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Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity by Jim Palmer



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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Jim Palmer

Tuesday, November 16

If by grace, then it is no longer by works.
—Romans 11:6


I’ve been known to do a lot of dumb things. At the top of the list is putting God in a swivel chair. That’s where I imagine God facing me lovingly when I’m "good," smiling and showering his favor and blessings upon me. But when I mess up, God swivels away, turning his back in rejection and disdain, severing the flow of divine approval and goodwill. God continuously swivels based on my behavior.

The fear of losing God's acceptance and fellowship provoked me to get with the program. I have this fear of being abandoned and left alone in life. It has already happened a few times with people who were not supposed to leave. 

Having tasted of God's love, I didn't want to lose it. Making things work with God was my last great hope in life, and I couldn't afford to mess it up. I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups and teaching classes), as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking, "What have you done for me lately?"

Then I hit this place in life where I was worn out trying to get God to like me. What if, I wondered, my value and worth to God is not contingent on what I do? Maybe that’s why I get so tired inside when I put God in the swivel chair. My soul only has so much energy, and the bulk of mine was being drained striving to earn and keep God's love and acceptance. 

What would it be like to truly know there wasn't one more thing I ever have to do for God to be pleased with me? Maybe this is what God is trying to tell me. Until I understand I literally cannot do anything for God to achieve worth and value in his eyes, I won't stop trying. Maybe God wants me to stop trying.

Jesus once said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." Wasn't Jesus essentially saying there is nothing we can do of value to God on our own? God created me for the purpose of knowing him and has placed his life inside me so I could. God wants me to experience him as Life, Peace, Freedom, Wholeness, Joy, and as I trust and depend upon his presence within, I come to know him in these ways, and God is pleased.

It is written in Titus 2:11,12, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

According to the verse, what is it ultimately that transforms us? Trying harder? Discipline? Fear? No, “grace.” Only grace.

Thank you, God, there is no swivel chair.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.