Thursday, May 21, 2009

Justified by the Law?

This morning in my quiet time I was going through Galatians 5. I was so amazed at all the truths that I was getting from the chapter...even though I had heard them many times before.

In verse 4, it says "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

What is the law? Well, at the time I believe that it was the law referring to circumcision. (But don't quote me on that... I'm not an expert). To practically apply this verse I had always thought about the law being the rules that our society lives by... and if you "break the law" you get a fine or go to jail.

However, in my last post I was talking about freedom from the fear of doing the "wrong thing"...and I think this verse relates. I believe that we can set laws for ourselves that aren't necessarily Biblical. In my case, I had decided, for whatever reason, that if I made a "wrong" choice, I would ruin my happiness. So I kept my personal "laws" and "rules" hoping that if I did the things that I was supposed to I would never get hurt and in essence have a perfect life. My "law" and "rules" suddenly became king.... and they started to rule over me and determine my actions.

No longer was I living by grace... I was a slave to my "law". Paul speaks directly and says "YOU who are trying to be justified by law..." "Who me? Naw... he must be talking about the pharisees or something."... or so my thought processes went for so many years. But I was trying to justify myself by my own "law". I was thinking that if I "do this" I will "be this". What nonsense that I thought I could earn the happiness and joy that is freely given in Christ by following some "rules" that I thought would bring about that happiness.

Below is the rest of a conversation that is, of course, fictional - between God and I, but these thoughts have been running through my head, and I figured that I could express myself better in a literal conversational format. This is simply to illustrate a point... I am by NO means trying to put words in my Lord's mouth:

Him: Emily, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. - Galatians 5:6b

Me: What? That's the only thing that counts? No... it can't be... don't I have to DO something?

Him: Love me with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Me: You mean that I don't have to stress out about "keeping my laws"? That I need to exhibit my faith through love?

Him: Yep... that's pretty much it.

Me: Wow... but that seems so simple!

Him: Exactly.

Me: What?

Him: Exactly. It IS simple. You make things too complicated, and so does the rest of the world. MY laws are the ones that you should be keeping... not the ones that you subject yourself to.

Me: I know... but I just want to make sure that I am serving you in the best way possible.

Him: Do you really?


Him: Or is it really because you want me to give you a "good life" and happiness... so you come to me and beg me to tell you what to do in certain situations... because you're afraid to exercise your judgement. Is it love for me? Or is it fear of doing the "wrong thing"?

Me:......... ouch.

Him: You are my child, but you also have my Spirit... I gave you my Spirit so that you may become comfortable listening to my voice... but also doing and being what I created you to do and be. My spirit works and lives in you...and sometimes I think you forget that.

Me: So you mean that you want me to just make my own decision without your guidance?

Him: Not at all.

Me: Well... what do you mean then?

Him: I mean that after you have prayed, sought wise counsel, read my book, and sought ME... rest. Be at peace. Don't always worry about if you are doing the right thing. If you are seeking me... I will have you on the right path. Whether that path causes pain or pleasure is not up to you... your job is to seek, follow, and then rest in the place that I have prepared especially for you. Worry doesn't add a single hour to your life...and I sent my Son to die on a cross so that you would not have to live as a slave to fear.

(I am NOT putting words in the Lords mouth or trying to make Him say things that He didn't say. This conversation is purely metaphorical and is used specifically to understand the Biblical truth of freedom from the law. If anyone is offended by what I have written, please feel free to write to me at Like I said before though, I wrote this simply to illustrate a point...nothing more.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fear in Choices

Oh how the love of the Father is a consuming fire! I pray that he would transform my actions and my words more and more each day. But how can he do this transforming work in my heart and my life if I am consumed with fear?

I have been thinking on the concept of fear quite a bit lately. I have never really viewed myself as a fearful person, but God gave me an interesting thought through a friend the other day. I was contemplating the question "what is your greatest fear?". I hadn't really thought about this before... and for a long time the answer to this question was death. I feared death more than I feared anything else. I feared being separated from the people that I loved through death. God brought that fear to life through a series of circumstance which I describe in my book (which is still a work in progress!) and through those circumstances, even though my worst fears came true, my dear Savior led me to victory over those fears.

So, I was contemplating what I now fear. I have already seen someone face death and so death no longer causes me to tremble. But I realized that the fear of doing the wrong thing is a fear that is very real to me. Obviously everyone should have a healthy fear of the Lord, but I definitely don't think that the Lord wants us to live in constant fear of "doing the wrong thing." Some people fear failing. Others fear what people will think. I don't fear these things... I simply fear walking down the "wrong path". Through the eyes of a friend and because of God's grace I realized that this thinking is in itself wrong! The Lord doesn't want me to be bogged down by this fear of making the wrong choices or doing the wrong things.

I wanted my life to turn out perfectly and for years I had this notion that in order for that to happen, I had to make all the "right" choices and walk down the exact path that God had chosen for me. So I was constantly living in that fear that maybe I had made the "wrong choice" in a certain situation or made a "bad decision" and that it would "ruin" my life. That life would never be the same because of my mistakes.

But isn't that what my dear Savior died for? So that I don't have to spend my entire life living in the fear that I must always do right? Obviously I shouldn't deliberately do the wrong thing. But I do believe that the Lord wants me to make the best decision that I can within the grey areas of my life without stressing so much about going down "this path" or "that one". My wonderful Lord is sovereign and I believe that he is in control of every aspect of my life.

I am slowly learning how to step outside of that "fear of doing the wrong thing" because I do believe that a fear like that can consume someones life if they don't turn things over to the Lord and instead stress about if it's "right or wrong". Please don't misunderstand me: I don't mean that we should be lazy and not care about if a choice is right or wrong. It is definitely up to us to make wise choices with the different things that the Lord gives us, but I do believe that after we have prayed and asked God for guidance we shouldn't live in that fear that keeps us immobilized.

A fear like the one I just mentioned can keep me from doing anything at all! Instead of doing something, I just do nothing because I am afraid of doing wrong! How sinful! The Lord doesn't want me to become a sitting vessel... he wants me to be active and do what I can with the time and gifts that he has given to me. I mustn't fear the unknown simply because it's unknown. I mustn't fear doing wrong simply because I don't want to get hurt. Stepping outside of this fear and living in confidence and victory is something that the Lord is making known to me... that this freedom is GOOD and that being confident and letting him handle all those little things in my life is something that I should have been doing a LONG time ago.

I can't change the past, so what's the use of contemplating if a choice was right or wrong? The Lord IS sovereign and I know that he is "working everything together for the good of those who love him." Whether my choices cause me pain or cause me happiness, God will use them in a way to bring about my eventual good and his eventual glory. I cannot live with that crippling fear that if I "do the wrong thing" I will be unhappy the rest of my life. A life of joy can be lived no matter WHAT road I am long as my identity is always placed in my Savior Jesus Christ. In HIM my joy is found...not in my personal choices or actions.

Praise God for the freedom and victory over fear that he gives to his children! A life with him is so full that it becomes overwhelming at times. The joy that wells up within me is greater than anything I have ever found or will ever find in this dark world. The light that He continues to shine can be found, if we choose to look for it... the key is in walking out of that crippling fear that paralyzes us from doing things. That fear of doing wrong IS wrong! Praise God that He is continually renewing my mind and banishing that fear so that I can live in victory through the cross.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear..." - 1 John 4:18a
Lord cast out that fear. I praise you for your perfect love that has that ability to banish all my doubts so that my view is filled, not with my fear, but with your wonderful perfect glory.
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