Since learning to read and write, I have been a lover of lists and a maker of plans. Some of my most treasured childhood gifts included journals, paper, pens and pencils. Pen and paper gave me a place to gather my thoughts and to dream about the future. My lists and plans also gave me a sense of control, a sense that I could manage outcomes. Have you ever felt that way?
When I began to follow Jesus in my teens, I took my list making propensities with me. This worked well in a Christian subculture that often celebrated holding on to lists of behaviors that defined the life of a “good Christian.” Of course, from the Scriptures I knew that salvation comes by grace through faith, that it is a gift from God so that none of us could boast of having earned it (Ephesians 2:8-9). While I knew the truth of God’s grace, and was confident in my salvation, there was still a default mode that pushed me back to the lists of rules. Longing for the assurance that God would be pleased, I learned the habits of trying harder (Col. 2:8). Rather than resting in the reality of my Father’s love, I often sought rest in my own efforts to earn it.
In his book, The Prodigal God, Tim Keller says, “Your computer operates automatically in a default mode unless you deliberately tell it to do something else. So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.” We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not.
This conflicted way of seeing things reminds me of Peter, who in one breath declared that Jesus was the Christ, and in another rebuked him for saying that he would suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders and killed (Mark 8). He somehow believed that Jesus was both the Christ and someone in need of Peter’s plan.
Father, help us to live in daily awareness of your faithful love. We want to be people who readily surrender to your work of grace in us, pursuing what is good and right, not in an effort to earn your favor, but as the continual overflow of grateful hearts.
The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.
A. W. Tozer
By Nicole Jiles
Director of Children’s Ministry
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