Grace Upon Grace::The Mystery of Christ

by Edie Wadsworth on March 7, 2012

Welcome to week 2 of our Lenten devotional book study of John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today
Week one is here if you’re just joining us.

 Our Hidden Life

Jesus maintains that the true goal of our spirituality is for us to be seen by God, open to His searching and yet gracious scrutiny, known and appreciated by Him.  Our spirituality is part of our secret life with the unseen Father, the God who knows our hearts and sees what is done in secret.  No progress can be made unless we are honest with ourselves before God the Father…….We are justified by God’s grace and approved by Him.  Our justification does not depend on our piety (spirituality) and our performance but on Christ and His performance.  We can therefore face up to our recurring failure to live as His holy people and people of prayer.  In fact, our failure is meant to teach us to ask for what we lack and receive everything from Christ.

Wow!  Dr. Kleinig says that the most common image that the scriptures give for our spiritual life is a journey.  Our journey is simply a pilgrimage with Him as He takes on His way, the way of the cross, and delivers us ultimately to the Father’s presence in eternity.

It is a journey in which we live by the grace of God.  As we travel with Christ, God the Father reaches out to each of us in the same way through His Word.  Through this Word, He generates and maintains our faith;  through His word, which is enacted in proclamation, absolution, Baptism, and Holy Communion, He gives us the Holy Spirit and all His gifts.  In that journey everything comes to us from Him through His Word;  in it we all receive grace upon grace from the fullness of the Father.

Dr. Kleinig then gives such a beautiful poetic description of how we participate in the mystery of Christ’s life in our daily journey with Him toward heaven.  I can’t even begin to do it justice. You’ll have to get the book!

A Clear Conscience

One of the things that keeps us from yearning to spend time in God’s word and in prayer is our guilty conscience.  And Dr. Kleinig makes such a strong case for how our state of our conscience ‘colors’ our experience with God.   We all have this sense that something is not quite right with us.  We try to ‘measure up’ to some standard but never seem to do it.  This leaves us with a tainted conscience.   Kleinig states that nothing is worse than the confusion that a bad conscience brings.

When we have a bad conscience, we see God as a strict lawgiver and a harsh judge, a moral watchdog and a moral detective, someone out to get us.   His disapproval of our sin, His anger against injustice, is experienced as His personal disapproval and rejection of us as people.  We resent His demands.  We fear His condemnation.  He seems to act as if He were our enemy.  And so we work hard at getting God off our backs.  Failing that, we try to avoid Him by minimizing our contact with Him and anything to do with Him.

This bad conscience that comes from failing to measure up to God’s law is only half the story.  Through the forgiveness and life of Christ given to us at Baptism, we are granted a clear conscience because we are given the clear conscience of Christ Himself.  ”The key to life in the presence of God is the good conscience that comes from the Holy Spirit through the conviction of sin and assurance of forgiveness and salvation.”

What beautiful comfort when we let the gospel in all its’ take captive our hearts and minds.

That leaves about the last 1/3 of the chapter for you to talk about in the comments.  Or you can talk about the first 2/3′s of the chapter.

What do you think so far?  Doesn’t he have such a gentle and encouraging way about him?  And his relentless focus on Christ as the giver of all good things is so refreshing.

What’s your favorite section/quote/concept?

At last, a devotional book that doesn’t make me feel more guilty.

Thank you Dr. Kleinig!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mischelle March 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Edie I have been reading your blog for a while now. I just love it. It is so refreshing and inspiring to me. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful post.

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2 Desiree March 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Edie , I don’t feel guilty anymore when it comes to God. I feel like if It take my hands fold them across my chest, close my eyes and fall back he will be there to catch me , to lift me up. He is always walking behind me , even in those moments when we want to give up, those weak moments, when we may think he is not there. I feel comfort, I walk with comfort knowing that if I fall he will pick me up and in that belief I can carry on.

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3 Michele March 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I will be looking for that book Edie. Charles Spurgeon is my fave – I never feel guilty when I start my day in his devotional “Look Upon Me”.

Are you ready? Super excited? Me, too! Looking forward to meeting you on Saturday.

xoxo michele

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4 Southern Gal March 8, 2012 at 8:54 am

He is right on about the reasons I avoid God at times. Yes, a devotional without guilt is a blessing. I’m very thankful you are sharing it here.

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5 Ruth March 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Edie-my book arrived this past weekend while I was away. Thank you so much. I am still playing catch up on the reading. I am reading, highlighting, and rereading it. It is wonderful. I will be trying to catch up this weekend. Our little puppy just had surgery when we got back and it’s been a whirlwind.

I often struggle with a guilty conscience. It definitely clouds my devotional time. I feel unworthy of this great gift of salvation. I have to constantly remind myself that it is a gift, separate from anything I do myself. Looking forward to reading this chapter.
Thank you so much for your generosity.
Hugs,
Ruth

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6 Esther March 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm

This chapter was PURE GOLD! I can’t write all of my underlined quotes down, because it’s practically the whole chapter. But here’s the highlights for me:

-”Our repentance is not just an initial act or an occasional event in our journey with Christ; it is a daily event, a lifelong process. Our whole life is a process of conversion from ourselves to God, a dying to self that is complete only when we die.” YES!

-”Our involvement in corporate worship and our practice of piety belong together and enrich each other. Thus Christian spirituality is always liturgical and personal.” I adore our Lutheran liturgy. I find so much comfort in it, and now I know why. Again, YES!

-”Since we do everything in the name of Jesus, HE PERMEATES EVERYTHING THAT WE ARE.” AMEN!

The last part that I absolutely loved when he was talking about distractions in worship. I have three kids. I have distractions. There are always distractions in church. This quote really spoke to me: “Since then, I have learned to regard the distractions that I experience in public worship and in my devotions as the summons of the Holy Spirit, who uses these distractions to connect my life with God’s Word and to apply God’s Word to my life.”

There’s just so much to sink into–I LOVED this chapter. I could go on and on!

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7 Ikbal December 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm

It really is great eveydray when God shows up’!Or, does He call us to his Kingdom work, and to the potential splendour of each new day and each new life situation, then He waits for us to turn up? He is already there! We have to decide if we want to make the effort to respond, meet Him there, etc, perhaps?I like the catchy colour of your new blog banner. Really grabs attention as you open up TSA homepage. More importantly, it was great to see that you showed up’ to work and blog on your first day!!Looking forward to leadership of you and Aylene, and of Peter & Jenny as well.Blessings and prayers!(Keep showing up on TC Speak)

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8 Jenny@ADropintheBucket March 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

I just finished reading this chapter; and it has some awesome points in it. I had highlighted the exact same quotes as you did, and a few more too…

I especially love the idea that we are “secret agents”:
After telling the story about being on the plane and describing himself as a secret agent, he says: “Since that day, the notion of Christians as secret agents has remained with me as a good description of our vocation. We are, in every way, citizens of this world, with earthly homes and earthly jobs and earthly identities. We lead the same ordinary lives, with the same ordinary interests, doing similar ordinary work as the people around us. Yet at the same time we are citizens of heave, extraordinarily people, aliens, working to promote God’s gracious rule here on earth. Behind the front of our ordinary lives, we work as secret agents of the heavenly King.”

At the same time as I am reading this, I am reading “The Purpose Driven Life” and I am just finished reading a chapter about relationships. And the point was included there that “Jesus said our love FOR EACH OTHER-not our doctorinal beliefs-is our greatest witness to the world.”

I’d like to think that I can act as a secret agent, spreading love and being a testament for God’s Love for us.

And I have to say. As I sit and spend more time with Jesus, and fellow Christians, I am just amazed at how things (even things like these two books) tie together and demonstrate God’s presence in my life. Amazing. This will go down as the best Lenten season of my life. I had a powerful experience last Saturday, and I am so glad that I can continue to read and learn more and grow in my faith.

I want to share it with you Edie (http://jenbucketlist.blogspot.com/2012/03/point-taken.html), because I think you will be happy for me…I came to a place where I realized that I need to surrender (again, as an adult…I had as a child). And I have had such joy since then. I have never been vocal about my Christianity, or faith in general in public, but I am changing. I feel His power working on and with me.

(eek. See? Even something like this comment and saying this all would scare me in the past, but I know that writing this must be part of His plan for me.)

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9 courtney March 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I love the idea of our faith as a pilgrimage and not a constant arrival or destination. a check list of “I’ve got that pattern down”. not a pilgrimage from our daily faith walk, but a constant pilgrimage. a journey.

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