Righteousness

“Wiggle Room” (Part Deux)

I fully intended to write more after “Where Exactly is the Wiggle Room?” I did. When I returned, the coals were cooler, the ideas had become faint whispers, and I wasn’t sure what was next. That can happen. I’ve lost more amazing thoughts than I’ve ever actually penned, simply because I haven’t pen them in time. Maybe you know how that works.

Then I was going to write a blog post about my single “Word for the Year.” I think I have it now, several weeks into the year. Timing is everything, and this wasn’t on my timetable. It will come. It’s a great word, by the way. It makes me laugh a little.

But, back to the “wiggle room” idea—

Some find the Bible to be infinitely troubling, challenging, even harsh. There are so many rules in those first five books! As reading goes, it’s some tight space when you’re hoping for wiggle room. And that is exactly the point. The commands are definitely hard. I’d dare say impossible!

One thing I love about reading the Bible is getting the inside scoop on God’s heart toward his people. In the Old Testament, that’s generally understood as Israel and the Gentiles who chose to identify themselves with Israel’s God. (Not surprisingly, laws prescribed the whole process, but that’s a whole other blog entry.) God showed love to his people, time and again, but they continually rebelled from the instructions and specific direction they were given. There were times when God, through the prophets, upbraided Israel:

12 He had said to them: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen. 13 Then the word of the Lord came to them: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there,” so they go stumbling backwards, to be broken, trapped, and captured. Isaiah 28:12-13 CSB

Out of context, it’s difficult to get a sense of what’s taking place. We do know that the LORD is addressing “the majestic crown of Ephraim’s drunkards…the fading flower of its beautiful splendor” (28:1). When I read the whole chapter, verses 12 and 13 get my attention. Look at the “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there.” Do you have the same feeling I do when you read that? Sometimes my heart has different words for it, but I feel a little like that, if I’m honest. The minute we decide it is “Do and do, do and do…” the whole thing is just painful (28:10 NIV).

If I come to Bible study with a teachable mindset, I see the tension again. The truth is, biblical Christians have an incredible standard and a flawless example set before them. I see it every time I open the Book. Seeing more clearly that the wiggle room isn’t there isn’t easy, but it’s not bad either.

And there is GRACE.

Here’s the thing: I believe the tension is specifically and intentionally placed there. By God. For our benefit.

The Law—and the lack of wiggle room in it—has its own glory. I’ve said that before. Why do I keep looking to find a way to succeed in it or beat the system? No, I’m not usually aggressively pursuing loopholes. It’s much less obvious than that. It comes with a warped perspective on right and wrong, initially, for me. In my weakest moments, it’s comparisons, a sliding scale, a balance sheet, or a shovel to bury what I can’t stand to look at. It’s a quick run through of my repentance flow chart to land at what I think is grace and, ultimately, forgiveness. The cross is cheapened with a “sin and sorry” repetitive cycle.

So ugly!

Rather than the sweet fragrance of grace, I’m engulfed in the horrible stink of rotten ritual, self-preservation, or self-righteousness. Yuck!

Can we  get back to the truth of God’s beautiful grace?

Romans 4:

16 This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants — not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all   HSC

Verse 4:17 finishes the above sentence with “in God’s sight.” I like that. Take a look at one of my favorite translations of the same verse:

16 The reason the promise is based on trusting is so that it may come as God’s free gift, a promise that can be relied on by all the seed, not only those who live within the framework of the Torah, but also those with the kind of trust Avraham had—Avraham avinu for all of us.  CJB

Don’t miss some of the highlights: God’s free gift, a promise that can be relied on….

I love this! Jew and Gentile are given this promise-gift. Gifts aren’t earned; they are given. In this case, it can’t be purchased, but must be received in humility. Promise indicates a lasting characteristic, if not a bit of a “not yet” or the things yet to come.

In humility, I realize I’ve broken parts of an inseparable, holy law. I’m guilty—of all of it. And it is only through trusting that the promise comes, so it’s free (in case I might feel the urge to brag about my “all that and a bag of chips” moments).

Sweet fragrant grace wafting—

The Law convicts. We’re all stuck, if we’re honest. There’s no wiggle room.

BUT—

There is freedom. Lavished. Freely. Through trust.

Are we okay with that? It might be time to celebrate the goodness of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us yet again….

Meandering thoughts I finally penned for my own heart. Maybe you are blessed, too.

~Jennifer

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Scripture from http://www.biblestudytools.com
Random thoughts are compliments of Jen; the good ones, if there are any, are God’s.

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Where Exactly is the “Wiggle Room”?

The Scriptures are powerfully effective when we understand them.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NASB

My time with the LORD when I sit for Bible study can be incredibly challenging. Admittedly, I know I’ve come to the table with preconceived ideas, my own preference of interpretation, and imaginary “wiggle room” when I study. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and I know it’s not always with malice in my heart. It’s a fine line, though. There is a definite difference between looking at the words on the page with immaturity (a Calculus problem with a Pre-Algebra skillset) and looking for the loophole (studying for a warped version of the “biblical bar exam”). Where it is immaturity, I believe a gift of growth and understanding waits for me while the Spirit whispers to my heart. Where I hope for “wiggle room” for my own selfish motives, I’m pretty sure it’s a whole different scenario.

Hebrews 4:12 paints a picture of the Bible’s specific function in our lives. Honestly, whether we are committed to following Christ or have yet to do so, I think this could be true. The Scriptures are intended to penetrate to our “soul,” our “spirit,” and they do so by God’s sweet grace for our benefit—because he loves us that much. We have all been given the gift of the expressed will of God (the very thing we want to know and follow as disciples of Jesus). Once we’ve read it, we’re responsible for what we know.

And that is the first obstacle to our imagined wiggle room in what we read.

Knowing the Scriptures is expected for those who follow Christ. A disciple knows the heart, mind, and will of the one who instructs, then he does what is taught. There’s only one way for that to happen. As disciples, we absolutely must know what is contained in the pages of the Bible! He was clear in his instruction to those who should know better in Mark 12:4 when “Jesus told them, ‘Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God?'” (CSB). In this case, the religious leaders’ confusion was rooted in their lack of knowledge and understanding. I’m not positive whether it was the letter of the law or the heart of God that tripped them up, but I guess it would be the latter.

I’m tempted to let my study in this area spew all over this entry page, but I think I will restrain myself. Believe it or not, I can do that sometimes. I’m only slightly concerned with abandoning the topic too soon because of the usual trend toward legalistic interpretation. Still, I’m hoping for the best, gracious heart-knowledge….

Where can I smell the sweet fragrance of grace? It’s in the fact that, while we could be deceived, we have been given a gift to address that: the Bible, the Word, the expressed will of God. He leaves nothing to us, our selfish nature, or to chance. We’ve been given clarity in most things…because he loves us that much!

And I circle back to a favorite verse to wrap up.

[Growth in the Faith] For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 CSB

This is the hope I cling to when the wiggle room evaporates! I’ve been given everything I need. I know (or can find out) what God’s will is, and I have been given the power (the Holy Spirit) to follow through in my thoughts, words, and actions.

I’m so thankful for this grace!

~Jennifer

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Thought Questions:

Have you ever found yourself studying the Bible with a “loophole” mentality?
Is it easy to admit the “wiggle room” you wished for isn’t really there on the page?
When you realize it isn’t there, how does that feel?
What will you do with the reality of absolute truth (AKA: there just isn’t any wiggle room)?

Remember: I’m My Daddy’s Daughter.

I’m a daughter of the Most High, a wife, mom, sister, friend, and maybe some other descriptors to others. Today I need to remember who I am, or I’m likely to misbehave. Does anyone else get that? When I lose sight of who I really am (my Abba’s daughter), I tend to behave in ways that are unbecoming of a godly woman. So far today, I’ve succumbed to the peer pressure and circumstances more than I’d like, so I’m heading back to my roots, so to speak.

One of my favorite authors is Lysa TerKeurst, and I love one of her major points from Unglued: Remember who you are. Well, I’m a child of the King, and I’ve got a few hundred or so reasons to check my heart, mind, soul, and strength against the standard laid out in Scripture. Circumstances or the “supporting characters” in my everyday life may be unique, dynamic, or unstable. My strength may be long gone. I may have no clue what to do next. None of these things should determine my identity in the big picture. (Yes, I have to put up a reasonable fight for this one on a regular basis to keep it at the forefront of my mind.)

Surrounded by increasing pressures or challenging peers may describe my environment, but it doesn’t have to define me or my actions. Tired is sometimes what I am, but it’s not who I am. I may lack the wisdom to navigate some of the challenges well, honestly, but I don’t have to act rashly or inappropriately. Why? Because of who my Daddy is.

And because you are sons [and daughters]*, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Galatians 4:6 HCS

 flower pink 2 WALK
Thank you, sweet Jesus, for being my Way back to my Father. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, the Spirit who was crucified with you, resurrected, and now resides in me with great power. More than that, dear Spirit, you cry out to my Abba on my behalf. I’m thankful for all that grace granted to me, a daughter!

(Today is a good day to remember that!)

You’re not surprised there’s more, right? Remembering who I am as a daughter of the Most High has to have a real effect on my life. Certainly I should notice a difference, but those “supporting characters” in my life’s drama should notice, too. If they don’t, there’s something to address in me. I am charged with living a life that is countercultural, full of love and grace, and not a disgrace.

These verses are the ones that I was exploring this morning:

For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life. Hebrews 10:36-39 HCS

I love these words!

Oh, sweet Jesus, I need you! I am weak, and I’m struggling to do our Father’s will. Please strengthen me for the work, so I will be ready for your coming, and I will receive the promises (the Messiah’s shalom and eternal life). I live by faith in you, Jesus, through your righteousness. I don’t want to shrink back; I want to walk forward in faith. Amen.

Thanks for stopping by.

~Jennifer

* The words “and daughters” added by the author.