and to die to bring us into union with himself, so that, by grace through faith, we are once again in that circle of love between the Father and the Son and the Spirit. And although we still sin, we have within us the desire to behave like family members. The more we experience the love, the more we want to change and become like Them.
And that’s how it works! Instead of it being all about our individual performance, it’s all about believing more and more what God has already done on our behalf, opening ourselves up more and more to receive his love. As that happens our minds get renewed. We begin to operate out of a different set of beliefs. We change! (A little. Sometimes a lot, but not often, because changing our beliefs isn’t easy…) But that’s the difference between legalism and grace–it’s a completely different paradigm! It’s not about us, it’s about the love of God!