Grace: Part 1

Hebrews 3:7-8 ESV

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…”

I recently came back from my 3rd trip to Vegas in 6 months.  Now, for those of you who know me, this is far out of my comfort zone.  I like to call myself the 22-year-old grandmother (my 9pm bedtime says it all).  Anyway, one thing that the Lord has shown me each time I’ve gone to Vegas is: Grace.

The first of these trips was for a bachelorette party last August.  I didn’t even know where to begin when trying to process everything I’d seen and experienced: people on the side of the road holding signs saying, “I just want a drink”; girls dressed provocatively for whatever reason; men spending absurd amounts of money for those girls; physically drunk people everywhere; porn flyers everywhere…  I felt like I was in a bubble, physically seeing everything but emotionally separated from it.  It wasn’t until the night I got back, when a comment was made that changed everything.  It was about contrasting being sober-minded and drunk, and how those who get drunk just “act stupid.”

My heart broke.  All the blocked-out emotions from my 24-hour Vegas extravaganza hit me like a ton of bricks.  Stupid? As believers, do we realize how depraved we actually were before the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, before God opened our eyes to who He is?  Do we understand that only by God’s grace do we even have the faith to believe, and so walk in that faith?  That God’s heart breaks for those in rebellion, including his so-called believers who grieve His Spirit when they choose not to feel the weight of these hearts who desperately need the hope of Christ?  That by our pouring out of judgment, we are drunk in our own minds for believing we are any better without the blood of Christ?

God then redirected my eyes to the cross, and a flood of hope filled my heart.  The scripture I’d been memorizing that weekend was from Colossians 3:5-7, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.”  Granted, I’d never lived a “sin city” lifestyle, but Romans 14:23 says that whatever doesn’t proceed from faith is sin.  God reminded me that night that Jesus is after my heart.  He didn’t command me to clean myself up externally and convert me to moralistic deism.  The point of the cross was that I couldn’t change myself; that I needed (and still need) his grace.  Jesus took my dead, ill-deserving heart and gave me a new one.  The fact that it was by no merit of my own, but completely by Him, means that there is hope for those still walking in blindness.  And that hope does not disappoint.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…”

Today.

Not yesterday, not tomorrow.

I know that’s obvious, but think about it.  You won’t wake up closer to God tomorrow from not doing anything to pursue Him.  Now, I’m going to assume that you didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “Man… I really want to harden my heart towards God today.”  Hardening though it can be active is generally passive. Rarely do you intend to harden your heart. But sadly by not doing anything, you are drifting away from God.  D.A. Carson stated it like this:

“People do not, will not, drift towards holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort people do not gravitate towards godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith and delight in the Lord. Instead, we drift towards compromise and call it tolerance, we drift towards disobedience and call it freedom, we drift towards superstition and call it faith, we cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation. We slouch towards prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism. We slide towards godlessness and convince ourselves that we have been liberated.”

Let me reiterate what the psalmist (this verse is from Psalm 95): Do not harden your hearts.  God rarely asks.  This is a command.  And He’s given you His Spirit to walk in obedience to that.  He’s given you a new heart to walk in obedience to that and gives you the fullness of joy.  Use it.  By His grace, pursue Him.

Allow me to thread the needle for you in this.  When you started reading this post and glossed over “3rd trip to Vegas,” what went through your head?  Condemnation of, apathy towards, approval for, or heartbreak because of the people/activities it’s known for?  Did that reaction change as you read on?

Regardless of where you fell on that spectrum, I ask that you take some time today to really reflect on the state of your heart and pursue God with “Grace-driven effort”1:

1. Grace-driven effort comes from a new heart.
2. Grace-driven effort relies not on human will, but God’s grace: blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13), Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and the promises of the New Covenant (Heb. 9:15).
3. Grace-driven effort attacks the roots and not just the branches.
4. Grace-driven effort fights for the reason that goes well beyond conscience and peace.
5. Grace-driven effort comes from being dead to sin, not just forsaking it.
6. Grace-driven effort is violent.2

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…”

Love to you.

1Term by D.A. Carson, 6 points from The Village Church – Colossians Series: http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/sermons
2 Grace-driven effort is violent. It is rage-filled and violent. And those are not the words that usually accompany Christianity. Now this isn’t violence towards another person; this is violence towards that residual sin inside of us. For those who have been made alive in Christ, our nature is a holy nature, and it hates the residual affects of sin. It wants it to die. It wants to put it to death. It’s not going to give it quarter, it’s not going to give it room, it doesn’t just want to starve and control it, it wants it dead. Grace-driven effort wants to murder (which is this word in the Greek) and put to death these things. It wants to murder sin in our heart and will be diligent to put said sin to death until it is dead. It is very serious about mortifying the flesh. It is very serious about putting to death wicked thoughts and wicked ambitions, both seen and unseen. And for the bulk of you, most of what you will wrestle with will be unseen. Most people won’t see it. What I have found is that the legalist more often than not doesn’t necessarily to put to sin to death. They just want to control it. They want to train it. They don’t necessary want it to die. Here is how it shows back up. Because you don’t want to murder it and because you want it to be your pet, when you get tired and frustrated and angry or when you feel entitled and somebody isn’t giving you what you think you are owed, you run to that sin for comfort rather than to the God of the universe for comfort. This is why so many of get stuck in this cycle of sin where you do really well for a season and then you fall back into it. It’s because you haven’t tried to kill it and put it to death. You have simply tried to train it.” – Matt Chandler

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