Sticky Notes: Grace Is Sufficient

LOGICAL CONSISTENCY AND GRACE

Logical consistency would say that grace, by itself, does not make sense. We hardly have the capacity to fathom how to bring good reasoning to understand such a transcendent concept. The Bible states grace is “sufficient,” (2 Corinthians 12:9) yet, when we remove it from the context of spiritual parlance, we consider grace to be beyond human understanding (i.e., Beyond our ability to grasp how grace fits into “daily life” without the interjection of spiritual conversation). One could conclude that, according to logical consistency, grace makes sense of faith because it is beyond human understanding (i.e., Grace and faith are both beyond human understanding, yet they are both empirical, verifiable experiences by those who have been called by the Holy Spirit). Concordantly and simultaneously, grace is, in its transcendence, sufficient in that it brings us to Jesus in humility and surrender.

 CHRISTIANITY, FROM THE HEART

One of the more explicit signs of an authentic Christian transformation is expressed in the way a believer starts living (passionately ((i.e., with interest and purpose)) in the name of Jesus) and stops “moving stagnantly” (phlegmatically) through life; insofar as leaving behind the listless repetition and soulless boredom of faithless monotony; or less intensely, leaving behind the complacent life of “good enough.”

One of the most important lessons I learned during my stint of more intense spiritual questioning was how Christianity is not just some “hat” I wear, the countenance on my face, the church I attend, or the people I know; Christianity is either in my heart, from the heart, or it’s nothing and nowhere to be found. My faith, whether or not it makes logical sense (outside the argument by grace), only becomes a complete picture if it takes place in my heart first. 

Does that mean that faith wasn’t in my heart before my struggle? No, let me explain. What I am conveying is that for the past 8 years, I was trying to be Christian, instead of receiving my faith organically (through the spirit) and being reshaped (through complete surrender) from the inside out. I was still lost in the mode of earning my place in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than receiving the invitation through Christ’s humility, compassion, surrender, boldness, and sacrifice on the cross.

HUMBLED BEYOND UNDERSTANDING

I’ve always been a “nice guy” to people. But there are a LOT of nice atheists in this world. There are also a lot of nice people who don’t even know what they believe. They are remiss to the idea of faith and destitute of the riches of unconditional love spawning from its seed. Faith instigates inner change, permanently. Once Christ penetrates the heart, the invitation extended, the heart is gently but intractably humbled beyond understanding (logic gets lost in the dark as the peace of grace overwhelms the spirit). Immediately, logic demands to understand how the dots were connected through the mystery of grace. Logic, however, will be disappointed to no end until it realizes the root of its desire to understand grace is pride (i.e., “Why can’t I understand this! It must make sense, or it isn’t real!”).

From the past two months, I understand more clearly now why logic doesn’t need to make sense of grace in order for faith to be fully functional: Grace is the internal movement (response/effect) of the outer action (cause) of mercy: While we deserve to be punished (justice for sin), God gives us grace instead of tortureThere isn’t an invitation into humility like this found anywhere else in history or in any other book. Yet this is the invitation—(the “Good News”) not to earn our way to Heaven, but to be transformed (revived, restored, renewed, reborn) through receiving Christ and to respond by living a different life in awe/praise/worship/surrender/love of the God who extended this mercy to us through the selfless sacrifice of His Son.

HAND OVER HAND: GRACE FOR LOGIC

What makes sense to me now that didn’t before are the operative machinations of grace; how humility feels in differentiation to believing one requires logical consistency to connect the “spiritual dots.” Logic can act practically, such as aiding a person in understanding the importance of attending church (community and glorifying God with others, not obligation); it can explain the reasons for having a balanced life of prayer, supplication, surrender, time set aside for prayer, and making God number one—but only grace could create the space for the surrender (whereas logic can only “make sense of,” or intellectualize the reason for these steps/lifestyle decisions, it cannot move us towards or within their essence—which is to bring us closer to God) to occur—not logic. For solid Christians (i.e., Believers who have been pursuing their faith for long enough that there is an “absolute-ness” to it; it has become their essence, not another ritualistic facet of their week), this is 2 + 2; for me, it’s fresh, new, and helpful. This realization took me out of my quest for logical consistency to define my faith and into understanding the importance of humility through the acceptance of grace in my heart. These are, of course, no easy truths to unravel if you’re depending on the brain to pave the path towards understanding faith.

REVITALIZED THROUGH THE SPIRIT

The spirit is not driven by thought (logic), the spirit is moved from the ‘heart’—that is, a persons’s life force—which is connected to the spirit (the spirit—which is connected to the Holy Spirit once it is called by the grace of Jesus through the Spirit). If we can receive this truth, then we can surrender our propensity to have logical consistency take the reins and instead, receive the free-flow of the spirit as it moves through us from within.

Logic can and should be used as a complement to faith, but not as a pillar, cornerstone, or explanation for faith. Grace initiates, surrender follows, the spirit rebirths (revitalizes), and the body (flesh/brain) experiences the overflow (Empirical Adequacy: the inner-working of the Spirit’s movement inside us, existing as the experience verifiably considered “proof” or “evidence” for faith in something ((namely God/Jesus)) beyond our understanding/logic).

I like the saying, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience,” because with regards to logical consistency, this makes sense of our experience with Jesus, faith, and logic. We want to make sense of having faith in what we can’t logically explain, but in receiving grace, logic is abdicated as it is humbled into a new role. We could call this “abdication” a miracle, because it, too, is beyond our understanding. Grace opens our eyes (removes the “veil” of ‘spiritual blindness’) to a plane of possibility logic cannot comprehend—in turn, permitting our logic to learn to depend on humility and the ‘pull’ of the Holy Spirit, rather than the brain-induced need for logic to make sense of it all. 

RESTORATION, AND EMANATING JESUS

Why am I a Christian? A very close friend asked me this; not as a test, but as a means of having me introspect my faith. I am a Christian because I’d rather give all that I am to the cause of Jesus than to any other cause. What is His cause? Restoration/perfection. Out of love, He wants to rebuild our spirits with perfection and eternality. Never leaving us the same, He desires completion for us on our own behalf. He knows what completion is because He is the very epitome of completion. This is the humbling aspect of Christ: Not only did He die for us while we were still sinners, but He did so when He was not lacking. He wanted to create us as an outworking of His love so we would be able to experience His essence. There was no reward for Him in this decision—it was entirely unconditional and selfless. He simply wants us to experience HIM, but we must put into practice what it means to be a Christ-follower: Loving our neighbor as ourselves; loving God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength by changing our lives (in practical, visible, noticeable ways) in response. We are disciples if we love in His name, if we turn from our old ways upon receiving the Good News that we no longer need to be bound to sin through the past (shame), and that we can be freed to live for Him who saved us while we were still choosing anything but Him.

Yes, I want Jesus to be God; I want Him to be my Lord. There is no other so captivating as He who saved me with His undying love while I did nothing but exist. 

BEYOND TRANSIENCE: FULFILLMENT

If we turn away from Jesus, we know exactly what happens: Nothing. But are we afraid of what will happen if we give Him a chance? Do we grow skeptical that a life of Christ-following means boring church services and obligatory prayer sessions? If this was what Christianity really was, I would still be an atheist. But Jesus is real, and the way I know this is how my heart has been moved by Him. My “spiritual heart,” of course. Metaphorical or not, I have felt Him move; there’s no denying His movement in my life and the lives of others around me. There is clearly a God who created this planet for us in advance to survive, and we are only hurting our fulfillment of a complete life if we choose to believe that this beautiful transience was made for nothing more than aesthetics; that our very sense of purpose is really a meaningless hole left to be unfilled by the empty desires of nihilism. 

LOGIC’S “STICKY NOTES”

No longer do I find myself perusing the walls of logical consistency for the answers to the drawn-out battle of understanding faith. I invite my readers to consider the importance of the role logic plays in our relationship with faith. Rather than viewing logic as a foundation to faith, logic must remain a footstool to gather information in order to bring the investigation full circle; meaning, back to faith. Faith must be the root while logic merely acts as a note-taker. Using logic in this manner calls grace to do the work in our spirits, whereas utilizing logic for more than this forces us to depend on our “sticky notes” for understanding faith in full. We already know why this doesn’t work: If logic’s “sticky notes” are meant to help us understand faith in full, then grace has no significance, and without grace, we are forgiving ourselves from within our own sin. That simply doesn’t work, especially according to logical consistency; one cannot commit sin (unknowingly) and have the omniscient capacity necessary to denote what is sinful—concordantly requiring justice and effectively implementing it. This does not add up whatsoever, rescinding its own argument in the process. No, logic must remain the footstool while grace remains our conduit of understanding the path of humility we are called into by the spirit. With this, we understandably remove grace from Logic’s hands and place it back into the Spirit’s. Logic, with its sticky notes, will be just fine. Grace is sufficient on its own.

LET’S CONNECT

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Believe

Finding Miracles At Our Breaking Point

We all need someone to look up to; a role model, an inspiration, someone to emulate and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. While I was very little, my role models were characters from movies from TV shows. At around 5-7 years old, I was drawn to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; their vigilance in fighting crime and standing up for the innocent, especially in their turtle-form, was appealing and entertaining. Later, my role model became none other than Superman himself. He continued to be my hero for many years because he represented the desire of humanity for peace, justice, and the American way; fighting injustice without killing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring characters like this—characters with larger-than-life stories. As humans, we want to connect with something beyond ourselves because we need that inspiration to do what we believe transcends human nature; to live into a higher calling. Why else do we consider these characters “larger than life”?

After I discovered the person of Jesus in my life (in the form of the Holy Spirit in my heart), He became my role model. I had a perspective shift in what it means to live “larger than life”. To me, the best way to summarize what larger than life looks like to me now is through the lens of humility, healing, and surrender. Let me draw you a picture.

Before I accepted Christ, life for me was all about lusting after women, idolizing music and movies, and writing poems in the middle of the night when my dad and step-siblings were asleep. I didn’t feel any sort of purpose in life, and the things inspiring me to live were the songs of bands like Korn, Linkin Park, and Marilyn Manson. They validated my anger towards the pain of my parents’ divorce, and towards the confusion and hurt behind experiencing my parents’ response to their divorce—and not understanding either of their responses at that time. I was exposed to depression from multiple family members suffering from it, without even knowing that’s what I was being exposed to; the malady of which took me into the bathroom tub full of water and the temptation to stop breathing underneath. My purpose in life was defined by music telling me that my anger was legitimate and empowering, that my hurt was deep, and that both were real. Those were the messages I didn’t feel coming from people around me during those times when everything I’d come to know and feel safe with dissipated overnight. God allowed trauma to grab me from behind, but He allowed it knowing what the aftermath would become.

See, I witnessed my parents experiencing their own divorce. My dad grew quiet and uninvolved with me, I didn’t know what to make of it then; I was hurting too, and perplexed. Looking back, I can only imagine the pain he was going through after so many years of marriage. I witnessed my dad experience a pain I’d never seen him feel before, not to mention the death of his parents only weeks before Christmas the same year of the divorce. Mom was experiencing her own depression, and everything happening around us took a toll on our relationship. Our family seemed to be crawling through Hell, and I couldn’t make sense of a loving God inside of that devastating mess. Atheism wasn’t a vague, foreign idea to me after all of that. These thoughts covered me with water in that tub, more than once, when I tried to convince myself not to be afraid to stop breathing when the water pressure was too high. I was afraid because I was alone. Not only in the bathroom, but in my life. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who saw me, and I was desperate for an answer to save me from my self-deprecation and hate.

Years later, after exhaustive amounts of time spent in this deteriorating mentality, I was not only desperate for a reason to be alive, but for the reason why I was desperate. I found it intriguing in such a morbid way that I wouldn’t kill myself and yet I kept asking myself what life was really for.

What was all the darkness trying to tell me? Why were Korn’s songs so important to me—so validating? Why did trying to drown make me feel like something was being balanced in the world—as if trading my presumed worthless existence for the more worthy existence of everyone else—and why did I, even to the slightest of a degree, want a reason to believe that that might not be true…. as the air in my lungs was collapsing, and I had to choose to come up for air or choke on gallons of water imploding on me.

Was Jesus speaking through to me even though I wasn’t listening yet? Did the silence in my heart have anything to do with the hope that kept me alive, even though I rejected His goodness as a fallacy for so many years? Did the fact that I stayed alive despite multiple attempts to die have anything to do with the miraculous power that He had over my surroundings; encouraging me, even at bare minimum, that there was something worth living for? How can I, looking back, not acknowledge Jesus at work in a life not believing, surrendering, loving, or reaching out for the Lord who was trying to show me He was really there all along? How can I not say that wasn’t the intervention of a LOVING Supreme Being who knows me better than I know myself? See, Jesus knows I enjoy water, and He knows I enjoy the quiet because I find it peaceful. When I found myself trying to drown myself in both, He met me, even though I couldn’t feel Him or hear Him at the time—and He took me from death by feeding me even the slightest reason to keep going, even if it was just the music and vindication I received from listening to rock songs and writing poems.

I understand everyone has their own story of adversity, struggle, trauma, crisis, and pain. We all do. I have mine, and I’ve shared a chunk of my story so that you can understand that I don’t speak of anything I haven’t experienced myself. I experienced the desire to die as the main focus of my life for several agonizing years. I’ve also experienced choosing narcissism over Christ, trying to get what I want just for me—and hedonism was a disappointment through that as well. Self-satisfaction is no reason to live at all. All that living for pleasure ever did was tire me out and make me want to die. You may think that perhaps I didn’t find the right kind of pleasure. I disagree. For instance, the argument for sex is invalid. For about 15 years of my life, I’ve heard from countless people about meaningless, promiscuous sex, about how much fun it is, but how unsatisfying, and therefore unfulfilling it is. They admit how having sex with someone you love is much more satisfying, but wisdom will tell you that it’s nothing to live for.

For another instance, those who would concede to the argument of the pleasure of drugs as a good reason to live—the high from drugs has the same effect; if anything, people lose brain cells from drugs, as well as concentration, time, and the ability to prioritize. Drug addicts continuing their lifestyle without any desire to change ignore the truth that their addiction only obscures their reason for doing drugs: To hide from pain. Sure, some do it for fun because they feel they have nothing better to do. That’s my point: There IS something better to do! There is so much… and I was drowning myself in a tub because I couldn’t see it, either. 

To give you a more recent picture of my life, today I see women as treasures of the living God, and relationships as complements of what God allows into our lives when we treat them as gifts from Him, and not invitations of the devil to throw our souls away. Though my history distorts relationships because of my traumas, I seek the Lord and pursue the way He views women, fighting my past with faith in Jesus as my guide to healthy boundaries. I still deeply appreciate music, but I intentionally incorporate worship music to balance out my propensity for rock music, and the rock music I enjoy does not glorify the devil, nor degrade or convolute the concept of God. My writing continues on and off this blog; I write songs once in a while, but I enjoy writing these articles in hopes of inspiring others like you to look beyond disbelief and darkness, seeking answers to your life’s purpose, ranging deeper than you could imagine.

Truly, I understand atheism and disbelief like the back of my hand. But I’d rather adhere to knowing Jesus as the center of my heart. Now that I know why He came, what He was, is, and will always be about—He worthy of all of my time, all of my thoughts, desires, and hopes. If you haven’t gotten to that point of your life, I empathize with your dissension; there is no judgment here. I spent the majority of my life being spoiled and not giving any glory or credit to Jesus: I’m one of the people who don’t want to spend another day without surrender and humbleness. I want you to know I didn’t find Jesus in the tub that day, but it was because I hadn’t chosen to see Him yet; not because He wasn’t there. I don’t believe that. What I believe, because of what I experienced—is that the second Jesus knew I was ready with a softened heart, He flooded Himself into my life; and I’ve been different ever since. There was a lot of learning and growth to do, and there still is, but compared to the days of my crisis and family trauma, I’m light-years away. I write this to you so you’ll know you’re not alone in your pain. You’re not alone in your situation. God sees you and wants to help you, but He won’t come into a closed heart. He won’t because that’s your choice to let Him in or keep Him out. 

My prayer is that you would find peace, even in your pain. That you would find forgiveness for those who have hurt you, and peace even inside of all the trouble you’re facing. When I say Jesus really is the light of the world, I don’t mean for that to sound cliché. He is the “light in the darkness” because He is the hope in a world crumbling at the feet of sin and corruption. He is the reason I keep going, and I pray He will be yours. When you can’t feel His closeness, I pray you would seek Him by name; the name above all other names. There is no one like Him, the One who saves us from ourselves each and every day. I believe in His love, even when I’m too rigid in my shame to receive it from Him. May you find it in yourself to seek Him at all costs, above all the rest of your priorities in life; may you find Him in your heart, and once you do, may you never look away—may you never move back. I pray you would let Him transform you from the broken soul you have now to one of restoration, peace, completion, humility, and strength from above.

As an atheist for most of my life, I never found any satisfaction in anything of this world. Often I reminisce just to look over the differences in my life since I accepted Christ, and every time I do, I realize how blind I was when I was closed off from Jesus. I understand it all happened in its own timing according to God’s will. He knew how long I’d need to accept Him, but He didn’t push harder than He knew He should. I chose Him when I was done trying to find pleasure in narcissism. After I exhausted myself of trying to find meaning in this world, I realized there was nothing to find, and what I did find was never, ever enough.

Jesus’s love, and the hope which comes from His resurrection, brings me more satisfaction than anything this world has to offer. When people talk about parties, alcohol, sex jokes, vacations, or time to just “to do nothing”, I pity for them; despite understanding their desire for a break (Jesus Himself commands us to heed the Sabbath for rest), I always find myself quiet so as not to offend people who brag about worldly pleasures. If people ask me my opinion, I honestly tell them I’d rather read or watch a movie than to go partying. I already know there is nothing meaningful in this world besides faith in Christ. 

My rigidity to faith in Christ was not at all different from unbelievers’ rigidity to Jesus today, but some people hang onto theirs for longer. One of the differences between me and other unbelievers is that I got tired more quickly. I hope you won’t wait long before you let Him in to give you a more satisfying purpose. He is always waiting, always ready to give us all we need. We only need turn ourselves to Him with humility and surrender, and He is ready to embrace us. He was never gone, we just weren’t looking. 

Let us “look” today, let us try to strive in a world more and more confused by its own contradictions with the hope of Christ expressed through our words and actions. May God bless you as you choose to search for Him and may you recognize His goodness, even in your pain. He loves you, and He desperately wants you to choose Him, as He is a jealous God. But He won’t make you. You have a choice. 

If you resonate with what you’ve read here and you’d like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and if you’d like, please write in the comments below and share a thought, a prayer request–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Gone