Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grace Is Not Licentiousness

Taking a quick break from prophecy for an invaluable lesson from Kay Arthur about obedience to God and to his word. I'll mention it again, because every single one of these videos are so life-alteringly incredible, that if you have not watched the videos from this year's Epicenter Conference, you need to do so. Here's a very brief summary of Kay's message, though I will hardly do it justice, so please go watch the real thing!

I just finished watching Kay Arthur speak on the words of 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Her message was one of urgency, calling believers to fulfill their responsibility of studying the WHOLE counsel of God. At one point, she asked the audience, "How many books are in the Bible?" They, of course, answered, "66." She then asked, "How many books does God expect us to know?" She paused a moment, then asked, "How many books do you know?"

How many books do you know? What is the book of Leviticus about? What about Micah? Nahum? Admittedly, though I am continuously, avidly pursuing a deep, intimate knowledge of God's word, I have not taken the time to thoroughly and appropriately investigate every single book of the Bible. I've read them all, but I haven't really READ them. Have you?

(I guess we're not deviating too far from the prophecy topic...)

She made the point that if we do not KNOW our God, and what he is capable of, something we can only really know by studying in great depth and being able to call to mind specific events in history in which God displayed his magnificent power and sovereignty and protection and righteousness, then we will have nothing to cling to when we are faced with the battles that are sure to come in our lives. What will we cling to when a loved one dies, when a home is obliterated by a monstrous tornado, when a child becomes violently ill, when poverty strikes? As I mentioned in a previous post, God does not expect us to trust him blindly. He wants us to ask questions, to study his word, to study his character and SEE for ourselves just what he is capable of. He has PROVEN his sovereignty. But we have to be willing to read for ourselves, commit these events to memory, and be ready to remind God of his promises when we pray, not for his sake, obviously, but for ours. Only then will we be truly ready to face life's battles and hurts with the conviction and faith that it takes to TRULY have JOY in ALL circumstances.

And hand in hand with KNOWING God's word, comes OBEYING God's word.

"The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you." 2 Chronicles 15:2

Kay made a very interesting observation near the end of her message. She reminded us that God's very character binds his own hands from blessing us when we step outside of his will. And she quickly added, "But you say, 'That's grace.'" And then she said something that resonated so deeply within me, something I have known so solidly to be true, but have not had the words to express:

She said, "Grace is not licentiousness! Grace is the power to be righteous!"

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines the word licentiousness as this: 1. lacking legal or moral restraints; 2. marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness.

Now, if grace is NOT these things, then we can rephrase it like this:

Grace HAS legal/moral RESTRAINTS. Grace adheres to STRICT RULES OF CORRECTNESS.

And how do we know exactly what those restraints are and what exactly defines "correctness"? WE STUDY GOD'S WORD. And when we study his word and we know what he expects and we deconstruct our lives so that they may be rebuilt in alignment with the wishes and desires and values of GOD, the only one who holds any right to such things, then and only then, will we be in a position to have God's blessing.

The world shakes their fists at the heavens when disaster strikes, when the twin towers were attacked, when tsunamis and earthquakes and floods and tornadoes wreak havoc on our world, and they ask, "How could you let this happen?" But God, as Anne Graham Lotz so eloquently put it, is a gentleman. And when we say, "Get out, God. Get out of our government. Get out of our schools. Get out of our homes and our marriages. Get out of our lives," he finally says, "OK." He does not force himself upon us. And the destruction that follows is the natural result of a godless world.

And likewise, we run the risk of assuming that when good things DO happen, that they are from God and that he is blessing us, causing us to believe that we must be "alright" with God. I keep seeing these commercials for the TLC show Sister Wives, and I happened to catch part of one the other night, mostly out of a morbid curiosity. And the husband on the show said something that caused my skin to crawl. They were in the process of moving from Utah to Nevada, and despite many obstacles, made it there safely and began to get settled in. As a result, this man concluded that God had been with them, that God had blessed them, and that they were being rewarded for their faithfulness to God.

And for those of us who are believers, who have been saved by grace and have been promised a covering of God's grace and protection in our lives, we, too, must be very careful to not assume that God's grace is unlimited or that every "positive" thing in our life is a product of God's grace. His grace comes with boundaries. When we choose, whether by outright disobedience or simply by a gradual numbing of the soul, to veer away from the path that God has laid out for ALL of us in his word, we also veer away from his blessing and his protection. And just as God allows the wicked to prosper and appear to be "blessed" at times, he also will allow his own children, who insist on pursuing their own fleshly dreams, aspirations and desires, to appear to be "blessed" as well. And there is nothing the enemy loves more than using God's word and God's promises against God's children. The devil knows better than anyone that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Be careful to test the "blessings" in your life against the standard of God's word to know whether they are gifts from God or simply spoils of this world that he has allowed you to take hold of.

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." Jonah 2:8

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