Home Menu

Living in Grace… Intentionally or Instinctively?

Part 1 of 2

Most, if not all of my life, I have lived under law. When I say “under law” I mean the pressure of conforming to demands, expectations, principles and rules that tell me right from wrong, good from bad. Growing up I was often tempted to be bad (believing I was, since I fell short of measuring up to what was “right”). But I was also tempted to be good… to be great (often defined as “success”), to be like God, like Jesus. Following such rules for living a good life required that I be intentional.

As it turns out, I didn’t do very well. My intentional efforts were, at best, only temporary. Then, the miracle of “being saved” was revealed. I became born again… a new creation. But what did that mean anyhow? I garnered the label of calling myself and having others call me a Christian. Nonetheless, I was still tempted to live the Christ-Life through the application of the same principles I couldn’t live up to as a “non-Christian.” I simply asked myself, “What would Jesus do?” and then tried to do it.
In keeping with the Scriptures I gave it my best shot.

  • “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (with the impetus of first having to find it, to even know where it is);
  • “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves His church” (with the pressure of knowing my partner’s love language and meeting of all of her needs…a sure path to exhaustion and death);
  •  “love your neighbor” (the kind of neighbor who sues you);
  • “be anxious for nothing… do not be afraid” (even though I’m terrified);
  • “go and make disciples” (when I’ve never been discipled);
  • “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (“be like God” believing the deception that I’m really not created in His image).

Shortcomings in these and other areas continually proved my ineptness as a devout loving Christian.

Even Christian counseling, meant to help troubled souls, often promotes the application of principles and techniques as the primary solution.

  • Don’t be co-dependent (set up boundaries so that you can control the behavior of others, thereby protecting yourself).
  • Renew your mind and set your mind (implying that you really don’t have the mind of Christ).
  • Forgive (the unforgiveable).
  • Surrender (your rights, because you really have none).

Engage in spiritual disciplines. Choose wisely and correctly. Positive direction in life depends upon the exercise of my will; the use of good judgment that conforms to principles and methods that promise a desired outcome. Managing life this way equates to acting as if God doesn’t exist (in me).

I set out to do the list with the hope of at least some intermittent success. If I’m honest, I’ve failed at it every time I’ve tried. Failure, embarrassment, weakness, and humiliation set me up to wear a mask and pretend. These things tempted and still tempt me to hide and project to others that I’m good, godly, and full of grace. I’m beginning to understand that the “Righteousness of God,” the rightness of His Person now indwelling me, does not necessarily manifest perfect human behavior.

The good news is that God gives grace to the humiliated and those who feel the need to hide. By design, my hiddenness…and yours, turns out to be futile and exhausting, and that’s a God-thing. Jesus said “I do nothing from my own initiative.” That’s real hope.

Tune in next week for part 2 as we continue to consider the question, “Are we meant live to in grace by our good intentions or by The Divine instinct inherent within us?

Look for part 2 next week.

D.L. "Woody" Woodward

About the Author

Woody, and his wife, Donna, have been married 29 years. They have 3 children, ages 22, 26 & 28. Woody graduated from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, 1979, with a BSBA. Following graduation He worked for 2 Fortune 50 companies in his 24 year tenure as a commercial financier and senior officer. After 17 years of marriage and into a season of brokenness, Woody & Donna came to know by experience the truth of the indwelling Presence of Jesus through the ministry of Grace Ministries International ("GMI"), Marietta, GA. From November, 2002 through December, 2010, Woody served atGMI in various ministerial and administrative roles. He is now working with Grace Connections, Woodstock, GA, where he enjoys sharing the depths of the New Covenant reality, The absurdly wonderful Gospel of Jesus.