“Dear Elle” are a series of letters written to a friend who had asked me to share with her some insights into following Jesus. Check out the others in the “Dear Elle” catagories.
Pay attention, because I’m about to share with you the most important lesson you’ll learn in your life of discipleship, this truth is the foundation upon which you must build your life. Are you ready? Here you go – This life is a gift. A gift. Do not pass over this lesson quickly, thinking you already know it or thinking it is too simple to give much attention. I know you, you desire a life radically different from the one you have previously lived, you long for a mind made new, more readily thinking God’s thoughts, you yearn for a heart shaped by mercy and justice, and kind and true actions that bring glory to your Lord. The life of a faithful follower of Jesus is possible only because God gives it to you. You cannot “white knuckle” yourself into transformation. The likeness of Jesus you desire happens when you make yourself available to receive God’s grace.
Think of your heart as a balloon, empty of any ego or drive for perfection, ready to receive a breath that will fill it and give it shape. God’s love is the breath that will inflate your soul. As God’s love and character is poured into your heart, your life will take the form for which you were created. Your life will become like Jesus. Your part in this process is to remain receptive to this inpouring.
This life is a gift. What a profound thought. You cannot earn this life, you do not merit it. You receive it. All gifts proceed from the resources of the giver. Your God is rich in mercy and kindness and gives life to you in abundance. You need only want it and then be willing to set aside your pride and your belief that you need to do something to deserve it. This belief forces you to perform in order to be worthy of God’s love or to protect God’s reputation. It’s outcome is the opposite of what you desire, it separates you from God. Duty performed, not fueled by affection, displeases God. Nothing but love and desire for God and an awareness of your need of God is required of you.
I’m not saying there is no effort on your part. There is, it is not easy to receive this gift. The hard work you must do is to slay your pride and dethRaye yourself as god in your life. This work requires vigilance and a great faith; even these, though, are gifts of God’s grace if you are willing to receive them. Your effort is to remain receptive out of your love response to God, and to realize that apart from God’s grace, you can do nothing.
You are saved by grace, yes. But you also live by grace. Your every breath is God’s gift to you. You remain alive because God is continuing to prepare you for eternity, training you in worship and equipping you for reigning with him. Each day you live in dependence on God’s gifts of life and love for you, you are being shaped into the likeness of Jesus; day by day, changed in character and actions, until the day comes when you shall see him and when you see him, you will be like him.
Elle, remember your childhood and the intense longing you had for that special toy you wanted for Christmas? Remember how you were convinced that without it under the Christmas tree your life would be empty and miserable. Remember how that desire caused you to beg your parents for it? Caused you to attempt to modify your behavior so that you’d more likely be in a position to receive it? (“He knows if you’ve been naughty or nice…”) Even now, desire the life of a faithful disciple as much as you wanted that toy; beg your heavenly parent for it, dispose yourself to receive it and trust that it will be yours. God is waiting for you to ask and is eager to respond.
With you in the journey,