The title is not mine. It was written by a fellow believer, who like me has been given the grace to pass the three score years and ten, much of it in pastoral ministry.
What strikes me when I read what he writes are the adjectives which come to mind, such as spiritually mature, Scripturally wise, but even more, he brings to mind a man who has been in God's slow, patient mill which has shaped, and is still shaping his heart and mind, along the lines of Paul in 1 Cor.2:6.
Coincidentally, His name is also Paul.
Paul Burleson is well worth reading at his blog. Just click on his name.
I knew from the very beginning that I was "saved by grace." With my history and personal background it was a given that I needed grace. All I was capable of doing were things no one in their right mind would call good and certainly not pure. It didn't take being a rocket scientist to figure out that I needed God's help. So, Grace as shown in the Person and Work of Christ became real to me. I became a believer. My message was one of grace from the outset. It's called the gospel.
But, that said, It took me some years to realize that the same grace that saved me was the grace by which I was to live. So I began a walk according to the law. Oh it wasn't the law of Moses, although I did somewhat embrace the 10 commandments as the foundation of the way I was suppose to live, it was the law of logic for me.
My logic went this way. Knowing no one could ever repay Jesus completely for what He did for them, I believed I did need to spend the rest of my life trying to. So a pay back journey began. Back then that sounded spiritual, at least to me, but it wasn't. It was works. I was, indeed, saved by grace but was trying to live by the works of the law. [My law of logic.]
You may be asking, "What does that law of logic look like?" The answer is it looks like what I heard one person call, "An ash tray full of buts." [Thus the picture with apologies to cigarette butts.] I knew I was saved by grace, "but!......" [There it is.] There was ALWAYS an "I know it is all of grace.... "but."
You see, in my mind, there were things I needed to do to keep grace from being cheap. I owed Him my all and I wanted to show up for the parade of working to pay Him back. [Remember, I'm not talking about salvation here.] Little did I know that what cheapens grace is to think you can add anything to it, even in your walk. Thus, my walk became "do this," "do that," "or do the other," instead of realizing what "had already been done" and walking in that reality.
This, inevitably and subtly, shifted my focus from Him and His work, to me and my work. It will ALWAYS do that. Instead of learning to be impressed by what He had done, I was trying to impress Him with what I was doing so He'd know I really loved Him for what He had done. Make sense? It did to me.
So, as you can see, my first "but" mixed with grace was, "But I owe Him my all and had better show Him by doing all I can". [The ash tray will be full of "buts" before we're finished.]
Another "but" mixed with grace in my life was, I knew that Jesus had saved me, "but" if I didn't study the bible and understand doctrine I would never be able to know what to do. I had to know "bible truth" so I could have a game plan of performance. As you can see, I wound up not reading the scriptures to see Jesus at all. (Lk 24:27) My purpose was to learn, what I ought to do? Does this remind you of what Jesus said to the Pharisees at all? [John 5:39]
I developed a little knowledge of this doctrine, a little knowledge of that doctrine, and became doctrinally correct in many ways. But, sadly, I ended up thinking all scripture was profitable for me to know ONLY as it showed me how to live. That's far from having my "eye on Jesus alone."
I failed to filter what I read through the finished work of the cross, I read someone say it this way, "I unwittingly poisoned myself about the Christian life." I was mixing the death-dealing words of my own "law of shoulds" with the life-giving "words of grace." Although I thought I was zealous for the Lord, I was really only zealous for my own law. I wound up with a STRONGER CONNECTION to the WRITTEN WORD than I had with the LIVING WORD. Another "but" in my ashtray of useless things on my journey because my time in the Word was about ME and not HIM.
There is yet another "but" that I mixed with grace. It was..."But"__ I need more from God so I can live the Christian life. Now this is REALLY subtle. I kept looking for something to help me live the Christian life to it's fullest. But I was searching for the very things that He had already provided IN CHRIST. I would ask for more faith instead of living by the faith of the Son of God (Ga 2:20). I would ask for more peace without knowing He was my peace. [Ephesians 2:14] I would ask for more victory without realizing He had already won the victory and my victory was trusting that fact. [1 John 5:4]
I was always asking for something more. I read books on "How To_____," went to conferences to learn "how to____," and you can fill in the blanks. On and on to find ways to help me do my"shoulds."Never satisfied with Christ alone. [The ashtray was full and was dirty and stank.]
I didn’t realize that I had already been blessed with every spiritual blessing IN CHRIST, and that I was deeply loved, and highly favored, IN CHRIST. [Ephesians 1:3] So in my ignorance I wasted a whole lot of time asking for things that were already mine. This "but" had brought me to thinking I was being spiritual and faithful when in reality I was fleshly and faithless.
The tragedy of all this is simple. You just do not mix anything with real grace. In true grace you sit in it, you walk in it, you stand in it. [Taken from Watchman Nee's book on Ephesians entitled, Sit_Walk_Stand.] But in subtle ways I preferred rules to relationship and what I really craved were clear Biblical guidelines for living. I thought I was choosing good, but then so did Adam. Adam and I both had an independent spirit that led us to eat from the wrong tree and the result was nothing more than dead works.
It was when I discovered that as a believer I was called upon in the New Covenant to repent of dead works that I was finally shaken.
Dead works are the things religious people do thinking that by doing those things they are gaining something from God. If I pray because I think it will make me better with God, it's a dead work. if I read my bible thinking it will make me better with God, it's a dead work. If I go to church.....You get the idea.
But if I pray or read my bible or witness or go to a gathered church meeting because I know the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST is mine and I AM ACCEPTED BY PAPA and I know THAT HE LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY, instead of all those things making me better with Him, I find the power to live already present in my life. His name is Jesus. [That's shouting ground.]
Now don't get me wrong here, which some might be prone to do. I'm not saying you don't do certain things. Of course you do. Perhaps everything I've mentioned in this post, in fact. But you don't focus on them or keep track of them so you can measure yourself by them because they are not for measuring anything about you. They are simply your response of love to His great acts of grace in Christ that have already made you acceptable. It is simply you learn to live as a son instead of a slave.
So, my mixed bag was discarded. The "buts" were thrown out and the ashtray was emptied, gone, removed. The stench of dead works was also removed and the sweet aroma of grace is now the atmosphere of life itself. His name is Jesus.