The Freedom of Grace and Love

One of the most difficult parenting challenges is to have influence with your children. Influence is different from control. From childbirth we have total control over our children: when they eat, when their diapers are changed, when they sleep (ok, when we put them down for sleep), where they go, what they wear, who they meet… all these things we control. We are the law to our children.
But one day they learn a new word: NO!
And control begins to diminish. Less control at 2, even less at age 5, less when they go to school, and in the middle school years – sometimes you think you have lost all control.
And that is when you crave influence. If you have developed influence with your children they will follow your advice, your rules and your direction. Not because you are in control but because you have a relationship with them and they love you and respect you and want to please you.
Will they always do what you want them to do? No. But the only way you will ever have an adult relationship with them is by giving them freedom and love in generous amounts.
That’s what God does for us. He gives us grace and mercy and covers our sin. He cares for us with overwhelming amounts of love and blessings we don’t deserve and then he asks us to serve him by serving the people he loves. How can we refuse?
God desires an adult relationship with us as mature sons and daughters. He influences us with his love and grace. As we learn how to love him we are drawn into a life of awareness to the needs of other people. We become alive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and his guidance and (here is the word) influence of God our father.
Does he want to control every aspect of our life? No, that would be law.
Does he desire to influence our choices by his word and his spirit within us? Yes, that is what it means to be loved by God.
Prayer: I understand that freedom comes with grace and love and your will is what I desire to follow.

The Deception of Selfishness

Galatians 6:7-10
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
One of the greatest motivations we have as humans is to keep our eye on the goal. Not sure if animals are into self-improvement… never saw my dog worrying about becoming a better dog… but we think about such things. I believe God designed us to please Him and we are predisposed to please God.
The problem is we replace God with ourselves and strive to please ourselves with all the passion God gave us to please Him. It is the correct drive and passion, it is just misdirected. We are not God.
Even when we pamper ourselves and gain the desires of our selfish hearts we are not satisfied with the result. It is never enough… our desires are insatiable.But when we strive to serve God, when we get involved with helping people in the name of Jesus we find significance. We find peace and satisfaction in helping others.
Paul says be not deceived. We are easily deceived by the world with the ideas that we must take care of number 1 because no one else will do it. Paul says if you spend all your time planting seeds in your own garden you will harvest rotten produce. But planting seeds in God’s field produces a harvest of eternal proportions.
Is serving people in the name of Christ easy? No, we can grow weary. But keep your eye on the goal. For in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. There are physical blessings, and satisfying emotional benefits that come to those who don’t faint. There is an eternal reward and a whole new world waiting for those who love the lord. Focus on that and don’t give up.
Prayer: May I draw on your strength, on your power to lift me up on eagles wings so that I might run and not grow weary.

Representing Jesus

Galatians 5:13-16
13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
As believers we are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Jesus Christ to the world. We are called to be his hands and his feet to a world who does not know him. And we are called to share the gospel. To spread the Gospel through demonstration.
Marcus talked about the gym on Sunday and about the commitment it takes to be in good physical shape. But here is another side of the equation: Suppose you decide to join a gym and get in shape? And you meet with a personal trainer who is going to introduce you to all the gym has to offer. But this personal trainer is 100 pounds overweight and he is breathing heavy just walking you down the hall. Not only is he completely out of shape but he smells like he hasn’t showered in a couple days.
Would any thinking person go back to that gym? We don’t have to think negative thoughts about the personal trainer to keep ourselves from going back, we just put that person out of our mind and move on.
We are called to be examples to people who don’t know Christ, but we are sometimes rude, sometimes indifferent, and sometimes inconsiderate with people and they are looking at us like we would look at the personal trainer. And their thought is this:
“If this is what Christ is like I’m never becoming a believer.”
Now that example is way over the top but you get my point? We represent Jesus. We spread the Gospel through demonstration. What kind of gospel are we presenting?
Every day we have an opportunity to choose to be like Jesus. We can choose to look at people as temporary distractions, or we can look for ways to bless people. We can choose to ignore them or we can see them as people for whom Christ died… infinitely valuable to God.
How could we not choose to serve them?
Prayer: Give me the grace to people as you see them.

Daily Devotions 2020