A couple of years back, I needed help laying out a road through some timber we own west of town. I wanted to get ahead of the heavy equipment by clearing leaves and other surface debris from the layout so it wouldn't become a part of the roadbed.
I asked one of the homeless men I knew if he wanted to get a little exercise, instead of flying a sign at the local truck stop. On the day he helped me, we both put in several hours of hard work clearing the route of the loose matter. After I'd settled up with him and was taking him back into town, I asked him about his day. He responded: “Sure is better than flying a sign. I feel like I accomplished something.”
We were created to work. We were not created to play; entertainment cannot provide accomplishment. We were not created to live off the efforts of other people; dependence upon public assistance cannot provide dignity. We were not created to practice religion; religious ceremonies and traditions cannot provide transformation of lives.
We were created to work. Granted our first assignment was pretty cushy (see Genesis 2:15), but it was still work. After Adam and Eve got us kicked out of the garden, the work we do changed somewhat. Our work now required overcoming resistance—like thorns and thistles and pain (see Genesis 3:16–19).
Every man and woman on the planet is hard‐wired to work—to overcome resistance and make progress. Yes, even those considered lazy by the working class have their own way of working. I am around the poor on a regular basis, and even welfare recipients put in a form of work just to take advantage of public assistance; the amount of intelligence and effort some folks put into gaming the system, so they don't have to work, is truly amazing.
Everybody works at something in order to make the kind of progress they want to make. Children work at manipulating their parents in order to get what they want. Criminals put forth effort in overcoming resistance so they can commit crimes.
It is natural for those of us who love God to want to work at becoming better people. It's natural for us to want to make progress. It is natural for us to want to be more like Christ. But there's nothing natural about getting there.
The process of become perfectly and fully developed (see James 1:4) is not natural in any way, shape, or form. And if we try to accomplish it by human effort we will not only fail, but make things worse in the process.
If you are a Christian, think back to the day before and the day after you accepted the grace of God through Jesus. Surely, on the day before, you were trying to carry something too heavy for you or you wouldn't have messed with Jesus. By His grace, He took whatever you were carrying and carried it Himself. And the next day you noticed the weight was gone.
The Galatians, as well, had a weight (in this context, the law) lifted by the grace of God through Jesus. But for some strange reason they didn't think Jesus was enough to make them right with God the Father. They wanted to add a little effort of their own by reinstating circumcision. If however, as Paul reminded them, they tried to do one thing on their own, they would then have to do everything on their own (see Galatians 5:1–8).
The grace of God is a package deal—all or nothing. You do not get to pick and choose what you want Jesus to deal with and what you want to deal with on your own. If you try to keep a few things to handle on your own, you will get “everything” to handle on your own.
For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace. (Galatians 5:4 NLT)
This is definitely a hard saying. But the two systems don't mix. Living by the law does not mix with living by grace—two different mindsets, two different ways of working. You can't just switch back and forth between the two at will. It doesn't work.
“Anne had the only beauty shop in her small Texas town. It was a good thing she had no competition; otherwise she would have had no business. Anne had been a bit short on both compassion and quality since her divorce, but people just put up with her.
“Her Sunday school class had a four‐day mission trip planned to help a group of poor kids, across the border, in Ciudad Juárez. She was talked into going to help with haircuts. As Anne was staring into the appreciative eyes of the children, her heart broke to think about how she had been treating her own clients.
“When Anne returned home she began to make some changes. She began to see real people behind faces. And she began to demand excellence of herself in dealing with all of her clients… well… all of her clients except Louise and Mildred. Louise had been about four days short of dying for the last ten years, and Mildred was just plain ugly.
“Anne would make great progress until Louise or Mildred would show up. And rather than try to see them with her new perspective, she would just blow them off with her old attitude. But Anne noticed she couldn't turn her new attitude back on at will. The old attitude would stick around for days; it was as if she had to start all over again. She realized this new life she wanted to live was all or nothing.”
To try to add to the flow of God's grace in your life by your own human effort, is as ridiculous as to try to increase the flow of the Mississippi river by throwing in a five‐gallon bucket of water.
If you saw a man throwing a bucket of water into the Mississippi to increase its flow, would you believe he had an understanding of the power present in the river? Do you think he could see the potential for shipping, hydro‐electric energy, irrigation, and recreation? No…! He could not harness the power of the river without first understanding the power of the river.
In the same way the man who thinks he can add to the flow of the grace of God by throwing in his own human effort does not and cannot have an understanding of the power present in God's grace. He will simply be blinded to the supernatural possibilities, and the power of God's grace will just flow by him.
There is a different way of thinking and a different way of working that allows us to tap into the power of God's grace. We will continue this discussion on Friday. Sherrel will be contributing tomorrow.
Have a good day,