I’ve been thinking an awful lot about “grace” lately. It seems that at least once a day I’m bombarded by someone writing to my website to blast me for having put myself “under the law.” SIGH! They just don’t get it. And no amount of explaining seems to help.
They just don’t get it.
I “got it” practically from the moment I was “saved” in a little hick town Baptist church in Missouri in January 1995. I was 44 years old when it happened … when Pastor Wil Pounds said those words that resonated and “clicked” and nearly caused me to fall, mesmerized and awestricken, from my pew.
I was stunned to discover I hadn’t had to “do” anything to “get saved.” All I had to do was to “accept Jesus as my personal Savior.” He paid it all and there was nothing left for me to do, because my righteousness was like” menstrual rags” (Isaiah 64:6) And so I did; I “accepted” that fact. But right away, I felt sorry that “Jesus” died so that I could gain eternity with God. I’m the one who sinned all my life; not Him! It was unfair that HE died on my stupid behalf! I should have been hung on that cross!
It took me awhile to get used to the idea that He really DID “pay it all” and that my job was to simply accept it and move on. I “accepted” many things back then, including the fact that if my adoptive father (a raving, physically and verbally abusive pedophile who was the main reason I didn’t “accept” God for most of my life) could possibly “end up in heaven with me” IF he had simply repented and “accepted Jesus”....
I “accepted” the fact that my Jewish mother - who was married a total of 8 times before her death at the age of 45, and who had given me away at birth and then yanked me out of my happy foster home at the age of 9 and caused me unspeakable grief over the years – I accepted that IF she had “accepted Jesus” before she died, I would see her in heaven. Truth be told, neither of these things appealed to me and, in all honesty, throughout my life this was one of the reasons I did NOT want to “go to heaven” – I did NOT relish the idea of being with my abusive “parents” for eternity!
It was just PART of the “baggage” that had kept me from God....
But after I “got saved” (and I mean, SAVED … a thing that is impossible to explain!) I began to view it in a different light. I LET GO of my human feelings – the anger, the pain, the disappointment , the “stuff.” I was READY to let go! I was now truly a “new creature in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
But I never “got over” this feeling that I wanted to DO something for God! I KNEW I should be “doing something – but WHAT? I literally begged Him to tell me what this drive was all about.
Well, the answer came slowly, but it finally came in progressive steps that took three years to get me to where I needed to be. And it happened, in part, because I obeyed the Holy Spirit’s command to sell my house and all my possessions in Missouri and move to Colorado – the place where “Daddy” started sexually abusing me … a place I NEVER wanted to see again!
But I obeyed. And I faced my past in ways no one could possibly imagine. It HURT, but because I faced it, I was healed from the inside-out. And in the meantime, I clung to God and studied everything I could get my hands on … and I kept “growing” and I “went church hopping” to find that “just right place” that could tell me what I could “do” for God.
And nothing happened. My church experiences were all empty, devoid of any real “meat” … they were all about “grace” and “being forgiven” and about providing fluffy sermons every Sunday that didn’t get my soul in touch with God! I needed HIM to tell me what to do and how to live; not some pastor! Where was GOD in all those endless sermons? There was always “Paul wrote” and “Jesus said” and New Testament “feel good” stuff but “something” was missing!
Now, please understand, there’s nothing wrong with “grace” and “being forgiven” – but my goodness, when you marry the love of your life, don’t you want to DO something to please him/her? WHAT DID I HAVE TO DO TO PLEASE GOD besides just “believing in Jesus?” Cripes! Everywhere I went, I kept getting verbally slapped down for my desire to DO something! “Jesus paid it all,” they kept telling me. “You don’t need to DO anything!”
Well, long story short, I didn’t believe it. Yes, I realized I was “saved” (as the Baptists refer to it). But WHY couldn’t I DO something for my Savior? What was so wrong with wanting to PLEASE Him with my life?
After I moved to Colorado I ended up having to wait for more than a year before I FINALLY found what I had been seeking! Through a series of supernatural events that I didn’t understand at the time, God caused me to find my way to a Torah study where I, for the first time in my life, heard that there WAS something I could “do” for God! The secret was in the “Old Testament” - specifically, those first five Books called “Torah” – where God told HIS people to keep His Seventh Day Sabbath REST. It had nothing to do with “which day is right for ‘worshiping’” (you can “worship” ANY day!); it was simply a specific day (which, on our Gregorian calendars happens to fall on Saturday) to set aside each week to REST and to be with Him and study His Word, and to just chill. Halleluyah! How cool was that? I could finally DO something to show my appreciation!
But that wasn’t all! He also had some other commands for HIS people: Keep HIS Feasts/Appointed Times, each one with its own significance! And yeah, as “HIS people” (after all, we are ONE in Messiah!) I was also expected to eat only “clean” foods, which meant I had to give up bacon. (That one was hard!) And – by the way - I found out “the Father” had a Name that He had given to Moses, and that His Son’s REAL Name was Y’shua! Who knew? (See http://therefinersfire.org/name_of_god2.htm and http://therefinersfire.org/yeshua_vs_yahshua.htm )
And there it was – HALLELUYAH - the things I could DO for the God who sent His Divine Son to basically “put a face on God” for us stupid humans who always need a “sign” or something tangible; who showed HIS people how to live holy, set apart lives according to HIS divine rules; who then martyred Himself on our behalf to make it easy for anyone to simply “accept” God and thus gain eternal life with Him.
Obeying those “forever commands” has nothing to do with “not trusting Jesus!” I obey them because I love God and want to please Him! He NEVER, EVER said that plain, rote “obedience” would please Him; He wanted obedience to come from our hearts and souls, because we LOVE Him! THAT is also what Paul preached. For instance, paraphrased – “Don’t get circumcised because you HAVE to; do it because I said it was a SIGN between Me and My people, and you now WANT to! You WANT to be ‘MY PEOPLE!’” (See Genesis 17:7-14, Exodus 12:48-51, 1 Corinthians 7: 18-19 and http://www.therefinersfire.org/jewish_circumcision.htm )
Had I been an uncircumcised man, you’d better believe I would have gotten circumcised! Simple! I got it! I LOVED it! I wanted the whole world to know it!
But unfortunately, most just don’t get it. They’re too stuck in their religious traditions and denominations and other nonsense which – to be honest – was why YHWH scattered His Chosen into the world, in the first place. People didn’t listen back then, and they’re not listening now. Nothing has changed. EVERYBODY wants to do whatever they want to do.
I love how Isaiah put it:
Isaiah 64: 1 We wish you would tear open heaven and come down, so the mountains would shake at your presence! 2 It would be like fire kindling the brush, and the fire then makes the water boil. Then your enemies would know your name, the nations would tremble before you! 3 When you did tremendous things that we were not expecting, we wished that you would come down, so that the mountains would shake at your presence! 4 No one has ever heard, no ear perceived, no eye seen, any God but you. You work for him who waits for you.
5 You favored those who were glad to do justice, those who remembered you in your ways. When you were angry, we kept sinning; but if we keep your ancient ways, we will be saved. 6 All of us are like someone unclean, all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags; we wither, all of us, like leaves; and our misdeeds blow us away like the wind. 7 No one calls on your name or bestirs himself to take hold of you, for you have hidden your face from us and caused our misdeeds to destroy us. 8 But now, ADONAI, you are our father; we are the clay, you are our potter; and we are all the work of your hands. 9 Do not be so very angry, ADONAI! Don't remember crime forever. Look, please, we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a desert, Tziyon a desert, Yerushalayim a ruin. 11 Our holy, beautiful house, where our ancestors used to praise you, has been burned to the ground; all we cherished has been ruined. 12 ADONAI, after all this, will you still hold back? Will you still stay silent and punish us past endurance? (CJB)