In sharp contrast to the pharisaic perception of God and religion, the biblical perception of the Gospel of Grace is that of a child who has never experienced anything but love and tries to do her best because she is loved. When she makes mistakes, she knows they do not jeopardize the love of her parents. The possibility that her parents might stop loving her if she doesn’t clean her room never enters her mind. They may disapprove of her behavior, but their love is not contingent on her performance. For the pharisee the emphasis is always on personal effort and achievement. The Gospel of Grace emphasizes the primacy of God’s love. The pharisee savors impeccable conduct; the child delights in the relentless tenderness of God. Consider Frederick Buechner’s words: “We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us—not because we have deserved His love and not in spite of our undeserving; not because we try and not because we recognize He has chosen to love us. We are children because He is our Father; and all our efforts, fruitful and fruitless, to do good, to speak truth, to understand, are the efforts of children who, for all their precocity, are children still in that before we loved Him, He loved us, as children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Brennan Manning, Chapter Five
As I shared in my last blog entry, this Gospel of Grace Brennan Manning refers to here, is beginning to sink deeper and deeper into my inner awareness. And as that happens, I’m truly beginning to see myself, and the world around me, differently than I’ve seen it before. When I contrast the evil taskmaster found within a theology of works with the unexplainable joys hidden within God’s Gospel of Grace, I feel as though a new life is being birthed within my hardened soul, right before my eyes!
As Manning states it, ‘impeccable conduct’ begins to taste really sour after munching on God’s ‘relentless tenderness.’ In truth, being Abba’s child tastes sweeter and sweeter with each bite I take.
How about you?
Are you ready to become a child again?
Are you ready for a true ‘born-from-above’ experience? A ‘born-again’ adventure more like the one Jesus invites the old pharisee Nicodemus into in the third chapter of John’s gospel? Not a dry, adult-conceived transaction where you and I sit in a darkened courtroom while our lawyers cut a plea deal with God; but a child-like ‘take-off-your diaper and run naked through the lawn sprinkler’ romp in the park?
Let’s be gut honest here.
As I see it, the type of ‘born-from-above’ joy Jesus is referring to in His conversation with Nick is not an adult transaction of the mind nearly as much as it is a child-like experience of the soul. And isn’t it too bad that we pharisees of the twenty-first century have removed this amazing ‘born-again’ experience from the children’s section in God’s library and filed it over there with all the other dry and picture-less theology books that bore us to tears?
Isn’t it sad that we’ve downsized Jesus’ invitation into Kingdom childhood with a boring ritual of 1) pray a sterile prayer of confession; 2) insert one coin of faith; and 3) pull the lever and, bingo, you are now ‘born again’?
How boring. How predictable. How child-less.
Wait. I have an idea.
Instead of building our Christianity using a pile of dusty and dry theology workbooks, let’s re-define our faith by emphasizing the primacy of God’s love. Let’s strip down to our diapers again and allow that child within us to lead us on the pathway with Jesus. As Abba’s child, who knows? Maybe the church just might be revived and Christianity saved from that old pharisaical approach to life that’s been sucking most of the joy from our faith for much longer than we might have first realized!
Anybody ready for a quick dash through the sprinkler?
I’ll go first. Ready. Set…
My prayer: Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Like Nicodemus, where have I become an old pharisee? What might a true ‘born-from-above’ experience look like for me if I were actually willing to act like a child once again? What adult behaviors and attitudes need to be jettisoned in order to become that ‘born again’ child of God Jesus sees me as?
So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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