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Shame makes you feel that you are not good enough, acceptable enough, or worthy enough just the way you are.  Shame makes you believe that you should be someone other than yourself.  

Grace tells you that you are free to be exactly who you are.  1 Corinthians 15;10 says, "by the grace of God I am what I am."  Because of grace, you don't have to be anything other than you.  In fact, you're not supposed to be anyone but you.  By God's grace you are free from shame and feeling that you should be anyone else.  When you take hold of God's grace, then you can be all that God intends for you to be.

Experiencing grace requires 2 things:  1)  become exhausted by your own self payment plan and instead 2) embrace God's payment plan for you

SELF PAYMENT PLANS

Self payment plans sound like this… "If I do ___________, then I will feel ______________ (happy, secure, content, loved)."

A self payment plan may sound like this:  If I get married, then I will be loved.  If I make more money, then I will feel secure.  If I look a certain way, then I will feel happy.  If I accomplish a lot, then I will be acceptable to others.

What does YOUR self payment plan sound like?  What drives you?  What do you think you need in order to feel happy?

Self payment plans do not work!  This is why…

You never feel good enough, worthy enough or acceptable enough.  You can never "do" enough because you never know if you've paid enough.  Consider that you have a checklist sitting next to you with a list of chores on it.  The checklist tells you exactly what you need to do.  When you cross everything off your list, you are done "doing" chores.  A self payment plan is like living with no checklist.  You have no idea what to do because you have no list to follow.  You continue to "do."  You do and do… not knowing if you are doing enough or the right things. 

To escape the pursuit of "doing" enough, you turn to an addiction.  You seek an addiction as a way to bring comfort.  In turn, this addiction becomes an idol in your life.  This is where an eating disorder comes in to play.  An eating disorder acts as an escape from the uncertainty of doing enough.  Looking to an addiction for comfort, only leads to guilt and shame.  

As you continue on this cycle, you realize that you are going nowhere, yet running aimlessly in the pursuit of something.  It is as if you are tied to a treadmill with no stop button.  You keep going and going, with no way to get off.  

You will continue in this cycle until you get sick of what you are currently doing.  In Scripture, we can see that the Prodigal son got sick of his self payment plan.  He was exhausted.  "When he came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!'"  He realized that the way he was living wasn't working.  He wasn't getting anywhere; he felt empty and alone.  

Are you exhausted of trying to pay your own way?  How does it feel?  How has it been working for you?

THE FATHER'S PAYMENT PLAN

The prodigal was sick of his payment plan.  To stop the cycle he was in, he decided to turn towards home.  

"He returned home to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son."  Luke 15:20 

The son was gone for quite a while; long enough to live recklessly, spend all of his inheritance, and find a new job.  During the entire time that his son gone, the father looked and waited.  I can envision this father, waiting on his front porch every single for his son.  He had no other agenda or plans, only to look for his son.  He stared into the distance, looking specifically and only for his lost son every single day.  He waited and waited.  He looked and kept looking.  Yet, finally on one special day he saw the son that he had been longing to see.  Before his son was near him, he ran after him.  The father's joy was more than he could contain.  He ran undignified toward the son that he had given so much of his time and energy waiting for.  

The father could have turned his son away, but instead he welcomed him home with open arms.  

"He embraced him and kissed him.  His son said to Him, 'Father I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.'  But his father said to the servants, Quick!  Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.  Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  Kill the calf we have been fattening.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life.  He was lost, but now he is found.  So the party began."  Luke 15:21-24

This father didn't wait for his son to apologize, explain his actions or pay the money back.  No, the father started celebrating before any of those things could even happen.  The father embraced, kissed, clothed, honored and celebrated his son.

GRACE

Grace is an undeserved gift of God's love to you.  Because of grace, the Prodigal did not get what he deserved.  He deserved to be kicked out of the family, to pay back every dime he wasted, apologize and explain his reckless actions.  The Prodigal was lost, but not too lost to come home.  He made some very bad choices, yet he was still welcomed home.

Because of grace, you are never too lost to come home.  It doesn't matter what choices you have made.  

If you feel lost, God is waiting on his front porch for you.  It doesn't matter how long you have been lost or what you have done.  There is nothing else that he would rather do than sit and look specifically for you.  He is waiting for you to turn home.  He wants you to stop "doing" and simply fall into his arms.  Turn your gaze from your addiction and go home.  If you simply turn your face towards home, God the Father will run after you.  He will not wait for you to get close.  He will run recklessly after you.  When God reaches you, he will embrace you, kiss you, and celebrate you… his lost child that has been found.

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

  

The words displayed in this picture say, "This is the story of the Prodigal daughter.  It should really be called the running Father who waited every day for his girl to come home.  The daughter who had rejected him so badly – but when he saw her from a long way off he ran to her and hugged her and kissed her."

Soak in the image of this lost girl being held in her father's arms.  Imagine yourself as this girl. Like her, you may have rejected God.  You may feel lost and confused.  You may carry the guilt of running away from home.  Yet, God sees you and knows your pain.  He scoops you up into his strong, mighty arms.  You may feel weak and tired so your arms hang lifelessly.  Even as you feel lifeless, hopeless, and scared… you are comforted and loved.  There is safety and security there.  You feel peace that everything is going to be okay.  You could stay in his arms forever.  In his arms there is hope, warmth, peace, love, comfort, and beauty.

JOURNAL

How do you identify with this image?  How is God welcoming you back home?  How have you felt him waiting or running after you?  How have you been experiencing his undeserved grace?

GOD'S PAYMENT PLAN

God's payment plan sounds like this… "Because of the cross, I am loved."

After the fall of man in Genesis, there was a gap between God and man.  In the Old Testament times, sacrifices were made in order to "pay" for wrong choices.  Then Jesus came.  Jesus stood in the gap for us.  We no longer have to "pay" for our wrong choices.  Through his death on the cross, our debt has been paid.

Someone has to pay for our wrong choices.  God is entirely just, so there must be payment for sin that is made.  God sent his one and only son as payment for our wrong choices.

Have you ever owed a large debt, only to have that debt cancelled or paid by another person?  We owe a huge debt, but Jesus has stepped in on our behalf and has paid the debt in full.  On the cross Jesus proclaimed, "it is finished" – meaning "paid in full."  There was a transaction made as he spoke those words.  No more debt is owed.

God's payment plan sets you free from paying your own way.  If you turn toward God, He is faithful to forgive and renew you.  His faithfulness was shown as a promise in blood on the cross.  All that remains is your choice. God already paid for you.  Will you accept his payment?

THERE IS ONLY GRACE

BY GRACE, YOU ARE…

Because of grace, you have a new life and a new identity.  Having an identity in Christ means that you can claim His promises for you in Scripture.  

By the grace of God you are…

acceptable to God (Romans 5:1), no longer ruled by sin (Romans 6:1-6), free from punishment (Romans 8:1), given the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), God's possession (Eph 1:13-14), saved and set apart (Tit 3:5), given a spirit of love, self control and power (2 Ti 1:7), chosen by God and adopted as his child (Eph 1:5), blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), chosen and without blame (Eph 1:4), rescued (Col 1 :13), God's possession (2 Co 1:21-22), secure (Eph 1:13-14)

PRACTICAL STEPS TO EMBRACE GRACE

Read the Challenge to Change for the topic of Embracing Grace.  There you will find a practical activity that will encourage you to act on the truths we are learning.

Read the EAT Daily pages for the topic of Embracing Grace.  There you will find Scripture verses to read every day this week based on the topic of grace.

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