What influences us toward being more like the Lord?
As I have been writing about grace the past few posts as a result of my digging into Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, the tendency to slip into legalism in our Christian life has been so clear. That legalism makes our response to the Lord more about duty. In the midst of that we cease to be engrossed by the lavish glory of grace and that is exactly what we must hold onto because it holds us in gratitude. It is then gratitude that provokes to a loving response to God’s grace instead of duty-laced legalism.
Do we have a duty or obligation to God? Jerry Bridges’ answers the question this way:
“He is the sovereign Ruler of this world, and in that capacity, He has “laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed” (Psalm 119:4). But He motivates us to obedience, not on the basis of His sovereign rule, but on the basis of His mercy to us in Jesus Christ.”
What compels us to obedience reflects our motivation for all that we do and I think that is significant to the Lord, more so than our performance. We are not often very astute judges of our performance any way. We make our judgment from comparison to some standard set by some other human being as naturally flawed as we are. God looks not only at what we did, but He looks at our heart. He sees all of us, sees what we miss.
The word motivation often gets used with how strongly we feel about doing something, about drive or passion. Jerry Bridges reminds us of a broader understanding:
“Motive has nothing to do with feelings or inclination; rather it refers to the reason why we do, or don’t do, something. For the person living by grace, that reason should be a loving response to the abundant grace of God already manifested in Christ.”
Our self-motivation too often shows up in what compels us to do or not do something. It has much to do with what others will think and perhaps even what God will think. Where God is concerned that gets us solidly into the performance mentality about whether we earn or lose some favor from the Lord by the choice we make to do or not do something.
Maybe the issue also exposes our tendency to love, trust, or obey the Lord because of what He does, forgetting that His worthiness comes from who He is.
Perhaps our challenge of loving the Lord or others well comes because we are not experiencing living by grace daily. An awareness of grace in its fullest sense frees us to love.
Too often we start focusing on so many aspects of the Christian walk of faith that things get out of balance in our heads. It happens to all of us at some point. The antidote to that might be what Jerry Bridges suggests:
“When you focus on grace in the fullness of its meaning, you will keep the law, liberty, and love in their proper relationship to one another. But if you focus on any one of them instead of on grace, you will invariably end up in the swamp of legalism or license.”
One of the powerful evidences of God’s grace is His patience with us as we grapple with the unspeakable riches He offers us through His grace pouring out to us from a love we still struggle to fathom.