I am no geologist, but I understand the canyons in the United States were formed, in part, by moving water. I've had the privilege of visiting both the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Black Canyon in Colorado. The Grand Canyon was absolutely spectacular, but the Black Canyon made me literally gasp for air.
The kids were all still under eleven or twelve (if I'm remembering correctly) when we visited the Black Canyon. This was a side trip someone told us we should take, so I had absolutely no expectation. As we drove to one of the parking areas, I felt like I was just driving through some rancher's pasture. There was no obvious sign of any canyon as we followed the markers along the path. But then… suddenly… we were there. My two boys ran ahead to the pipe fence, and quickly hung over the edge. I didn't think too much about it because the other side of this so‐called “canyon” seemed to be just a few feet from the guard rail.
But when I caught up with the boys and looked down… let's put it this way… it was very difficult, with only two hands, to grab hold of my two sons and my heart at the same time. It was so deep… so deep… the raging water was easier to hear than to see.
Note: Today's picture is an actual photo of one part of the canyon.
After returning from our trip, what if my boys saw me standing out in the pasture behind the house running water out of a garden hose? Probably the first time, they would think nothing about it. But if they saw me out there every day it wouldn't take long before they would ask, “Dad, what are you doing?” Imagine their response if I said, “I thought it would be neat to have a canyon of our own out here behind the house.”
And yet I have been just that foolish, in thinking I could be good by the sheer force of my human effort. I have spent most of my life trying to create a canyon by my own good works, not understanding that if I want to live a breath‐taking life it's going to require a force greater than anything I possess. It's going to require a flow of power that would have the ability to create a Black Canyon. And only the grace of God has that kind of power.
Are you ready to give it up? Not the desire to be good… but the way you've been going about it… because He still expects us to grow up:
You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 Amp Bible)
Are you ready to give up any attempt to do it on your own? Are you ready to, at once and for all time, stop trying to make your own righteousness by your own effort?
Think back to the Day Four Mississippi river illustration. It is time to realize that throwing water into a river from a five‐gallon bucket hasn't added one bit to the river's flow. And it hasn't added anything to our lives either, except to just wear us out.
If we want to move, we have to get into the water. The power is in the water—not on the bank. The work we do is to move in the flow of the grace of God—not to stand on the edge, looking in. Consider this beautiful imagery of Heaven:
Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:1–4 NLT)
Maybe the idea of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps has some brief romantic appeal—right after a motivational seminar or an inspirational movie. But it's gone in short order when you start acting it out. In the same way, the idea of a life lived under grace has some brief spiritual romanticism until, of course, you start acting it out.
To hear the message of grace after living a lifetime of trying to do good works, is just about all the good news a person can handle at one time. But just hearing about grace does not perfect us. Just hearing about grace does not put us into the flow of God's power.
Hearing about grace gives us hope. And this is good. Hope gives us a reason for living. I've gone long periods of time, living on nothing but hope. But hope does not create change. You can hear about grace twice a week at church, six days a week on TV, and three times a year at conventions. But hearing about grace does not create change.
Please don't miss this: To cease from your own works, when you hear about grace, feels so good you will think you have arrived. But don't be fooled; hearing about grace does not produce change. Hearing about grace, no matter how often, is not the same as living in grace.
God is all about relationship:
- He created us for His pleasure (see Revelation 4:11).
- He wanted to live (by His Spirit) with His people, the Israelites (see Exodus 25:8).
- He came in our likeness to live with us (see John 1:14).
- He wants to have eternal fellowship with us (see 1 Corinthians 1:9 and John 3:16).
And God is all about change:
- He wants us to grow into complete maturity (see Matthew 5:48).
- He wants us to be perfected (See James 1:1–4).
- He wants us to be transformed through the renewing of our mind (see Romans 12:1–2).
- He wants us to think like Him (see Philippian 2:5).
- He wants us to do what He did and then some (see John 14:12).
To move from the hope to the actual change requires work—a lot of work. But this work is different from anything known in our human experience.
First of all, the human experience says you work alone. Oh, you may be sharing a load, as in moving a piano. But you still have your end of the deal to hold up—so to speak. If the boss hands you a shovel and tells you to dig a hole, you will be the one on the shovel and you will be the one doing the sweating. If your CEO tells you to make a sales presentation at the board meeting, you will be the one doing both the talking and the persuading. If your principal tells you to improve the math score of your class, you will be the one figuring out the lesson plan.
But to live under God's grace is to never work alone. You will still work—if you want to fulfill God's desire for change. But you will always work in cooperation with Him. And this is so against our human nature, it takes deliberate effort on our part to change the way we think.
When God came to be with us in the likeness of man, He came to be our example. He did not work alone. He only said what He heard the Father say (see John 12:49‐50). He only did what He saw the Father do (see John 5:19). Now… He could have worked alone and pulled it off, but He did not because we cannot. Instead, He showed us the work we can do and the change we can make.
Over the weekend please consider this new way of working. The first step is to never, ever try to work alone.
Have a good weekend,