The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge…. I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 The Message

Such a beautiful Bible verse and translation. Thank you for sharing it, friend. A beautiful message.

Jerry Bridges said, “Grace and the personal discipline required to pursue holiness, however, are not opposed to one another. In fact, they go hand in hand. An understanding of how grace and personal, vigorous effort work together is essential for a lifelong pursuit of holiness. Yet many believers do not understand what it means to live by grace in their daily lives, and they certainly don’t understand the relationship of grace to personal discipline.”

I used to believe that God’s blessing on our lives is somehow conditioned upon our spiritual performance. If I have performed well and had a “good” day, I assume that I am in a position for God to bless me. Sometimes it is the opposite. When I am experiencing bad days, there is no doubt in my mind that I have forfeited God’s favor for some period of time, most likely until the next day. My typical reply is, “I wouldn’t be worthy,” or “I wouldn’t be good enough.” Such a reply reveals an all-too-common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives by our performance.

This is an important spiritual principle that sums up what I’ve learned

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Every day of our Christian experience should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone. We are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day. This grace comes through Christ, “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”

A significant part of the Mosaic Law was the promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28, especially verses 1-2 and 15). Some Christians live as if that principle applies to them today. But Paul said that “the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3: 24). Christ has already borne the curses for our disobedience and earned for us the blessings of obedience. As a result we are now to look to Christ alone —not Christ plus our performance —for God’s blessings in our lives. We are saved by grace and we are to live by grace alone.

When we pray to God for His blessing, He does not examine our performance to see if we are worthy (Matthew 5:45). Rather, He looks to see if we are trusting in the merit of His Son as our only hope for securing His blessing. To repeat: We are saved by grace, and we are to live by grace every day of our Christian lives.

I’m began to feel lighter after understanding this truth.

So if it is true that our relationship with God is based on His grace instead of our performance, why then are we so prone to fall into the good-day–bad-day type of thinking?

It is because we have relegated the gospel to the unbeliever.

We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day–bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been.

As believers we are continually challenged with the demands and duties of discipleship. These demands and duties include such things as the spiritual disciplines (quiet time, Bible study, prayer, worship, church attendance, and so on). We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. Disciplines are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives.

Without a continual reminder of the good news of the gospel, we can easily fall into one of two errors.

The first is to focus on our external performance and become proud like the Pharisees. We may then begin to look down our spiritual noses at others who are not as disciplined, obedient, and committed as we are and in a very subtle way begin to feel spiritually superior to them. Law-bound Disciplines breathe death. Disciplines are primarily an internal work, and it is impossible to control an internal work. When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.

The second error is the exact opposite of the first. It is the feeling of guilt. Because we have put the gospel on the shelf as far as our own lives are concerned, we struggle with a sense of failure and guilt. We believe God is displeased with us, and we certainly wouldn’t expect His blessing on our lives. After all, we don’t deserve His favor. Because we are focusing on our performance, we forget the meaning of grace: God’s unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath.

Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God’s blessing through their behavior. Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God’s blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience. Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God.

(Read the story of the prodigal son, Luke 15, it was a story about two sons who both lived outside their father’s love. The first one was rebellious, and the other one was devout. But neither of them could understand their father’s heart.)

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves if we really know that we have a good Father. Being the by-product of a dysfunctional family may make it difficult for some people to understand the concept of both “good” and “father” in relation to each other. For many, it seems to be a misnomer to place these two terms side-by-side. The emotional trauma caused by betrayal, abandonment, and infidelity blinds us from the reality of a wonderful Lord and Savior seeking and calling those who have gone astray.

There is a major difference between knowing there is a Father and believing that He is Father to us. For more than two thousand years, millions of Christian men and women have uttered the Lord’s Prayer countless times. Even though they know it by heart, many are unable to enjoy and experience its true potential, because this prayer has to be activated correctly. In the opening verse it says, “Our Father in heaven…” Jesus’ words demonstrate a correct understanding of who the Father is and where He dwells. But more importantly, there is the correct emotion that must come to make that utterance potent and effective. No one can say Father without affection.

The devout brother also lived outside his father’s will for he thought he could impress his father by working in the fields along with the slaves. Both of the brothers represent the way the world deals with Father God. Both of them fell short of God’s glory, and both of them needed to come home.

Preaching the gospel to ourselves every day addresses both the self-righteous Pharisee and the guilt-laden sinner that dwell in our hearts. Because the gospel is only for sinners, preaching it to ourselves every day reminds us that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace. It causes us to say to God, in the words of an old hymn, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” It helps us to consciously renounce any confidence in our own goodness as a means of meriting God’s blessing on our lives.

Perhaps more important, though, preaching the gospel to ourselves every day gives us hope, joy, and courage. The good news that our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s death fills our hearts with joy, gives us courage to face the day, and offers us hope that God’s favor will rest upon us, not because we are good, but because we are in Christ.

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