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!

4 thoughts on “It’s not about me….

  1. “Sheep” – isn’t that the truth! Same in our group. The terrible after-effect of it is that it’s a difficult process to find our true selves again, and to get our image of God detoxified – we thought it was God who hated our personality and wanted to stamp it out.

  2. In the Dade City cult I was OBESSED with doing away with self – the pastor preached again and AGAIN about losing self- preservation.
    As I now know, she was blasting through God-given protection to rule more completely.

  3. I apologize for the blunt illustration but sometimes they help me the best to remember important truths.

    In a recovery meeting, someone was talking about letting go of our old ideas of God. He said, “If you had a business and one of your workers was not producing, you wouldn’t tolerate it. So, if you have a God that isn’t helping you in life, you need to fire the son of a bitch.”

    Crude, but it makes the point. My old ideas of God didn’t help me have joy and peace. It didn’t help me deal with sin in my life. It never produce a character that others were impressed with or drawn to. It really never did a whole lot of good but make me feel guilty, deficient and confused.

    One day I took a piece of paper and wrote down what I truly believe about God aside from doctrine, theology and any intellectual reasoning. I wrote things like the following:

    1. I believe God loves me at least as much as I love my children.
    2. God celebrates my progress and grieves the pain I put myself through.
    3. I believe God is an adequate and competent communicator. If I miss a lesson in life, he is fine with letting me learn the same lesson as many times as it takes or teaching me in a different way. I’m not condemned because I make a mistake or fail to learn something.
    4. God does not have a self-esteem problem. I don’t have to be the corrector of what people think or say about him.
    5. Humility and learning from others about God is more important than arguing about God and being right.
    6. It’s OK to say “I don’t know” about things concerning God that I really don’t know or understand.
    7. I don’t have to believe something just because an authority figure says it. I am free to say in all honesty “I’m glad that works for you. I’m not sure I see that just now.” I am not obligated to debate or defend why I don’t believe what the person is saying.
    8. I believe God will teach me as I am open to Him teaching me. I will not always seek Him perfectly. I will not always hear and understand perfectly. But God is patient. He doesn’t give up just because I happen to be dense or make horrendously bad choices.
    9. God is more into progress rather than perfection.

  4. …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!

    Oh, gosh, that is so true. Thanks for posting the really simple and wonderful truth.

    I remember all the cliches of Assembly speak, how it was easy to string them up into a whole of nothing. One of the worst ones that undermined grace was the Inheritance teaching. Losing one’s Inheritance could be held over someone’s head.

    I’ll keep reading.

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