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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

Dancing in Freedom of Grace
8-DAY READING

Believe it or not, the Christian life is a dance! You may have been raised to see it as a march of rigid rule-keeping, but nothing could be further from the truth. In this 8-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe invites you to explore the difference between marching to earn God’s love and dancing in the grace He freely lavishes in Christ. Can you hear the music!?

Day 1

Can You Hear the Music? | Jeremiah 31:13-14

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. —Friedrich Nietzsche

I want to invite you to a dance. I know that’s not normal. But dancing isn’t normal either. I mean, why would someone leave the predictable security of life, enter into the unknown, and risk looking like a fool?

Why? Because you might be hearing the call of the music, that’s why. 

In the continual blasting of life’s noise, if you listen carefully, you might be hearing the melody and harmony of the Holy Spirit, calling you to something different. 

“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the LORD.  (Jeremiah 31:13-14)

Do you hear the words? Dance and be glad… comfort… joy… abundance… bounty… 

Though many of us start out dancing with Christ, some end up marching for Him and other people instead. In the world, competing voices drown out the music and turn the dance into a march—a regimented discipline of denial and obligation.

I should know. I’ve experienced it. I’ve even caused it. But by God’s grace, I’ve rediscovered the better way.

Yes, I want to invite you to dance, because God invites us all into a beautiful dance with Himself and with each other.

Jesus, Leader of the Dance, silence my heart right now. Give me the willingness and the ability to hear through the noise of the distractions that dominate my life. Let me hear the music of Your Spirit again, calling me into grace, peace, freedom, rest, and trust. Show me how to dance again, Lord. Amen.

Day 2

Calling It Quits | Matthew 11:28-30

Love is a perilous dance too, you see. And if we stop dancing, we’ll die. Don’t ever stop dancing. —Kate Avery Ellison

Marching has its purposes in the military and in bands, but in Christianity it can wreck you. It saps your joy, it steals your energy, and it slays your passion for Jesus. And sooner or later, it’s bound to burn you out, blister your feet, and bore you to death with its monotony.

Ready for an honorable discharge? Here’s how:

Recognize your need and your brokenness. Cry out to Him in honesty from a heart that is tired and desperate for the real thing.

Reject your flesh, along with its self-righteous methods, standards, systems, and devotion to programs.

Realize your hopelessness. Stop trying. Stop working. Stop striving. You might need to quit the committees and ditch duties. Just stop and let Him know that you know all your efforts are hopeless.

Rest in His finished work. Not just His crucifixion on the cross, but His resurrection from the grave. The crucifixion made it possible for your sins to be removed. The resurrection made it possible for you to find new life, to be a new creation. All that work was done on your behalf. It is finished.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Listen, it takes courage to break ranks with those who are marching for God. You have to be a real fool to enter into the dance with Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 4:10). It’s going to feel awkward and maybe even scary. But the joy is worth it, every misstep of the way.

Okay, Lord, You win. I’m calling it quits. I surrender. I’m tired of performing.  I’m tired of conforming. I’m broken, hopeless, and exhausted. I’m done with the march. I want to rest in You as You lead me in the dance of grace. Amen.

Day 3

It’s Called “Grace” | Galatians 5:1

Run, John, run, the law commands but gives me neither feet nor hands. Tis better news the Gospel brings. It bids me fly, it gives me wings. —John Bunyan

Learning to dance seems so unnatural at first. The evening I first stepped onto a honky-tonk dance floor in Fort Worth, I was so self-conscious. Why? Because I was concerned about how everyone viewed me. Why? Because I was always focused on marching—my performance, effort, and behavior.

Learning to dance is scary stuff, and some never try—not in a honky-tonk and not with Christ. Why? Because I’m convinced that most of us are afraid to step into the freedom that Christ offers. Why? Because we’ve got this huge misunderstanding about how God views us, and that turns most of us into monotonous marchers.

But if marching is sheer monotony, then dancing is pure freedom.

  • Freedom to live
  • Freedom to enjoy
  • Freedom to obey
  • Freedom to share
  • Freedom to fail
  • Freedom to start all over again
  • Freedom to move with the music of the Spirit

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

If marching is all about my work for Him, then dancing is all about the finished work of Christ for you and for me. The believers in Galatia started out dancing—and then some false teachers came in and got everyone wrapped up in themselves.

When I ask you to dance, I’m not inviting you to be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. It’s not you in the spotlight with everyone judging you and people texting their evaluations from all over the country.

I’m inviting you to step into His grace, to step into the truth of who you already are in Him. Why? Because our whole world is wired to judge you by your performance, and it’s natural for us to feel like God works that way, too. But He doesn’t. He’s got a completely different system. It’s called grace. And we can believe in it, rest in it, and dance in it like no one’s watching.

Oh Jesus, by the Truth of Your Word and the power of Your Spirit, live through me today. I stand firm against the voices and powers that want to deceive my soul. I exchange fear for freedom! Amen.

Day 4

A Pure and Powerful Gospel | Galatians 1:3-5

The book of Galatians is a searing letter of correction from Paul to the people who lived in the region of Galatia. It’s interesting that when Paul wrote to the Corinthians (a city immersed in flagrant sins of the worst kind), he still found something nice to say about them.

Not so with the Galatians. The people in this region had fallen for something so severe that Paul used the most intense words possible to wake them up. What could possibly have been so serious?

The Galatians had started out dancing in grace, but then they started marching under a new form of legalism.

Theologians actually call this the “Galatian heresy.” Essentially, after Paul left the region, a group of devout Jewish believers moved in and said, “Yeah, everything Paul said is true, but we need the law, too.” They were trying to mix law and grace, marching and dancing.

So how does Paul start this critical letter to the faithful followers in Galatia? By bringing them back to the undiluted simplicity and power of the Gospel.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)

The introduction to this critical letter is a potent reminder to us today to never, never mix the purity of the Gospel with anything else.

Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, Lord bring me back to the simplicity and purity of Your Gospel today. I praise You that You gave Yourself up for my sins and that You rescued me from the evil in this world, by grace. I rest in that now. Show me where I am trying to add anything to Your work by my own works. To You alone be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Day 5

It’s That Serious | Galatians 1:6-8

The main thing between you and God is not so much your sins; it’s your damnable good works. —John H. Gerstner

The tone of Paul’s letter to the Galatians gives me shivers. I mean, it really sends a chill down my spine. And the irony of the situation makes it all the more powerful: The Galatians were really trying to go the extra mile, trying to work their hardest, trying to keep all the rules and regulations… And Paul rips them up and down for it? Is that fair?

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-8)

It seems harsh, but it’s not. By adding marching to dancing and legalism to grace, the Galatians were actually “deserting the one who called [them] to live in the grace of Christ.”

Desertion. Going AWOL. Perversion. Abandoning their post. Yeah, it was that serious. Grace is that important. Adding anything to the Gospel of grace is as destructive as adding used motor oil to your coffee. It’s really “no Gospel at all.”

Oh Lord, open my eyes. Give me the wisdom to see the seriousness of compromising Your amazing grace. Show me that legalism is not devotion to God, it is deserting God. Please Lord, point out one area where I am marching away from You rather than dancing with You. Amen.

Day 6

Grace Alone | Galatians 1:9

Most cults are masterful when it comes to mixing law into grace. They make it sound so good. They tell you they have the complete gospel, the full gospel, some form of progressive revelation. But the bottom line is the same broke message:

“Jesus? Yes! But you also need to…”
“Grace? Yes! But you also need to…”

Those are the mantras of grace-destroying heresy.

Adding requirements to the Gospel implies that grace is not crucial and Christ’s work is not sufficient. So, Paul sounds the alarm:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:9)

Sadly, adding requirements to grace and Jesus’ work is rampant within the core of our church communities, too—more so than we care to admit! We fall for this misguided theology anytime we buy into the lie that we can march in a way that improves our position with God. How might we do this?

  • Listening to the right music
  • Wearing the right clothes to church
  • Adopting a certain political agenda
  • Serving the poor
  • Getting a theological education
  • Praying
  • Serving on committees
  • Abstaining from alcohol or drugs
  • Tithing
  • And on, and on, and on…

Don’t get me wrong. These could all be good things, but only if they’re an extension of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit living through us. Otherwise, they’re just legalistic works that pollute the power of the Gospel by mixing two things that never belonged together: law and grace.

Oh Jesus, by the power of Your Spirit in me right now, show me the good things I am doing for the wrong reasons. Show me where I am still trying to earn favor with You by my works rather than dancing in the freedom of Your Spirit and letting Him work through me. Thank You. Amen.

Day 7

Lies and Love Don’t Mix | Galatians 1:9-11

Truth will rise above falsehood as oil above water. —Miguel de Cervantes

Satan will do anything he can to distract us from Christ. ANYTHING.

Once he’s lost us to God’s grace, he’ll do anything he can to keep us from experiencing freedom in Christ. One of his favorite tactics is the mixture of law and grace that creates a false gospel.

Listen, Satan is smart and he knows you’re not stupid. He’s not going to try to feed you straight motor oil. He’ll try to trick you by stirring that oil into your coffee… mixing marching into your dance through lies that destroy the entire thing.

Getting us to try to please people rather than simply loving people is one of his favorite tricks.

As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. (Galatians 1:9-11)

Please be honest with yourself and think about this. You can keep all the rules from a bitter heart. You can keep all the rules and still have no desire for God’s glory whatsoever. And it’s likely that you’ll be tempted by Satan to try to keep all the rules so people will notice you.

Worst of all, you can keep all the rules and never love God and never love people even once. That’s why keeping the rules is such a dangerous thing, because you can actually do it and completely miss out on experiencing life.

Jesus, I believe that You are absolutely all I need. I believe that life in You is an experience of the Holy Spirit transforming me and expressing Himself through me. I don’t always live this way. It’s so easy to start marching to someone else’s agenda again and again. But today, I’m stepping out onto the dance floor again, listening to Your music, ready for You to lead me again. Thank You! Amen.

Day 8

Leading Captives to Love | Psalm 105:43

Former Iranian hostage Barry Rosen touched down on an American tarmac 30 years ago and spilled into the arms of a wife and two young children lost to him during 444 days of captivity. —Michael Hill, AP

There’s something about seeing someone set free that lights me up. I mean, when a person has been held hostage for much too long, their whole body has a language it speaks when it realizes freedom has come.

As the absence of captors and walls sinks in, the one set free spills into the arms of those waiting. Tears of gratitude flow. Emotion surges through laughter and sobs. As the anguish of captivity fades and falls away, it’s replaced by the joy of a freedom that’s here to stay. It’s been given; it’s finally here.

I love seeing those scenes in the news because it’s a powerful reminder of what Jesus has done for our souls:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

There’s a certain joy that comes from freedom, and that joy is anything but silent. As the burden breaks, the chatter begins. Joy fills our emotions to overflowing—we can’t contain our praise! Joy writes the story on our lips, and we can’t silence it—it becomes the music of our life.

And we dance. We dance because we’re free.

We join in the song and the dance of the Israelites who, after generations of slavery, erupted into celebration.

He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy. (Psalm 105:43)

We have nothing left to do except live in freedom, proclaim it loudly, and dance to show the other captives the way of grace.

Lord, teach me how to live in this joy. I am free and Your Spirit in me is rising. My joy is a gift unwrapped in the presence of freedom—I cannot contain it! It stretches my body to the limits of praise. My arms in the air—unshackled and with praise—and my feet moving in step to the rhythm of freedom. Live through me, Lord, this unscripted life of freedom. Lead me in a dance of joy that never ends. Amen.

Reflection:

  1. How might you be marching to earn God’s love—instead of dancing in what Christ has already accomplished?
  2. What does dancing in the freedom of grace look like in your life?
  3. How can you communicate the beauty of grace to others caught in the monotony of marching?

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