Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Struggle with Grace

I just read the first chapter of Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and I can't wrap my mind around it. Somehow, I have a mental block when it comes to grace theology. Pastor Chris spent all summer on a grace-themed sermon series, and I didn't understand that either. My brain is so deeply entrenched in a legalistic outlook that I cannot fathom anything else.

I process by writing, so I'm going to attempt to do that here.

This is the part that gets me:
The promises of life for obedience are not meant to build our self-confidence. They're meant to make us long for obedience and then, when we fail again, they're meant to crush us and drive us to Christ . . . Again, that doesn't mean we don't teach our children God's law. We are commanded to do so but not to make them good. We are commanded to give them the law so that they will be crushed by it and see their need for a Savior. The law won't make them good. It will make them despair of ever being good enough, and in that way it will make them open to the love, sacrifice, and welcome of their Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, give them God's law. Teach it to them and tell them that God commands obedience. But before you are done, give them grace and explain again the beautiful story of Christ's perfect keeping of it for them.
Ok, number 1: I've obviously only read the first chapter. Maybe the subsequent chapters will answer the myriad of questions swirling around in my head. But for now, I need to get them out.

I can't teach this stuff to my kids when I don't even understand it myself. I asked myself what I think grace is, since I feel so resistant to the grace that Fitzpatrick is presenting. Here's what I've got:

I know that I was a worthless sinner, dead in my transgressions, completely incapable of righteousness on my own. Jesus' death and resurrection offered sanctification. When I accepted that gift, I was made clean. God sees me as righteous through the blood of Jesus. I now have perfect standing with God and am alive in Christ. But then comes the tricky part. I feel like there have to be deeds to accompany faith. (See the book of James) I'm not saying that I'll lose my salvation if I don't obey the Bible. I know there was nothing I could do to gain salvation, and in the same way, there's nothing I can do to keep it. But there has to be obedience. There has to be "dying to self" and trying to obey. Otherwise I think it's too easy to abuse grace. And that's what rankles me a little bit about Fitzpatrick. She seems to advocate for telling our kids, "Here's the law. This is what the Bible says we have to do. But don't worry if you can't do it. No one can. Jesus did it for us. So let's just be thankful and go on our merry way!"

Why is the New Testament full of commands from Jesus on holy living (and calls to "be holy" or "be perfect") if He doesn't intend for us to try and obey them? I feel like we're obliterating whole passages of the Bible and just saying, "Whew! Glad I don't have to do that! Thanks Jesus!"

I get that we should want to obey because of our thankfulness, but if that doesn't come naturally to me as a somewhat mature adult, how on earth can I expect that of my children?

An aside: Her Biblical backing for this theology is Paul's blasting of the law throughout his epistles. Pastor Chris focused on the same thing often in his series on Galatians. My niggling doubt is this: Paul was writing to Jews about the Mosaic law, wasn't he? He was showing them that the law they'd previously known as a way of life and religious obedience wasn't necessary thanks to Jesus. They didn't have to do the sacrifices any more or abide by the strict ceremonial laws. He wasn't referring to the "law" that came from the lips of Jesus in the New Testament. There are still commands we have to obey. We are still under some form of moral obligation. Right? Or is that the Pharisee in me talking?

Oy. I have a long way to go to figure this out. I'm not going to link this to facebook, because it's mostly just ramblings from my scrambled brain. Maybe eventually, I'll be able to come back to this post and say, "I was so confused, but then the light clicked on for me!" I'm praying for such a revelation.

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