I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is for many Christians to accept and understand grace. Personally, I find it difficult at times to see how I could possibly be made worthy in any way given the state of my heart. I forget that Christ dismisses my faults and replaced me at the Cross. I forget that I am worth something to Him. Worth so much that He died for me. I know others who have such trouble accepting grace that it changes their view of God. Instead of loving, gentle, and gracious, He becomes heavy-handed, harsh, and punitive. They fear that God will harm them or punish them as soon as an error is made. They fear God, but not in reverence. They are only able to accept grace for a short time. They see themselves so unworthy of grace from others and God that they separate themselves from those sources. Sin enters in at the point the person thinks they can undergo massive self-improvement in order to become worthy and deserving in the eyes of God and fellow believers. Systems and methods established outside of true reliance on Christ build pride and self-importance, all masked by an insecurity and misunderstanding of where one stands in relation to Christ. They want perfect discipline in order to have a faith deemed “worthy” or to be “good enough”. They act in human strength to atone and make up for their failures. Sadly, I have fallen into this very pattern before. I think many of us have.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that God does have standards and that He hates sin. I believe that God wants us to be disciplined and striving for purity. I know He wants to see us sanctified and made holy. But we often forget that only HE sanctifies. We cannot make ourselves so without Him–we desperately need Him. He gives us the strength to do the activities He calls us to do. We spread ourselves thin by jumping into various activities to prove and show our faith when often Christ hasn’t asked us to do all of those things. Often the deep motivation comes from this constant need to earn grace and favour in the eyes of God. So that we avoid punishment or unhappiness. If we really accomplished the work Christ asked us to do and only that, we wouldn’t burn out or become so exhausted. Christ knows our limits more than we do, and knows when we are acting outside of those limits. We become less affective, we grow weary, we neglect people, and we lose control when we take on too much in the name of “being the right sort of Christian”. Or in the name of earning our place before Christ. While doing nothing is also unacceptable, we need to understand that the extreme opposite can almost become a new legalism–inching towards a works-based faith with little room for grace at all.
Jim Palmer said in his article “15 Things Jesus Never Said” : Jesus never said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a checklist of things to do and not do in order to remain in God’s favour.” And it’s true. He never said that. And we have and adversary who would love for us to believe that He did. That adversary wants nothing more than to make us feel as if God’s grace is not for us, and that we have to earn that favour. He gets us overworked and overwhelmed, until we crash and burn and our view of God becomes so mangled in the end. That adversary would want to use our own humanity against us, until we’re striving for a standard we’ve imposed on ourselves, and we have no concept of grace and love.
Last thoughts: please accept that you are loved and adored by the God of the universe and there is nothing you have to do to earn His grace and favour. Understand that God knows your limits and your strengths. He knows you will fail. He is not looking to punish you at every shortcoming or cause you harm. You don’t have to work to pay off the debt He paid for you. You are free if you profess Him and you are covered in perfect, unearned, unending grace. What a gift.