I was tired. Trying to be good and do all the right things was exhausting. Guilt and shame and worry were my constant companions. The voice of “not enough” kept whispering in my ears. I didn’t know how to understand the grace of God.
I thought it was all up to me.
Wasn’t the Christian life all about good behavior? Since the Lord knew everything, wasn’t He keeping track of all my failures in disappointed disgust that I couldn’t do better? Live better? Be better?
It was at the age of 9 that I asked Jesus to be my Savior. At the end of a week of revival meetings at our rural country church, someone told me that Jesus wanted to be my best friend. That sounded good to me.
I tried my best to be a good girl, not just as a child, but on into adulthood. All the “don’ts” were etched in my soul, and I did my best to avoid them. The “do’s”? Well they just seemed unattainable for someone like me to ever master.
I didn’t understand grace.
Not until after our son died.
As we sat in the emergency room the morning he passed away, the old hymn “Grace, Grace, God’s Grace” started playing in my mind. It seemed a strange thing for me to hear in my thoughts as they tried their best to get him to breathe again.
But then, I had heard about grace when I was pregnant with him, too. The pregnancy had gone so well that I thought something must be wrong. My midwife said it might just be that God was showing me grace.
We were even going to name him Grace if he had been a girl.
I felt like God was trying to impress upon me something very important if our son’s life had been encased in grace – from beginning to end.
What in the world was grace? I didn’t know. There were lots of dark days, even long after the grief had subsided, before I could begin to understand grace because I was bound in a mindset that felt hopeless to change.
But God!! (My favorite 2 words!)
In all His tender loving kindness, He wanted to make sure I understood grace – His marvelous grace that could set me free and help me be all He intended.
How about you? Do you understand grace? Do you wrestle with the mindset that you have to perform to earn God’s love? Do you have an underlying feeling of guilt most of the time because you think you just never measure up?
Are you tired of trying and failing? Do the voices in your head keep reminding you of your failures, pointing to what you should be? Do you feel like the “would-a, could-a, should-a’s” are about to strangle the very living breath right out of you?
I understand. Oh dear friend, I really understand.
God, in His loving kindness, wants you to know grace.
Let’s see if we can unwrap this wonderful gift He’s given us. He wants you to be free.
How Grace is Defined
Let’s begin with looking at what the word “grace” means in the New Testament. The Greek word most often translated as “grace” is charis. If you look up charis here in Blue Letter Bible lexicon, you will find the following:
Hmm…there’s nothing in this definition about our performance, is there? No mention of how good we are or how well we manage to check off a list of good deeds.
In fact, nothing in that definition speaks about us at all – expect what is assumed to be understood: we are only the recipients, not the producers of grace.
Acts 20:24 tells us that the gospel, the good news of all that Jesus did on the cross for us, is a gospel of the grace of God. God’s grace, given to us to be received by us is very, very good news!
Grace is God showing you His kindness, not His displeasure.
Grace is God showing you His favor, not His condemnation.
Grace is God showing you His goodness, not punishment or rejection.
Grace is good news indeed!
How Grace Differs From Legalism
God’s grace is so outrageous, so outlandish, so extravagant, so beyond anything we’ve ever known – we might just find ourselves thinking it’s too good to be true for us.
I grew up in a very religious background. Pastors placed much of their emphasis on moral behavior and church attendance. Guilt was the primary motivator.
Because I was already wrestling with low self-esteem and every other thought in my mind was one of condemnation, I developed a religious mindset as well. I must do good, or God will be angry.
One of the definitions of “religion” is: “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god”.
It often seems that some people and many churches have used that system of beliefs and ceremonies and rules, not so much to worship God, but to make people feel guilty if they don’t measure up. This is legalism at its best.
Legalism says you must do A, B, and C to get X, Y, and Z. You must do it all perfectly, no veering off in other directions allowed. And if you don’t do it perfectly, you’re not acceptable. You’re not okay at all. You might even be rejected.
Sigh…God never intended it to be this way. He always wanted relationship over rules.
Grace is all about relationship.
Rom. 5:2 tells us we have access by faith into this grace. I want you to see what this means! The word “access” in the Greek means this:
“Access: the act of bringing to God; in other words, that relationship with God whereby we are acceptable to Him and have assurance that He is favorably disposed towards us.” (from BlueLetterBible.org)
Grace. God’s beautiful favor allows us to have a relationship with Him, makes us acceptable, and gives us confidence that He is positively for us in every way!
Oh friend! Are you beginning to understand the grace of God and how wonderful it is?
How Grace is Found
Our sin separated us from God. We missed the mark of all He intended for us. Our disobedience brought hurt to ourselves, hurt to others, hurt from others, and distance from God.
But God wanted to do whatever it took to reconcile us to Himself. He knew we could never be good enough or do enough on our own.
His plan was to give us grace. Because that grace abounds so immensely, as a result, we can have enough and be enough and do enough. Grace is sufficient! Not us! Grace!! (2 Cor. 9:8)
The grace of God was given to us by Jesus. (John 1:17, 1 Cor. 1:4)
Dear one, please get this: Your standing with God does not depend on you and your performance! Jesus gave His life so you could have the favor of God. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, you are now seen through Jesus. He covers you with His robe of righteousness.
Listen to what God says:
We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. –Romans 3:24 ESV
You see, our sin had made us like captured slaves. Jesus’ death was the payment of a ransom needed to buy us back, a full redemption. And this redemption is what justifies us.
If you’re like me and have been in church all your life, you’re familiar with these terms but you may not really understand them. When I finally understood what it means to justify, it amazed me.
The word translated as “justified” means “to render righteous”. And what does that mean? We are declared to be just or righteous – such as we ought to be.
I’ve said this before here , but this “ought to be” is not one of the should-a, could-a, would-a’s. No! Instead, this is referring to what God intended for us from the very beginning, His original purpose for our lives.
When you are declared righteous, He is saying that you can now have the opportunity to be the real you, to become all the wonderful you He created you to be.
And God is the one who declares this! You see – your being made righteous and being justified has absolutely nothing to do with your behavior or how well you measure up. And no other person can determine this or declare it, either!
Who can bring a charge against you when it is God who justifies you – declaring you are righteous because of Jesus? Not even you can bring a charge against yourself! (Rom.8:33)
You are saved, you are justified, you are delivered, you are sustained by grace – not just at the moment of salvation, but forevermore. It’s all up to Him. His good favor, His loving kindness always building you up and establishing you and enriching you. (Acts 20:32)
How Grace Seeks to Transform
I see now why God wanted me to understand grace. What relief that understanding brings! How freeing! It’s not up to me! Jesus paid it all. Because of Him, God now sees me with favor, divinely influencing my heart with His goodness which results in my joy and delight.
He is for us, not against us! He is the God of all grace. He not only lavishes us with grace to save us, He promises immeasurable riches of His grace for ages to come, each and every day. (Eph. 2:7)
Can you get this, dear one? He is not upset with you because you did the same wrong thing again this week that you said you’d never do again. He won’t lash out at you when you see an opportunity to do something good and you miss it because of fear or holding back. And He will never respond to you based on past failures.
The lens through which He looks at you is grace. Goodwill, loving kindness, favor. All because of Jesus.
He’s already done it all for you. There’s very little required on your part, really.
- First, you must choose to believe. Believe that Jesus died so you could be reconciled to God and experience His grace for yourself.
- Repent. This actually means to turn from something toward something else – you turn away from the mindset you’ve had and turn toward God, embracing His ways and thoughts as now your own.
- Be willing to receive God’s forgiveness and abundant love.
- And then just rest, trusting Him to provide, guide, and enable you to be and do all He has purposed for you.
Believe, repent, receive, and rest.
And here’s the great news:
God’s really not after behavior modification. It’s not about behavior.
It’s all about the heart.
He wants to give you transformation that comes from knowing you are a much-loved child. When the heart is healed, change will come!
When you actually start to grab hold of this grace, you’ll begin to realize just how much you are loved and accepted. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
Singing His praises with you!
Let’s do something to build up our faith today. In the familiar hymn, Amazing Grace, we sing the lines: “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Let’s “sing” our own version in the comments. Without going into great detail, (we don’t need to focus on gory details of our past!), please fill in the blank with your simple testimony:
I once was _______, but because of grace, I am now _________.
Can’t wait to hear what God has done for you!
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