Did you ever watch the Seinfeld episode of the soup Nazi? It was very funny. Seinfeld and his buddies would go to lunch at a restaurant that specialized in soup. If they said one negative thing or complained about the soup in any way, the soup Nazi (the owner) would grab the soup back and tell them in a gruff and rigid voice to get out of his restaurant and then he would say, “ONE YEAR, NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!”
I always think of that episode when I meet rigid, religious people, who have these set of rules that their friends should live by when it comes to serving God, and would treat them badly if they didn’t toe the line.
It is like I can hear them saying, “ONE YEAR, NO GRACE FOR YOU!!!!
Have you met one of these people?
I call them the Devotional Nazis. They live by a set of rules and regulations and meetings and laws that they tend to impose on you as a means to draw closer to God. They look at outward appearances and proclaim the sins of others without looking on their own lives and realize that we all fall short of living up to Pharasitical standards of acceptance. It saddens me when I see these kinds of people for they struggle and work and presume judgment of others to achieve greatness in the Kingdom of God, when all along Jesus already paid the price for their freedom from those very laws. They failed to see those rules only were there in the first place to show us we needed a Savior. We could never measure up without Him. And it saddens me even more how many people their judgments injure and hinder in their growth because they just never measure up.
But it is too hard to change for many and too hard to let go of the control and the superiority of being the judge of others in the Body for then they might have to look inward. The sin in our lives is often just the surface symptom of a deeper level of the heart that the Lord is working on. So, how can we look on the outward ‘sin’ of others and presume we can judge their condition when God is the only one who can see the heart and the only one who knows how to heal that heart.
Do we really understand Grace?
I think grace is an ongoing revelation to our souls as long as we are on this earth with our limited knowledge. Everything seems conditional in our lives.
If you love me, then I will love you.
If you serve me, then I will serve you.
If we can find the right set of conditions to meet and we do it, our happiness is secured. What happens though, if we can’t meet our end of the bargain? Because for every promise of reward there is a promise of punishment in the world we live in. This is where anger, fear, and insecurity begin to encompass us.
We are on a merry go round.
The message is that accomplishment precedes acceptance, and achievement precedes approval.
And around and around we go.
Are you ready to get off the Merry Go Round?
Have you ever met someone who has lived their whole life trying to live up to someone’s conditions for approval and love that was set into motion by a demanding parent? And they may be 50 years old and still caught in the pattern of spinning their wheels trying to measure up to someone’s expectations. They have great potential but are never satisfied so they never accomplish a thing, when, unknowingly to them, God had a plan for their life all along.
We get caught up in perfectionism and we have all sorts of ways to try to justify our actions, but none of those justifications can change the fact that instead of feeling accomplished, we allow impossible burdens to be put on ourselves that ultimately produces exhaustion, bitterness , shame and a general feeling of failure. It may be all we know and we may even impose our conditions of acceptance on others. Maybe even our children.
So, in our Christian life many of us see that it was Gods’ plan to send Jesus in our place, so that we are now “in” and on our way to Heaven. But then we fall back into that way of trying to achieve His acceptance and think it is our blood, sweat and tears that keep us “IN”. We think that in order for God to love us, we have to change, and be good. We think that if we want His love we have to earn it.
I thought that for years. I was very legalistic and thought that the more I worked for the Kingdom, at the expense of my time with my children, the higher I would become with God and the more accepted I would be by Him. I managed for years to climb that ladder, (I thought) but as most stuffed down emotions always do it all comes to the surface and sort of implodes our lives into disillusionment and confusion and destruction.
Have you noticed that the people in the bible that we call heroes are not really heroes? They were mostly all losers at first, before God got a hold of them. Prostitutes, liars, adulterers, thieves, doubters, scornful, etc. etc. They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes. They get afraid. They are selfish, deceptive, egotistical and unreliable. Actually the bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin, with His grace, His salvation. They all became great men and women of God but not until they surrendered to God. Just like us!!
The focus of the bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer!! It is not about us. It is about Him. He came just so we can be free of the demands of the law.
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return.
Grace is love coming to you that has nothing to do with you.
It is being loved and accepted when you are unlovable.
Grace has nothing to do with the loved, but everything to do with the Lover.
You are the beloved.
Grace doesn’t make demands it just gives.
Seriously, when you think about it doesn’t it look like Jesus is always giving of Himself, and did you notice, according to today’s church standards, He hung out with the wrong people?
There were the prostitutes, the adulterers, the tax collectors and the like. The worst sinners of Jesus’ day received his most joyful, compassionate welcome and love—because He knew that once they hung out with Him they would change from the inside out.
By nature we resist promises that seem too good to be true. So we feel so much better and SO MUCH MORE IN CONTROL, when we work for His acceptance and then we can feel like it is about us and how much we earned His favor.
Then we can give ourselves a pat on the back.
The balance for our lives has been settled already folks. Jesus has already done it all and we are covered and loved and accepted into His beloved fold.
All we have to do is receive it…take the gift of Grace into our lives and walk in it.
But we are uncomfortable because grace turns the tables on us, relieving us of our precious sense of control.
Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up, and the obligation to fix ourselves.
Because He came to set the captives free life does not have to be an exhaustive effort to justify ourselves and validate ourselves.
Only He can fix us!! Not our husbands. Not our children. Not our friends. Not even ourselves.
His Grace reaches out and pulls us to His chest and cradles us in His strong arms of forgiveness and love.
We are already accepted. It is not about us. It is about Him.
So, when I recently heard a dear teacher proclaim that the only way to spend quality time with Jesus is getting up at 5 am and spending an hour in the bible, and an hour in prayer, and then they would develop a better relationship with God, and that it was the only way to achieve relationship with him, I flinched. That is how I used to be. I would keep myself to strict standards of rules and points to gain entrance into the higher echelon of spiritual people. It took many years and humongous trials of loss before I finally gave up the fight for control and just let go. And yes, reading His word is part of it as well as talking to Him in length. But I love my walks with Jesus and chatting with Him in the car, and enjoying His presence in so many other ways.
When I finally let go of all control it felt like I had lost my faith because I wasn’t doing anything to earn it.
I had given up.
It was in that time of distress and loss that Jesus came to me and delivered me of some very real attacks in my life. I cried out to Him and asked why He had helped me because I had done nothing for Him at all. I wasn’t going to church, or reading the bible, or ministering at all. And He whispered to me—
“I love you, Dixie.”
He taught me that He loved me just as much in my losses and depression as when I was reaching out to others. It didn’t matter if I ever did another thing for my Lord, He would love me just as much as he did in my destitution and rebellion.
Don’t let people put heavy burdens on you. Walk in your own integrity and know there is not a set of rules to live by to be accepted into the lap of Jesus. Your service for Him is born out of Him being your Lover and when you get that close to Him you naturally want to tell others about Him. Otherwise it is a heavy burden and a constant merry go round of trying to get in his good graces.
Let Him love you regardless of your struggle with wanting to earn that love. Breathe in His peace!!