Wednesday, May 01, 2013


I knew from the very beginning that I was "saved by grace." With my history and personal background it was a given that I needed grace. All I was capable of doing were things no one in their right mind would call good and certainly not pure. It didn't take being a rocket scientist to figure out that I needed God's help. So, Grace as shown in the Person and Work of Christ became real to me. I became a believer. My message was one of grace from the outset. It's called the gospel.

But, that said, It took me some years to realize that the same grace that saved me was the grace by which I was to live. So I began a walk according to the law. Oh it wasn't the law of Moses, although I did somewhat embrace the 10 commandments as the foundation of the way I was suppose to live, it was the law of logic for me.

My logic went this way. Knowing no one could ever repay Jesus completely for what He did for them, I believed I did need to spend the rest of my life trying to. So a pay back journey began. Back then that sounded spiritual, at least to me, but it wasn't. It was works. I was, indeed, saved by grace but  was trying to live by the works of the law. [My law of logic.] 

You may be asking, "What does that law of logic look like?"  The answer is it looks like what I heard one person call, "An ash tray full of buts." [Thus the picture with apologies to cigarette butts.]  I knew I was saved by grace, "but!......" [There it is.] There was ALWAYS an "I know it is all of grace.... "but."

You see, in my mind, there were things I needed to do to keep grace from being cheap. I owed Him my all and I wanted to show up for the parade of working to pay Him back. [Remember, I'm not talking about salvation here.] Little did I know that what cheapens grace is to think you can add anything to it, even in your walk. Thus, my walk became "do this," "do that," "or do the other," instead of realizing what "had already been done" and walking in that reality.

This, inevitably and subtly, shifted my focus from Him and His work, to me and my work. It will ALWAYS do that. Instead of learning to be impressed by what He had done, I was trying to impress Him with what I was doing so He'd know I really loved Him for what He had done. Make sense? It did to me.

So, as you can see,  my first "but" mixed with grace was, "But I owe Him my all and had better show Him by doing all I can".  [The ash tray will be full of "buts" before we're finished.] 

Another "but" mixed with grace in my life was, I knew that Jesus had saved me, "but" if I didn't study the bible and understand doctrine I would never be able to know what to do. I had to know "bible truth" so I could have a game plan of performance. As you can see, I wound up not reading the scriptures to see Jesus at all. (Lk 24:27) My purpose was to learn, what I ought to do? Does this remind you of what Jesus said to the Pharisees at all?  [John 5:39]

I developed a little knowledge of this doctrine, a little knowledge of that doctrine, and became doctrinally correct in many ways. But, sadly, I ended up thinking all scripture was profitable for me to know ONLY as it showed me how to live. That's far from having my "eye on Jesus alone." 

I failed to filter what I read through the finished work of the cross, I read someone say it this way, "I unwittingly poisoned myself about the Christian life." I was mixing the death-dealing words of my own "law of shoulds" with the life-giving "words of grace." Although I thought I was zealous for the Lord, I was really only zealous for my own law.  I wound up with a STRONGER CONNECTION to the WRITTEN WORD than I had with the LIVING WORD.  Another "but" in my ashtray of useless things on my journey because my time in the Word was about ME and not HIM. 

There is yet another "but" that I mixed with grace. It was..."But"__ I need more from God so I can live the Christian life.  Now this is REALLY subtle. I kept looking for something to help me live the Christian life to it's fullest. But I was searching for the very things that He had already provided IN CHRIST. I would ask for more faith instead of living by the faith of the Son of God (Ga 2:20). I would ask for more peace without knowing He was my peace. [Ephesians 2:14] I would ask for more victory without realizing He had already won the victory and my victory was trusting that fact. [1 John 5:4]

I was always asking for something more.  I read books on "How To_____," went to conferences to learn "how to____," and you can fill in the blanks. On and on to find ways to help me do my"shoulds."Never satisfied with Christ alone.  [The ashtray was full and was dirty and stank.]

I didn’t realize that I had already been blessed with every spiritual blessing IN CHRIST, and that I was deeply loved, and highly favored, IN CHRIST. [Ephesians 1:3]  So in my ignorance I wasted a whole lot of time asking for things that were already mine. This "but" had brought me to thinking I was being spiritual and faithful when in reality I was fleshly and faithless.     

The tragedy of all this is simple. You just do not mix anything with real grace. In true grace you sit in it, you walk in it, you stand in it. [Taken from Watchman Nee's book on Ephesians entitled, Sit_Walk_Stand.]  But in subtle ways I preferred rules to relationship and what I really craved were clear Biblical guidelines for living. I thought I was choosing good, but then so did Adam. Adam and I both had an independent spirit that led us to eat from the wrong tree and the result was nothing more than dead works.

It was when I discovered that as a believer I was called upon in the New Covenant to repent of dead works that I was finally shaken.

Dead works are the things religious people do thinking that by doing those things they are gaining something from God.
If I pray because I think it will make me better with God, it's a dead work. if I read my bible thinking it will make me better with God, it's a dead work. If I go to church.....
You get the idea.

But if I pray or read my bible or witness or go to a gathered church meeting because I know the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST is mine and I AM ACCEPTED BY PAPA and I know THAT HE LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY, instead of all those things making me better with Him, I find the power to live already present in my life. His name is Jesus. [That's shouting ground.]

Now don't get me wrong here, which some might be prone to do. I'm not saying you don't do certain things. Of course you do. Perhaps everything I've mentioned in this post, in fact. But you don't focus on them or keep track of them so you can measure yourself by them because they are not for measuring anything about youThey are simply your response of love to His great acts of grace in Christ that have already made you acceptable. It is simply you learn to live as a son instead of a slave.

So, my mixed bag was discarded. The "buts" were thrown out and the ashtray was emptied, gone, removed. The stench of dead works was also removed and the sweet aroma of grace is now the atmosphere of life itself. His name is Jesus.

Paul B.


Garen Martens said...

One of the hot topic "buts" addressed to the Gentiles of the New Testament letters was "Yes, you've been saved by grace, but you must be circumcised to truly become a Christian".
When I talk or think about the "buts" of life, the word circumcision comes up frequently because it is an all-encompassing word of performance-based actions that have no meaning to my relationship with Christ.

Paul Burleson said...


You nailed this post with a perfect Illustration from scripture.

Steve Martin said...

No, "yeah buts".

Christ...and Him alone!


Christiane said...

Christianity is not about doing something 'today' or 'tomorrow', no.
It is about becoming who we were meant to be.

"” . . . we have borne the image of the man of dust,
. . . . now reborn after the pattern of our Lord . . .
let us bear the full and complete image of our Maker;
not in majesty, in which He is alone,
but in innocence, simplicity, meekness, patience, humility, mercy and concord – in which He deigned to become and to be One with us.”

(from a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus)

Paul Burleson said...


Now that's saying in 7 words what it took me far to many words to say.

Good comment!!


Exactly! Well said.

Chuck Andrews said...

As I read your post an old hymn kept coming to my mind. A hymn from my youth that encouraged the "buts" of grace that you talked about. It is sung in the first person as if Jesus was the one talking. The words are a mixture of life-giving words of grace with the "death-dealing words of the "laws of shoulds."

The hymn? "I Gave My Life For Thee"

The questions it ask are filled with the poison you speak of.

what hast thou given for Me?
hast thou left aught for Me?
what hast thou borne for Me?
what hast thou brought to Me?

Many of the old hymns are great theology.....this is not one of them.

Thanks for the reminder. If it's not all grace, it's not at all grace.

Paul Burleson said...


I could not agree more.

I'm convinced that many lyrics in some of our hymns are lacking in the understanding of real grace. Thanks for the example.

Aussie John said...


It's obvious that, in the matter of spiritual understanding, like some of the earthly pleasures we enjoy, you demonstrate the wonder of maturity, and it keeps on getting better!

You mention that you believed, "there were things I needed to do to keep grace from being cheap. I owed Him my all and I wanted to show up for the parade of working to pay Him back."

As a young believer in my early teens,the pulpit was strong on the need to be dedicated to doing just that! Sunday School, and, Bible Studies reinforced the message.

It was many years before I escaped the shackles and leg irons of religious performance, and found the rest Jesus promised.

I loved the "but" analogy of "An ash tray full of buts." So very appropriate, and just as putrid and offensive.

".. the sweet aroma of grace is now the atmosphere of life itself. His name is Jesus". AMEN!!

May I post this on my blog?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

You certainly may and I'm honored you would want to.

I have a feeling often as I'm doing a blog post that I'm probably sharing a journey you will understand quite well, as we have such a similar history.


Rex Ray said...

Probably you guys know what a ‘Religions Fanatic’ is --–the person one spiritual step ahead of us.

So where do I start? Maybe with “I Gave My Life for Thee.”

You see, that song which I haven’t heard in 30 years, once touched my heart and soul. What about “I’ll work till Jesus Comes”?

The trouble with Christians is we want everyone to do what we feel ‘called’ to do; and that starts with the pastor on ‘down’ the pecking order. :) (I’m in big trouble now.)

For example, last Sunday we had an ‘Old Fashion Sunday’ where people wore old looking cloths. (My sister looked like she had gotten out of a covered wagon.) We sang all the old hymns with dinner on the ground under a 40 X 80 foot tent we had rented from the Association. (It was hot and the shade felt good.) There were hay rides, horse rides, and wagon rides pulled by horses three feet tall. Also the kids threw balls to dunk the preacher in a dunking booth. (He lasted till he froze.) Plenty of men put the tent up but there was no plan to take it down. I was concerned because several years before I was unsuccessful in keeping it from being blown down and it fell on top of me.

I interrupted the staff meeting that bad weather was coming and we had to return the tent but no one had any time. I thought if everyone stopped talking we could finish in an hour, but I didn’t say anything. In two days, the tent was returned the day before it rained by one and a half men and a woman.

Did they feel they were ‘paying back Jesus’ or just doing what needed to be done?

Paul Burleson said...


"Did they feel they were ‘paying back Jesus’ or just doing what needed to be done?"

I don't know. I guess like with all motives that are internal and unseeable by anyone except the person, {recognizing they might be fooling themselves], and God, [who fools no one and cannot be fooled], we'd have to ask them.

But I do think ANYONE who chooses to do ANYTHING that is truly legitimate, just because they want to or enjoy doing it or have fun doing it or aren't expecting everyone else to do it and get mad when they don't, would be considered having a good, if not godly, motive. It sure wouldn't be trying to impress God or anyone else. I'd say, "Good for them and go for it."

Rex Ray said...

How'd you know I got mad? :)

Paul Burleson said...


Why do you assume I'm not speaking from what I've learned about myself and my own struggle? ;)

Rex Ray said...


Struggle huh? I guess we're on the same page. :)