We were fortunate to have squirrelled away a week where we were able to set aside all work stuff and go away with two other couples and just relax.
Playing tennis, relaxing in a hot spa, eating outrageous food and generally just taking time to be with each other and God; amazing really! and so encouraging to be with others who are of like mind and appreciate where we are coming from.
We also brought with us heaps of books and DVD's . Daniel A. Browns' book "Embracing Grace" was one that I picked up just prior to going away and one that has had a profound effect on me, especially after I had been thinking along the very same lines and hence had written a blog "Blood Stained Pages' just days before.
Our God works in Miraculous ways indeed and then to top it all off, our friend Rick had brought along a DVD of Louie Giglio's "Grace (the one and only)" which just re-inforced to me that God was definitely giving me this message loud and clear.
Well! with all those prompts I was more or less forced to re-think where I was as a Christian; what was God trying to tell me and then coming to terms with my on-going sin, guilt and bad feelings.
Probably one of the first lessons of the week was that God does not want to punish me He is not a forbidding God sitting on His throne; staid and stern; more interested in his 'rules' than in me!
I must admit that prior to this week away, even though I knew God was merciful and kind, the very fact that I kept on sinning and having to come back time and time again to beg forgiveness, made me think that God must be so sick and tired of my sin.
How much further could I push him before He said enough was enough! "You have gone too far this time" and I had crossed the invisible line beyond His amazing grace.
Jesus paid an incredible ransom to get me released from judgement and shame; He is faithful and so ever ready to forgive me every sin and cleanse me forever from every stain.
NOW THATS' AMAZING!! God isn't a big stick wielding God ready to whack us at every mistake we make being deliberate or otherwise!
We don't have to be afraid of coming to God when we mess up - That's what He wants of us. He is my ADVOCATE not my ADVERSARY!
Nothing absolutely nothing can worm it's way between me and God's love. Now when I pray I have a new vision of God from one ready to JUDGE to one ready to LOVE! That's what God is like.
We must be so careful to avoid what Daniel A Brown calls the "Spirit of the Pharisee" - and you will recall Jesus reserved the harshest condemnations for the Pharisees!
The Pharisees expected Jesus to agree with their low opinion of sinners and their high opinion of their own spirituality; instead Jesus shocked them by mixing with people whose very sinfulness were condemned by Pharisaical law.
They, like a lot of Christians think of evaluating God on the basis of standards and scores; winning brownie points for their performance rather than on the basis of love and faith.
We shouldn't condemn ourselves or others for mistakes made now, in the future or the past but rather celebrate what Jesus did for all mankind on the cross. Judging and condemning ourselves and others only points out our insufficiency instead of Gods' all-sufficiency.
Yes; God will judge but His judgement for those who believe and accept will be a judgement of deliverance. The goal of God's judgement is to unlock peoples chains, not to imprison them!
So when we do sin, God, through the Holy Spirit corrects us to enable us to become more like Him. His correction expresses His love, not His wrath. It develops not damns!
So when we come to God, there is no need to come in fear and trembling; God is there to love and nurture not accuse and condemn.
All of us who judge or look down our noses at others or take on the 'holier than thou' attitude are really playing into the hands of Satan our accuser. This attitude will warp God's truth of love and forgiveness and replace it with the law and commands, hijacking God's love with threats of judgement and wrath!
So now when we do sin we don't have to keep our distance from God for a few days until He cools off - on the contrary - that is the very time He wants us to come to Him - he is NOT going to punish us - He wants to forgive.
That certainly doesn't mean that sin no longer matters at all because God's love and grace magically eliminates any need for coming back to God and asking forgiveness! No way!
Nor does it mean that we should be so focused on our sin that we are always constantly feeling inadequate and even unqualified for Gods grace so that each sin we commit brings us closer to the inevitble "chopping block" of God! - Again No way!
Confess our sins as they bombard us; genuinely come to God and repent; turn to Him knowing that He loves you and is so ready to forgive and forget.
The law and the "Spirit of the Pharisee"presses for the guilty verdict where Jesus came to suspend judgement not hurry it along!
So don't fall for the trap of thinking that God is a 'whip holding' God - that only re-inforces what Jesus did on the cross all those years ago was not quite enough!
Unfortunately Gods awesome grace doesn't remove sin from the world; what it does do though is to remove it entirely before the judgement seat of the our Holy God!
We can be assured of our future in Him; sin free because of Gods's forgiveness and love.
When doubts overwhelm you as they do me - draw closer to Calvary
Now THAT is a pretty bracing thought!!
Another amazing 'bracing' thought is that God makes us righteous when we accept Jesus's sacrifice as payment for our own sinfulness - RIGHTEOUS! can you believe it??
In God's mind, righteousness is determined by what we believe, not by how we behave. WOW! This is a game changer.
Frankly, our behaviour even when we try so hard to be good has never been very impressive to God.
So... The great gobsmacking - bracing lesson to be learned here is not found in our human 'behaviour' BUT in God's.
God in His almighty grace made salvation a free gift and from then on believing not behaving is the one and only possible pathway to righteousness.