Grammar Matters!

Before you disregard this blog as trite or irrelevant to your life, please indulge me for just a few minutes. I promise that it will be worth it, AND you may even walk away with a renewed (or first-time, for some) appreciation for parts of speech!
Perhaps you’ve seen the following meme and had a good laugh.
Full disclosure would be to share that, yes, I have used this very meme with students and teachers to emphasize how important the smallest details can be for clear communication when it comes to writing. That aside, my topic today is of much greater importance, as it’s tied directly to your faith walk and the difference between striving and living in freedom.
Let me start by asking some questions directed at my Christian readers.
After you accepted Christ as your Savior, how would you describe the relationship? Did you see Him as a friend who walked with you–side by side–navigating the good and the bad with you and supporting you with strength and encouragement when needed?

If so, you’re certainly not alone, and that is certainly not an unbiblical picture. After all, we are told that He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, 6). I mean, “Jesus and me” has a special ring to it that reminds me I am not alone in life to fulfill His purpose for me. But let’s look a little closer at this expression and the faulty reasoning it can lead to (and here’s where the grammar lesson comes in).
The word “and” is a conjunction—a word used in a sentence to connect two other words, phrases, or clauses. It can be used to convey the idea of “also or in addition to.” It puts two ideas together, side-by-side, and could incline one to believe that both parts are equal in weight or importance.
Whether subconsciously or not, this line of reasoning could take a Christian down the path of a false gospel—entertaining the perspective that although Christ redeemed me through His perfect sacrifice on the cross, that it’s now up to me to carry out the work of developing maturity, growing in my faith, and becoming more like Christ.
In other words, that I can change, grow, and spiritually mature myself through self-will—true grit—so to speak. If this is our attitude, we will eventually realize that this kind of pursuit is so much more than we are capable of. We cannot, in the flesh, complete the work that Christ began in us at salvation.

It means being free to be what He’s made me to be and to do what He has chosen for me to do, rather than feeling obligated to strive to do what I think I should do based on the expectations that I or others have for me.

I’ve heard it said this way: Our relationship with Christ is not additional (“and’), it’s prepositional. It’s not Christ and me, running together to each earn our place. But it’s Christ in me, running this race as a fused union with the One who’s already won it all! “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). So what do I mean by “prepositional”? To clarify, a preposition is a word in a sentence that connects a noun or pronoun to the rest of the sentence–Christ in me connects me to Him, enabling me to truly become one with Him.
The person of Christ in me is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit—the One who seals us when we claim Christ as our Savior (Ephesians 1:13, 14)—is the One who gives us strength, wisdom, guidance, discernment, and who teaches and transforms us. Because He indwells us, we are empowered to live a life of faith and trust in God.
The Holy Spirit is the difference between the false gospel of striving to do for God (being dependent on us), and the gospel of grace, which shows the work of transformation that empowers us to live based on who is in us. When I grasp this truth, it completely changes my approach to how I live life.

Philippians 1:6 NKJV
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

If you’re thinking, “Well, then, it’s all up to the Holy Spirit to do everything; I can just relax, be a passive spectator, and let Him do it,” then you’re mistaken. What it does mean is that instead of being driven by my own efforts to grow in my faith, I am an active participant fueled by God’s strength and grace knowing that He is in me. (See previous blogs, Peter & Grace, Part 1 and Peter & Grace, Part 2 for more insight on the role of grace in our lives.) So what does this look like practically?
  • It means I spend time developing my relationship with the Lord—reading and studying His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), talking to Him (Psalm 42), and talking to others about Him (Matthew 10:32; 1 Peter 3:15)—to know Him so well I can hear and understand when He is guiding and directing in my life. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
  • It means I reflect His light and His love from within to the lost and dying world I face on the outside (Matthew 5:16). 
  • It means being free to be what He’s made me to be and to do what He has chosen for me to do, rather than feeling obligated to strive for what I think I should do based on the expectations that I or others have for me (Galatians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 3:17; John 8:36).
  • In other words, His love and grace–welling up inside me like a fountain–will pour out on others.
When my daily life is a testimony of these practices, then I will truly understand what prepositional living—Christ in me—is all about (Galatians 2:20). And that, my friends, is a grammar lesson for the books!
Author Bio:
Holly Varnum, Director of Curriculum Development at Reasons for Hope joined us September 2021 to launch curricular materials to support many of our media resources. With degrees in education, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration, she comes with over three decades of experience in working with teens and adults in camp ministry, teaching and administration, and curriculum writing (A Beka Book, Focus on the Family, and Answers in Genesis to name a few). God has provided her with a well-rounded educational perspective through service in Christian schools, charter schools, public schools, homeschooling, Christian camps, and local church ministry. She has been a classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator, camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, ladies’ Bible Study teacher, and conference speaker and looks forward to using her passion for God’s truth within the context of Reasons for Hope.

Her hobbies include cooking and baking, hiking, camping, travel, and working on do-it-yourself projects. Holly and her husband, Paul, (RforH*’s Special Content Manager) also enjoy any time they can spend with their three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren (so far!). They live in the beautiful state of Maine, and yes, eat lobster (properly pronounced “lobstah”) whenever they get a chance!
To learn more about Holly, or to book her as a speaker for educational, ladies', or girls' events, click HERE.

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