It’s very common for us to hear stories of grace and lift our hands in praise then turn our gaze quickly away. So often we know all of the right answers, but we live as if we’re clueless. Our understanding of Christ is surface deep and strangely, we seem content with that.
We have a passion for knowledge, but no passion to put the knowledge to practice. We highlight the leaves of our favorite passages but leave the truth behind as soon as we close the pages. There is a huge abyss between the things that we say we believe and the things that we show we believe through the way that we choose to live.
Why is that?
Why would I marvel at the love that Christ has for me as I dwell on the pages of Ephesians, only to turn around and insist that my brother earn that love that I never could? Why would I say that Christ is my all while I resist living in such a way that proves it? How can I praise Him for His life of servant-hood through which He laid down His life for those that despised Him and then hold back from forgiving those that have ever so slightly hurt me?
Perhaps we don’t know what it means to truly follow Christ. We know about Him, but we have a harder time actually knowing Him. Perhaps we don’t know what it means to deny ourselves and live for the One that died for us because when we truly understand the gift of grace, our natural reaction will be to give up the things of this world.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in all his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44
We can read about forgiveness, but until we actually receive forgiveness and learn to forgive others, we don’t know really what forgiveness is. We can hear about love, but until we experience the unending love of the Father, we really can’t understand what it means to be loved. We can say that we follow Christ, but until we deny ourselves and pick up our cross, we cannot follow Him.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Sometimes we say that grace calls us out of our comfort zones, but it’s probably more accurate to say that grace calls us to destroy our comfort zones. We are called to let go of self, let go of sin, let go of anything in this world that isn’t of Christ, and this is going to impact our lives in a very real and tangible way. Every day our life is going to bring along decisions and we’re going to have to choose between denying ourselves or denying Jesus. The only way to truly follow Him is to deny ourselves.
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39
If our hands are full of our own ways and our own dreams and plans, we cannot grasp the things of Christ. It is only when we empty our grasp on the things of this world that we can pick up the cross of Christ. In picking up our cross, we are accepting the call that He has for our lives and embracing the life that grace is beckoning us toward.
We cannot hold on to our own kingdoms and still reach out to embrace His. It’s one or the other. We can’t run after our own plans and insist on our own ways and still say that we want to acknowledge Him in all of our ways. Our choice is self, or Jesus.
Either choice is going to be evident in every area of our lives. Our choice will manifest itself in the way that we love. When Jesus comes in, He restores and reconciles and makes us alive with Him. Your life is a reflection of the grace that He has shown you. Radical love results in radical living.
Maybe no one knows the exact things that we struggle to hang on to, but our Father knows and is calling us to release them so we can love Him more. Whether it’s media, an incorrect view of love, a grudge, a feeling of entitlement, a tendency to put self above others, insecurities, or perhaps impatience with those that have a knack for frustrating us, He’s calling us to let them go. Whatever it is, He is better, and He’s calling us to loosen our grip so that He can fill our arms with something much greater than we could ask for—His presence and love in our lives.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest in me. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Sometimes we call out for grace and He gives it to us in the form that we least expect it. Sometimes what we need most is an uncomfortable grace that calls us to change through the call to empty our hands of the never-satisfying things that take priority in our hearts. He is calling us to give up our own wisdom so that He can show us the reality of our delusions. We can admit and embrace our short-comings and trust Him to lead us through our weaknesses. We can look to Him for His perfect strength as we carry our own cross and run toward Him.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2