"I will love God because he first loved me. I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God's love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God's love will. The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return." (from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, p. 86)(Would you do me a favor and read that again?)
"You may be surprised to learn that this gift of love is not about 'learning to love more' or 'learning to love better.' In God's world, receiving love comes before giving love." (from TrueFaced, p. 84.)You might remember I talked a while back about leading worship for a Celebrate Recovery group our church was going to be starting. It has started and I am going through the study like everyone else because God has a lot He wants to teach me through it. What we're talking about there ties in amazingly with the other stuff I'm reading. We're talking about being powerless to solve our problems on our own and how we have to rely on God's power and grace to transform us. When I was going through the last week's study, I read Romans 3:21-24. I have heard verse 23 hundreds of times ("For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) and it has always felt sort of depressing. BUT! In the context of the verses before and after it, in light of what God's teaching me about relying on His grace to change me instead of my efforts, it seems profoundly different than when it's alone. Look at this:
"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, AND ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ."So here's what it boils down to for me. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to do what was right and to love and obey God... to be righteous. But I have been reluctant to really accept God's love and to believe I am really all He says I am, because I've never been good enough. But God says that my efforts will never be enough (I was right!) BUT that I am justified freely by God's grace! According to John 15, loving God and obeying Him are inseparable but we love because He first loved us. I will never be able to love Him until I let Him love me. Until I accept His truth and forgiveness and grace. And you know what else I've discovered? Self-controlthat pesky discipline thing we're all chasingis a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT that grows in me as I REMAIN IN HIS LOVE. God's love for me. Why Jesus died for me. No wonder Paul prayed this:
"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17b-19
"The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return." Amazing.