grace without guilt … when you’re weak

At the heart of the gospel is the proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’. Because he is Lord, the Christian allows Jesus to be the very focus of life. We will learn to value and serve people as he does, but at the same time will be kept from expecting these people to meet all of our needs. What needs they do meet in our lives we will value and thank God for, and in so doing will be reminded that they are gifts to us from our Lord. When others, even those closest and dearest to us, are viewed like this, we are free to minister to them without expecting them to meet our needs. (Peter Brain, Going The Distance page 72)

I wanted to pump my fist in triumph when I stumbled across this sentiment. But it didn’t take long for reality to kick in — since my everyday experience only intermittently lives up to what’s described here.

I regularly fail to value and serve people as Jesus does — preferring to withdraw and let things play out their course, or else to push hard to get my own way.

And I often expect others to meet my needs (whether for security, significance or transcendence) in ways only Jesus can.

Either way, I’m left feeling weak and inadequate.

Day to day, I’m often far from being the ‘perfectly free lord of all, subject to none’ and ‘perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all’ that Martin Luther tells me I should be.

Which is why I so desperately need to hear Paul’s parting words about being empowered by God —  readied for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6.10-20).

The famous image of a fully kitted-out Roman soldier isn’t a checklist of weaponry and tactics available only to elite spiritual troops. Paul’s evocative language is far too hard to pin down for that.

Rather, it’s a portrait of someone who simply embraces the gospel.

Believing it. Enacting it. Working it deep into their heart and life.

I’m more and more convinced that it’s the profoundly unsexy spiritual disciplines that are the key to this.

For it’s things like regular Bible reading, prayer and financial generosity that keep us exposing ourselves to the message of grace and actively entrusting ourselves to the Lord who meets us there clothed in his promises.

There are no short-cuts to spiritual empowerment in the face of weakness and inadequacy.

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