The Gift of Grace

God’s grace can be a hard concept to fully grasp, maybe because it is so different from our experience in everyday human interactions. I’ve heard grace explained using the acronym “Great Riches At Christ’s Expense”. I’ve also heard it is “getting blessings we do not deserve” while its companion mercy is “not getting the punishment we do deserve”. These are simplified versions of the Dictionary.com definition: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”. God’s Word confirms all those explanations are consistent with His expression of grace:

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17b, NIV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a, NIV)

Far more life understands that grace is a gift from God. A right perspective on grace enables us to live the best life possible. But we can think too much or too little of ourselves and miss the wonder of God’s amazing grace.

Thinking too much of ourselves leads us to minimize our sin and our need for God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we believe our sins are “not that bad”. If this were true, then Jesus did not have to die to pay for our sin and the spiritual darkness it reveals! We could have overcome separation from God on our own; we did not need his gift of grace. These strong words from Romans 3 make it clear this is not the case:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

Grace is a gift. From God. Failing to recognize the Giver leads us to try and earn this precious gift, to prove our worthiness. But that is impossible. Earning it is not God’s plan; our efforts can actually pull us further away from the security of His grace.

On the other hand, thinking too little of ourselves leads us to minimize ourselves and reject God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we continually question, “Why would God save me? I’m not worth it.” From God’s perspective we are the most important part of His creation. We are the only part made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are the only part granted forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). And we are the only part that God lives inside (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 3:16). We are worth it because God, our Creator, decided we are worth it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

If we don’t understand God’s grace we will be tempted to think that doing good works will prove our worth and love for Him; we believe that will make Him happy with us. So when we fail to obey — which we will! — we feel guilty and condemned because we believe we have let God down. We fear that he will pull away from us. We may even feel separated from Him and assume that He has pulled away. But far more life frees us from feeling condemned when we sin. Instead it understands that God’s children live under grace. It enables us to acknowledge our sin without letting it define or conquer us. It believes this Biblical truth:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV)

Rather than being under the condemnation of sin, far more life is living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace-filled living is characterized by inner joy, peace, gentleness, patience, love, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that radiates from us. God’s light shines through us and reveals the brilliance of His character. Grace also provides the power to choose righteousness rather than sin. We do not take Christ’s sacrifice for granted; our freedom was purchased at a high price. But that sacrifice was not the end; it was a new beginning. Jesus is alive. He overcame sin and death and sent His Holy Spirit to give us far more life. What a precious gift!

Sisters,
How do you define grace?
How do you minimize your sin?
How do you minimize your worth?
If you have not accepted God’s grace, what is stopping you?
If you have accepted God’s grace, how do you see His power changing you?
Praise God for the gift of grace and the power to live far more life!
-Shari

Letting Go

In the last post we talked about forgiving others. But there are two more people everyone needs to forgive. These people have probably disappointed and hurt you more often than anyone else. And we hold on to their hurts tightest and longest. Who are they? Ourselves and God.

We are our own worst critics. Despite our outward bravado, we hope others won’t see our sins and failures. We are ashamed. We kick ourselves for not doing better, for not being better. Everyone feels this way. Some people hide the extent of their negative self-talk. Others are clearly drowning in a sea of self-loathing and worthlessness. But this doesn’t have to be! God wants awareness of our sin to lead to spiritual change. For those who don’t have a personal relationship with Him, He offers hope:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

You are not alone! ALL have sinned. EVERYONE has felt the shame that you feel. But God, in His love, doesn’t want you to be stuck there. He offers forgiveness through the sacrifice of His Son’s life to make restitution for your sin. It’s the largest, most important gift you could ever receive! If you’ve never accepted it but want to, take a moment right now and tell Him.

Once we accept God’s gift and enter a relationship with Him, we have a clean slate before Him. Nothing — not even our own sin — can separate us from God. Since He can see our whole lives and knows every thought, word, and action — past, present and future — nothing will ever surprise Him or change His view of us.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:34, 38-39, NIV)

If God never condemns His children for their sins or draws back from them, why do we condemn ourselves and draw back from Him? Why do we forfeit the far more life He offers?  Because we see ourselves from a different perspective than God does. We still see ourselves as we were before Christ changed us while He sees who we are after Christ’s work in us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

Forgiving ourselves requires letting go and letting God.  It means we entrust the situation — and any negative consequences — to Him. We trust Him to restore what was lost or taken away that is needed. We trust Him to heal the damaged emotions of everyone who got hurt in the situation. While it is good for us to confess our sin to God and thank Him for His forgiveness, we don’t need to punish ourselves; Jesus has already taken that punishment for us. Forgiving ourselves separates us from our sin and brings far more life.

Are you hesitant to let go and let God? If so, maybe you need to forgive Him. God doesn’t ever sin; He is perfect. So he doesn’t technically need to be forgiven. But there are times we feel hurt, abandoned, disappointed, or misunderstood by Him because we are unable to see His actions and intentions correctly. Our negative emotions cause us to pull away from Him. To question His character, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and His intentions toward us. We are hesitant to believe His promises and obey His commands because Satan’s lies about God resonate louder inside us. We are afraid to get hurt again.

It is important to work through these hurts. Don’t be afraid to reveal your ugliest thoughts and feelings to God — He already knows them!

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  (Psalm 139:2-4, NIV)

It is hard work to uncover Satan’s lies and embrace the truth about God. But He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts. He compassionately meets us where we are. He patiently walks us through each step of faith. This wonderful promise He made the Israelites when they were far from Him is still true for us:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV)

The same promise is true for us!  God isn’t offended when we confess our hurt, anger, and distrust to Him. He doesn’t get angry when we admit He isn’t who we want Him to be and doesn’t do what we want Him to do. When we forgive Him, we let go of the false expectations that caused us pain. That releases us to see and experience Him — and life — the way He intended it. As a result, we see His true character and our desire to mold ourselves to His likeness grows. We discover that letting go brings far more life, life we had not even imagined was possible.

Sisters, 
For what to you need to forgive yourself?
For what do you need to forgive God?
Are you willing to let go of these hurts?

Thank God for character His qualities and promises that are most meaningful to you.
Commit to seeking Him this week; as you find Him enjoy far more life!
-Shari