I have been doing the bible study by Pricilla Shirer called The Armor of God, and I have to tell you – it is really convicting me! This month we are reading through and studying the chapter on the Breastplate of Righteousness. As I have asked the Spirit to convict and move in me while I read through things, I have been so surprised at some of the ugliness that has surfaced. (When will I stop being surprised at how ugly my flesh is?)
I have been a Christian longer than not. I am a pastor’s wife. I have been a missionary. I have been discipling and teaching for many years. I also like to think that I understand a fair amount about spiritual warfare and what it means to step into freedom. But in the middle of this lesson I have realized that there is something I have fallen into the habit of doing that is not only rebellious, but just plain dangerous.
I did not grow in up a legalistic household, but I have many friends who did. As I watched them sort through some of those things, I saw many of them swing far in the opposite direction. We all like to do that, right? Even when I am talking to people who do not claim any religion I hear about how no one wants to repeat their parent’s mistakes when it comes to raising their own children. It takes having adult children of your own to make you realize that no matter how you raise your kids, they will need to process through and allow God to redeem the mistakes that their parents made and speak truth to the way they reacted to them. We are broken people raising more broken people, after all.
In trying not to be legalistic, however, we sometimes forget that we can only stand before a holy and perfect God because of the work of Jesus. Or, at the very least, we forget that the work of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. Not just because of the physical pain and the suffering on the cross, but more so because of the fact that Jesus had his Father turn away from him. We never have to experience the void that comes from the loss of the presence of God because of that.
However, if you are like me then you forget the seriousness of that. We love the idea of grace and forgiveness, and we live in the knowledge that once we put our faith in him we are forgiven – the old is gone, the new is here. While living in the knowledge of this can bring freedom, I sometimes abuse that freedom and do exactly as Paul says in Romans six. “What then, shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” We know that the answer to that should be NO! (“By no means! We are those who have died to sin, how can we continue living in it?”) However, somewhere along the way I stopped taking this to heart. Sometimes I have done exactly that – kept on sinning. I have literally heard the voice of the Spirit, looked him in the eye, and turned around so I could keep doing what I wanted – with the full knowledge that I could repent later.
Even though by the time I got around to repenting I would feel terrible, confess, and would be very remorseful about my attitude and the purposeful rebellion that played out in my actions, I knew it would happen again. And it did – it does. Because somehow the act of using grace for my own selfishness and gratifying of my flesh still seemed less “sinful” (or at least less harmful) than having a bunch of rules that made me feel guilty and condemned.
It can be a vicious cycle.
I know that both legalism and license are extreme, and that neither of them show a true understanding of his great love for me and the true freedom that I can be living in as a new creation.
But what I did was not as simple as acting like a child who selfishly rebelled against her parent. When I allow myself to live by rules and regulations that I know I cannot live up to (holiness, perfection!) and I redefine those to make something that is attainable in my own strength, OR when I just keep doing what I want in the moment because I know there is forgiveness ahead, either way I am inviting the enemy in.
I may not be intentionally saying, “Here I am.” But when I allow darkness into my life, the one who loves the darkness is drawn to it. Whether I am relying on my own actions or ignoring the fact the work that Jesus did for me was a true sacrifice, I am telling Satan, “this part can be yours.” Pricilla writes, “I didn’t need to personally invite them into my house. All I had to do was create an environment conducive for them. The environment I created WAS the invitation.” (Page 70)
I don’t want that. When Jesus did his work, he purchased ALL of me – my thoughts, my actions, my heart. He deserves all of me, not just the parts that are easy to give. I want to be a woman who puts on the full armor and is ready to go into battle with the knowledge and truth that every part of my being is new in him – nothing held back or remaining in the darkness.
I realized this week that I have not always taken this seriously. In my attempt to remember that it is NOT about my effort, I have sometimes refused to take on the responsibility and discipline it takes to be a strong soldier. When Proverbs says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” we can see how important it is to actively and intentionally live in a way that is pleasing to God to the very best of our ability.
So now I go into a new battle, a new part of surrender to him and allow him to make his truth – that I am new, the old is dead, I am redeemed, I am a masterpiece, I am a co-heir with Christ, but I was bought with a price become the truth that sinks deep into my soul and transforms from the inside out. From that I will live my life in a way that is pleasing to him NOT because of rules but because I am so, so thankful and secure in his love for me and I trust that what he has and says is right and good. I will guard my heart with the truth of my righteousness being found only in his.