Thursday, January 11, 2018

Replacing Self-Esteem with Grace

There is something in us, something in me, that wants to be different than everyone else. I want to be seen, noticed, and remembered because I'm ____________ (fill in the blank). This way of thinking, wanting to be wanted or known because of who I am, doesn't just affect my thinking and relationships with others. It leaches into my relationship with God. There is a tendency to believe that God chose me because __________ or because I bring something unique to the table, something no one else can or does. That's what self-esteem is: the idea that my unique-ness makes me different from everyone else. And while that's true, there's a greater sense of being the same that needs to be embraced.... Because God says so.

To a world of  Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers, and Millenialists, God says:

You are no better than anyone else. "with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:6). "Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." (Romans 12:16)

Your personal struggles are no different than everyone else's. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man..." (1 Corinthians 10:13). "each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust." (James 1:14)

You have nothing I want or need. "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6). "...nor is [God] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).

You are not in control. I am. " ...everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been..." (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15)  God "works all things after the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11).

And yet. Yet. He came. He gave. He embraces. He sustains, empowers, enables. Loves. God not only created us, He stooped down and brought us to Himself. Because we need Him desperately, He went to desperate lengths to buy us back from the slave market of sin. And then, knowing our weakness and frailty, He determined to dwell in us and assist us, His people, each and every moment of the rest of our lives.

Any relationship with sinners requires forgiveness. Reconciliation does not exist apart from forgiveness. Someone has to pay for another's sin against them. And God paid the debt for our sin against Him through Jesus. He took it all and we brought nothing. That. is. grace.

We didn't deserve it. We can't earn it. It's not ours to begin with. It's all an act of God's--His free will, His desire, His love manifested on us. And when that's true, when I begin to see the depth of His grace and am cut free from my desire to take hold of it in and of myself, there is freedom--freedom to love, freedom to obey--and gratitude--gratitude without strings, gratitude that washes over my thoughts, attitudes and actions. It's not up to me.

This truth borders on blasphemy. It's beyond my comprehension. It's not about me. It's all about grace. This is God.

As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; 

“The poison of asps is under their lips”; 

“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:10-28 NKJV)

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