On Grace: Lyin’ Like a Rug

Exploring the topic of grace has been pretty awesome the last few weeks. I’m beginning to see how rich and endless this grace might be–something like Ephesians 3:14-21. Truthfully, I could just park on that passage for some time, and maybe I’ll have that chance, but not today. Today is the beginning of something different: our enemy.

I had a moment. Please forgive the visual, but it’s all I could think of as I considered Truth Splashes and evil lies. Maybe you’ve read the book, seen the movie, or watched the play, but in The Wizard of Oz, a bucket of water splashed on the Wicked Witch of the West reduced her to a mere puddle. I can still hear the screechy “I’m mel-l-l-l-l-l-l-ting!” (Am I the only one?)

When I think of the lies our enemy tries to feed us, I imagine truth droplets overwhelming them with a powerful splash. At least, that’s my hope. Maybe you share that with me. The truth is, we have an enemy, and he is a liar feeding us lies.

He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44b)

If we become aware of the lies we’re hearing, we’ve got a shot at evaluating them for truth and eliminating them from our repertoire of beliefs about God, ourselves, or others. My current favorite read by Robert S. McGee breaks the lies into four basic categories. Most of this entry comes from a succinct table on page 40 of The Search for Significance Book and Workbook when I refer to McGee’s writing. The rest is my wrestling with it.

  • I must meet certain standards in order to feel good about myself. (The Performance Trap)
  • I must be approved (accepted) by certain others to feel good about myself. (Approval Addict)
  • Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished. (The Blame Game)
  • I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless. (Shame)

The Search for Significance Book and Workbook, p. 40.

I wrote a bit on the performance lie in “The Performing Arts” entry, but what I’d like to emphasize here is that we receive God’s grace at the cross. The grace we receive is no more or less than anyone else’s share; we equally receive a full measure. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). McGee suggests the answer to perfectionism and performance is justification. All our sins removed, when we stand completely clean before our perfectly holy, just God, what can we add to that? (See Titus 3:4-7; Colossians 2:13-14; John 3:16.)

When I think about acceptance and approval, I get a little weak-kneed. Don’t we all just want to be loved and accepted without worrying about hoops to jump through or rejection? The treadmill to win the stamp of approval from the people around us qualifies as graceless, I think. (I’ve been waiting to say graceless for several entries!) Our most important, complete acceptance and approval comes from one person–our heavenly Father. McGee proposes that the antidote to our approval problem is reconciliation. At the cross we become reconciled to God; therefore, we are completely acceptable and receive His full approval. What can we add to that reconciliation? Why would we take away from it by minimizing the work on the cross and degrading ourselves with unkind and untrue thoughts, words, or actions supporting the lie of how unacceptable we are?  (See Romans 15:7; Colossians 1:21-23a.)

McGee’s Blame Game is something I am familiar with. I’ve been on both sides of this one, and it’s painful to all the players. Blaming, we find fault in everyone else’s actions, and they become responsible for ours. If you are on the receiving end, it can be a crushing blow. The root of this lie is the fear that nasty punishment is coming if someone finds out about our thoughts, words, actions, etc. When you’re afraid your head will roll, don’t you want to shift the blame elsewhere as fast as possible? (I’m raising my hand now.) McGee takes it back to the cross with propitiation. The work on the cross satisfies the wrath God would have regarding the punishment we should receive. Any time we think our Father is angry with us and fear his punishment, we paint a picture of the character of God that is inaccurate. We minimize the grace on the cross. (See John 3:36; Romans 5:9; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9.)

Shame. I have battled this, and still do. This is hopelessness. Under the circumstances, we feel helpless and withdraw from God and people. When a standard isn’t met, we want to curl up in a fetal position and don’t feel strong enough to uncurl any time soon. It’s when we believe everyone else would have succeeded, and can’t believe we messed it up that badly! It’s when we just can’t think of a solution to the problem, and start to become the problem. Shame can rear its ugly head occasionally or often, in little ways or big. Identifying the lie is important to move into the truth. McGee suggests the antidote for shame is regeneration, which is all about becoming a completely new creation at the cross. Think about this for a moment. When we moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, when we were given the gift of the Person of the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t be anything but a completely new, different creation! (See John 3:3-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:3.)

So, that’s the four general lie categories outlined by Robert S. McGee. I think he did a wonderful job in The Search for Significance Book and Workbook, and highly recommend it, if you can find it. There’s no way to really do it justice in a blog, but this blog helps me process some of the larger concepts, so I do that here.

The one thing I keep coming back to as I work through the concept of grace is: the cross. That’s where the real stuff begins. We don’t get a small portion at the moment of decision, to be increased at a later date. We get all of His grace–all of it!

“My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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