The Upward Call: A Prisoner of Grace - David Mitts

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Php 3:12-14 (NASB)

Click here to listen to "The Upward Call"

Each of us has been chosen, by our Abba-Father for a call. These times that we live in with all of the fears and shaking that is going on can make us feel that we are just trying to survive.  This is NOT our destiny!

We have been “laid hold of” by Christ Jesus. I want you to see that picture. Think of it like He has knocked at the door of your house and has taken you into His custody.  But unlike a prisoner of the law, you and I are prisoners of grace.  

What does it mean to be a prisoner of grace? Well we know what a prisoner of the law looks like. It looks like our freedom has been taken from us because we are guilty of breaking the law and the consequence of breaking the law is to be penalized and lose our freedom of action and choices. As a prisoner of the law, we have violated a boundary or boundaries prescribed by the law and are facing the consequences.

If the boundary of the law is severe enough the consequence could be our very lives

A contemporary example, as of this writing is the outbreak of Coronavirus.  The virus is transmitted by contact and so the law demands quarantine for the infected to minimize contagion. Depending on the level of health of those affected violating the law could result in simply spreading the disease or in the most severe case, death.

This is what the world of law looks like and it is very real and very serious. 

The question is what does it mean to be laid hold of by Christ Jesus in the world of law? How do I live my faith in a world system rooted in fear and pride?

Before I try to answer that, let me address wisdom.  Is there wisdom in following the law? Of course, there is. Is there wisdom in washing our hands, brushing our teeth, paying attention to safety? Of course, there is.  The Law or the laws are man’s attempt and God’s attempts to define what is the best. Obviously, God’s law, the Torah is the best. It is rooted in love, His love. 

Man’s laws, if they are following God’s laws will similarly be rooted in love.  When we begin to alter our laws base on selfishness and greed then man’s laws come into conflict with God’s law and they reveal our selfishness and greed instead of His love and truth.

This is actually a wisdom conflict and is described by the Apostle James:

"Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."  Jas 3:13-18 (NASB)
The laws of the “land” reflect the source of the wisdom that is guiding the people. 

Ok. Let’s get back to being laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Jesus had many law conflicts. None with the Law or Torah of God, but many with the laws that were based on fear and selfish ambition, what He called the traditions of men:

"The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."  Mar 7:1-9 (NASB)

Fear is the “god” of mankind. Greed is its strategy. Pride is the goal.

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."  1Jn 2:15-16 (NASB)

Being laid hold of by Christ Jesus is an entirely different set of rules and parameters that are based in love.

This is called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."  Rom 8:1-4 (NASB)

This is the place where we begin to become aware of being “taken hold of” by Him. 

Think of it like learning to dance.  Initially, we learn to dance by learning the laws of dance, the right things to do and the wrong things to do.  This is “law” stage of learning to dance.  This is similar to learning the Law or Torah of God.  In both cases, there is an awkwardness that produces a feeling of frustration and almost a futility, what Paul calls condemnation.  Then there comes this point where we actually feel the dance inside of us. We surrender to the spirit of the dance and we become a prisoner of the dance. It captivates us and merges into our identity as a dancer.  

At this point, it is no longer us dancing but dancing expressing through us. If you don’t do dancing, then think of bike riding or singing or anything where you had to learn by rote and then transcended the learning. This is a picture of what it looks like to be “taken hold of by Him”.

""For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  Mat 7:14 (NASB)

He is the consummate dance partner who leads us along the narrow path of life. It is narrow, not because it is dangerous in any way but because it is tailored to our unique call.  Like a fine suit or a form-fitting gown, our calling fits us in a unique and special way.

This is the place of true liberty! By liberty, I don’t mean the abandonment of boundaries and safeguards but the liberty that comes from the dance of eternity into our mortality.

There is a type of “liberty” which is being touted in the land, which is basically the statement, I am free to do what I want as long as it doesn’t infringe on you doing what you want.  This kind of liberty is really just an extension of our childish idea of getting what we want. It drives most economics and is the stuff of arguments about freedoms and rights. It seems logical until you consider that what I want and what God wants for me may not be the same.

Then there is another kind of liberty that only a few experience because they don’t even know that they don’t know about it.  They may catch a glimpse of it from time to time, in a deep conversation where they come alive or when they lose themselves in some task, which is the liberty of oneness.  This is the liberty of 2 Corinthians 3:17.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."  2Co 3:17-18 (NASB)

In order to come into this place of true liberty, we have to allow oneness into our heart. This is an identity shift where the thrill of the dance of life becomes greater than my own personal wants and desires.  It isn’t that I don’t have wants and desires, it’s that they become yielded to the call of God on my life.  This the place of the unveiled face that Paul is referring to.

When we look into the face of the Lord, as in a mirror, we are gazing into oneness with Him.  His eyes contain reality. His eyes reveal purpose. His eyes are the place of favor. 

"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD."  Gen 6:8(NASB)

In His eyes, we see who we truly are and more importantly why we truly are. In His eyes, we see how He sees us and we can fall in love and back into the dance of life and be truly free!

Free to dance, Free to lose myself in you….(song)

How do we enter into this liberty, this oneness of the dance of our lives? By forgetting. Forgetting? Yes, forgetting. Forgetting what? What lies behind us. What is it that lies behind us that can keep us from the dance of life, the upward call of God in our lives? Good question.

Behind us are all the failures of our lives, that caused us to fear to repeat them. They can help shape us, but they can also limit us. What lies behind us is the conversation of the heart that we use to limit ourselves.  What lies behind us are the labels others have put on us, the criticisms or the evaluations of what we should or could do.

Activation: Forgetting. Ask the Lord what do you need to forget, no longer bring to mind. What have you believed about yourself, allowed others to believe about you? What limitations have you spoken in your heart that might be keeping you from the dance of life to surrendering into Him to fulfill the upward call in your life? It’s time to become a prisoner of grace.

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