Session 10: The Gladdest Thing of All.

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion. At every moment of our existence God offers us this good news. Sadly, many of us continue to cultivate such an artificial identity that the liberating truth of our belovedness fails to break through. So we become grim, fearful, and legalistic. We hide our pettiness and wallow in guilt. We huff and puff to impress God, scramble for brownie points, thrash about trying to fix ourselves, and live the gospel in such a joyless fashion that it has little appeal to nominal Christians and unbelievers searching for truth. From hound-dog disciples and sour-faced saints, spare us, oh Lord! Frederick Buechner wrote, “Repent and believe in the gospel, Jesus says. Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it, and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world, the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come, Lord Jesus.” Brennan Manning, Chapter Three

Of all the glad things in this world, the gladdest thing of all is that we are radically defined, by grace alone, as ones beloved of God.

Yet, as Manning states, so many of us “continue to cultivate” this artificial identity in God that so resembles the life of the elder son in Jesus’ Prodigal Son story found in the Gospel of Luke. Grim. Fearful. Legalistic. Hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt. Huffing and puffing to impress both God and others. Scrambling for brownie points handed out by a religious system that rewards a ‘bigger is better’ attitude. Thrashing about trying to fix ourselves…and, of course, don’t forget our self-appointed job of fixing others!

And in the process, we live a Christian life that actually betrays the very core of the Gospel message itself. Come to Jesus and be saved from sin. Oh, and by the way, while you’re here at the altar, please slip on this little sin-o-meter. We know it looks a lot like a dog collar, but trust us, it won’t hurt. It’s just a small token of how much God loves you. If you stay out of trouble and behave yourself, this God you’ve just given your life to will continue to love you and assign a room for you in heaven. But heaven forbid if the collar buzzes. This will mean that you’ve stepped out-of-bounds and are in severe danger of being cast into the pits of hell. You wouldn’t want to be there, now would you? That’s where God sends all the sinners. But you and me? If we stay out of trouble, we’re in. Oh, and by the way, if you sign up today for our 42-week Bible study on how to please God, we guarantee that ole dog collar will never buzz! Take it from us. We know, cause we’re the ‘official’ spokesmen for how God loves His people!

Yikes.

I know I just exaggerated a bit. But folks, isn’t it time, we say it like it is?

God’s Gospel of Grace is not a conditional love. No sin-o-meters. No dog collars. No promises to love with strings attached. No free gift of salvation with an invoice that comes in the mail two weeks later.

We have always been, always are, and always will be God’s Beloved. Nothing we do or don’t do changes the amazing truth of amazing grace.

As I see it, the problem down here is that you and I spend so much of our time trying to be good for a God who wants nothing to do with such nonsense. He’s not looking for good works, but a trusting heart. He’s not interested in how well we did on our religion tests; He’s more interested in where we are on the playground.

Wait, there He is. Over by the gate. Inviting me to leave the ugly confinements of the established religion we’ve become so accustomed to. I say we drop out of this ‘school of religion’ and join His journey into Amazing Grace!

Anybody up for an exciting new adventure in Grace?

My prayer: Lord, I truly sense we Christians love to sing the song, Amazing Grace, but know very little about the grace we’re singing about. And even if we do understand grace, it seems as though we don’t do a very good job of demonstrating that same grace to the world. Empower me, Spirit, to re-examine Your amazing grace, allowing it to become my cornerstone in life…the gladdest thing of all. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How have I become one of those hound-dog disciples and sour-faced saints Brennan Manning points out in this chapter of Abba’s Child? Have I allowed myself to become like the oldest son in Jesus’ Prodigal Son story, where my ability to have grace for others or for myself has waned in my life?

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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