Today’s post is part 2 of a BONUS CHAPTER from Grace Intervention on Fear. There is a growing supply of free resources for you to do a Grace Intervention with your church, small group, or retreat: Click here.
If you missed it, here’s part one of today’s blog.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
You’re always running on one of two operating systems, legalism or grace. The spirit of bondage or the Spirit of adoption. You need to switch operating systems. Make the change from legalism to grace. And as often as you fall into to legalism – either neo- or traditional – you need to switch back again. The burden of this book’s intervention is to motivate, hasten, enable, persuade, instruct, and celebrate that far-reaching switch.
To use a biblical term, you need to repent.
Biblical repentance is never a legalistic addition to the gospel. It is not the super-imposition of behavioral demands on the Walking Dead who are incapable of doing good. It does not consist of self-effort, self-will, or self-improvement.
Repentance is a radical change of mind – swapping out one worldview for another. Changing operating systems. Repentance is the work of God, by the Spirit of God, applying the Word of God to the child of God.
By it, you undergo a radical transformation of your whole way of looking at God, yourself, and your relationship with him. By it, you change your mind – your perspective on reality. It’s time to swap out your old, tired, self-serving worldview for God’s holy, life-giving worldview.
- Do you harbor the delusion you are good enough for God? That if you are a sinner, you are only a sinner-lite? Repent.
- Do you grade yourself on the curve? Do you justify yourself by comparing yourself to someone else – say a serial killer, or a “Bridezilla,” or a serial-killing Bridezilla – and conclude you’re just not that bad? Repent.
- Have you swallowed “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), or have you suppressed the truth (Romans 1:18), elevating your own definitions of reality above the revealed declarations of God in the Scriptures? Repent.
- Do you diminish the value and efficacy of the death of Christ on the Cross as sufficient payment for your sin? Have you pursued the demented fallacy of self-atonement? Or denied you need atonement at all? Repent.
- Are you chasing the happiness-butterfly through activities the Bible calls sin? Or worldliness? Or foolishness? Or evil? Repent.
- Do you honestly think you can reach God by climbing a latter of perfection? Do you have a solution for your sins apart from the finished work of Christ? Repent.
You can’t just add the grace app to legalism’s operating system and call it good. The whole thing is going to crash.
You need a whole new system, a grace-centric outlook on everything that matters.
Enter the most beautiful, coherent, logical, generous, all-encompassing Theory of Everything ever revealed in this cosmos or any other, humbly titled the Grace of God. There is nothing like it in the annals of world religion. Take history’s smartest philosophers, the world’s greatest religious leaders, and society’s most noble women and men, throw them in a room together for a thousand years with the directive to concoct a religion, and the smartest people in the room would never come up with a system of grace. They’d come up with yet another variation on the same old theme: humans by human effort seeking to merit the approval of God.
Legalism owns the human instinct. That’s because the Fall hardwired a lie into the soul. So Grace Deficit Disorder spreads like black mold beneath life’s happy exterior.
You need to swap out the old system for the new one. The old covenant for the new covenant. Legalism for grace.
That swap is surgical. It’s transformative. It’s repentance.
Always More To Do
Legalism is “a spirit of bondage” which produces “fear.” Under legalism, you can never be confident. You can never breathe easy. There’s always another law to obey, sin to conquer, good work to perform. Under the Old Testament system of sacrifices, there was no end to the blood flowing from the altar, as sacrifice followed upon sacrifice with no end in sight. You could never just sit down and rest in the abiding love of God. Fear of God. Fear of man. Fear of final judgment. Fear of exposure. Fear of people’s opinions. Fear of the disapproving frown. Fear of outsider status. Fear of death, hell, the devil, and the corruptions ever ready to erupt from your own lunatic heart.
The legalistic operating system is built on this fear. It’s what keeps the faithful faithful.
Thank God for the Cross.
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11,12)
He sat down because his work was complete. The age of bondage was over. Fear no longer owned mankind’s instinct. A new age had been inaugurated.
The Spirit of adoption. You are no longer a slave, but a son or a daughter in the royal household of God.
Under grace, the cry of your heart is no longer, “I’m scared,” but “Abba, Father.” Dad, I’m home.
Love now keeps the faithful faithful. Gratitude. Grace. The great mystery of Christ in you.
Repentance is that eye-opening moment of realization in which you finally get what a dummy you’ve been, trying to work your way to heaven instead of receiving a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.
It is the epiphany that your happiness lies in the hand of a Father who every day reaches toward you with a compassion that knows no bounds.
It is the discovery life’s anxieties are wasted in the presence of a throne of grace.
It is the stark realization of the stench rising up from your sins, and an urgent turning and returning unto the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to wash you white as snow.
Repentance switches operating systems from legalism to grace.
By it, you switch from works to faith.
From earning it to receiving it.
From sweating over it to resting in it.
From earning a paycheck to accepting a gift.
From your efforts to Christ’s efforts.
From your dedication to Christ’s dedication.
From your sacrifice to Christ’s sacrifice.
From shadow to substance.
From image to reality.
From religion to relationship.
From despair to hope.
From fear to faith.
From hell to heaven.
And from self to God.
You can’t change your ways until you change your mind, and repentance is that change of mind.
Under grace, God has pre-positioned all your blessings for just-in-time delivery. There’s nothing you face that God hasn’t already seen, and having seen, provided for. If God is for you, who can be against you?
When God delivered me from my fear of judgment, he delivered me into a tremendous sense of peace. Whatever turmoil swirls around my life, whatever storms batter my ship of faith, I know my anchor holds, and one day, I’ll sail into the haven of rest and step into that glorious realm where fears are no more.
Bill Giovannetti, step forward.
I’m here, Father.
Welcome home, Son.