I’m a control-freak. I know it. I don’t like it, but I know it. I prefer to think that I like my life “structured”. It’s manageable. It’s predictable. It’s controllable that way (oops, there’s that word).
I like mathematics, too. I like equations. I didn’t do well in algebra, but I still like equations. I especially like the equal sign. I like the fact that 2a + b = c, or whatever the equation happens to be.
I like science, too. I like cause and effect. If _______ happens, then ________ happens. It helps predict how things will work. Again, it’s something I can control and manage. And I like it. Did I mention that?
I was informed several years ago that children of alcoholics like highly structured lifestyles. I am a child of an alcoholic (actually of two) and I’m living proof that is true. Experts says that because the alcoholic’s life is so unpredictable and sometimes volatile and chaotic, their children crave structure and predictability. My dad was a good provider but had a volatile temper (it’s where I get mine) and the only thing you could really predict growing up was that he would have plenty to drink. My mom loved me very much, but after my parent’s divorce, would drink herself to sleep. Again, that was one thing you COULD count on.
So fast forward to adulthood and I’m a control-freak. In some ways I like that: I’m organized, I’m prepared, and I’m a planner. In some ways I don’t like it: when things are chaotic or noisy, it drives me crazy. Really crazy.
This carries over into my spiritual life. Again, I want predictability. I crave structure. I like Bible-reading plans. In January, I just finished one. I like the “spiritual disciplines”. They are structured and are designed to help train you in righteousness. However, to me, self-discipline becomes self-righteousness. My thought process becomes: “If I pray enough (or properly) or read enough or serve enough, then I become righteous, or more righteous.” It’s cause-and-effect, right? That’s why I can be legalistic. If I do ______, then I know where I stand with God. It helps me measure. It helps me predict. Worse yet, it makes me think I know where others stand with God. It makes me measure. It makes me predict.
However, I’ve discovered something that you probably already know. At least we THINK we know it. It’s this: There’s nothing else you need to add to the shed blood of Jesus Christ to get right with God or be right with God. Nothing. He is everything you need to be righteous. He is everything you need to be holy. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible reading, meditation, giving, and so forth help you know God more. They are means of growing the character of Jesus within you. They are not “Five Easy Steps to Righteousness.” They are not the things you MUST do in order to grow in Christ. Instead, they are things you feel compelled, called or drawn to do once you realize everything that Jesus has given you. There IS a difference.
It is radical. God’s grace and His love are radical. Once you experience them — REALLY experience — you will be transformed. They have the power to break every chain that binds. They have the power to set the captive free. His grace and love have the power to heal every wound. They have the power to restore and heal marriages and relationships. They bring amazing freedom. God’s grace is radical.
God’s grace is EVERYTHING. That is the Good News.
Here’s an equation to remember: JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING.*
*Although I’ve never met him, I owe a debt of thanks to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian for a book entitled by that equation and for another book, One Way Love: God’s inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. God has used them to set me and so many others free in so many ways. Check them out HERE or visit Liberate.org.