Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grace: Amazing

{ "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." -Ephesians 2:8-10 }

This is a topic that I feel very ill-equipped to write about in great length, because I am still on the road to really learning it. Grace. It is what defines Christianity, and sets it apart from all other religions. And yet it is a concept that humans have a hard time understanding. Grace is usually defined as "unmerited favor". Biblically, we see that grace is what is not deserved, not earned, not worked for, but is given as a gift (as the above verses describe). More than give you a dictionary lesson, I want to explain how difficult it is for me to understand the concept of grace and what God is teaching me in the process.

Since I became a believer I have most certainly recognized that I did nothing to deserve God's gift of salvation. I was redeemed from my past and made into a new creation in Christ. Plain and simple, by the work of the Holy Spirit. My life changed almost overnight and I no longer felt the burden of shame and guilt that I had felt previously. Very simply: I was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. And as I continued to grow in my understanding of who God is, and what my Savior has done for me, I also grew in my desire for obedience. My life began to bear the marks of a true Christian and though I still had a long way to go (and still do!) there was evidence that God was indeed working in my life.

Somewhere down the road, though, I began to think of obedience as something that I did. When I served the Lord, studied the Scriptures, met with God in prayer, I (subconsciously) found myself believing that doing these things earned God's favor and pleased God more than if I had not been doing these things. My mindset of "saved by grace" shifted to "saved by grace, but continue in works". Now, I would never have said that I thought I was actually earning God's favor or His delight by reading my Bible and praying, but deep down in my heart there was a part of me that just believed that was the case.

During one semester of college, I found myself up to my earlobs in extracurricular activities, service opportunities, and life commitments. I was trying to do way too much with way too little time. But I was determined to do all of these things, and do them well. Well, I was humbled that semester and when I began to struggle to keep up and I sank into a season of mild depression. I bottled it up though, and put on a happy face that told the world, "I am okay." By Thanksgiving, I was burned out and ready to come home. I made it to Christmas and God was gracious to reveal areas in my heart where I was just trying too hard. I surrendered my time and schedule, burdens and failures to the Lord and began showing me the necessity of a strong community. Through that time, God showed me His grace by not punishing me for me failures - as I was so prone to think He would do! But of course, I had to remind myself of the gospel: that Jesus was punished for me! God would never punish me because He has not only forgiven me, but declared me "Not guilty!" -- that is substitutionary atonement. Jesus bore the guilt in my stead. That is undeserved favor. That is grace.

In the years following, I have begun to realize that I have a "law-based" mindset. What I mean by "law-based" is that I tend to think that if I do _____, or if I don't do _____, then God will be pleased with me. This is a very detrimental way of thinking. If a person goes on believing this, then they will always be attempting to earn God's favor instead of resting in the fact that grace has saved them, and it is grace that continues them in sanctification. This, my friends, is what I so often forget! Grace is what sustains our faith, all the time. From the first to the last. We can only please God, by His grace that He has given us through the cross of Jesus. Apart from Christ we cannot please God, and even in our redeemed state our works do not necessarily please God if we are doing them simply in order to get something out of it. That is defined as pride and self-righteousness. Because Christ has earned us His righteousness, our attempts to try to earn our own are in vain! Besides the righteousness of Christ is far greater than anything we could even attempt to earn!

So in the midst of our attempts to work for God's favor, let's stop and begin to rest in what Christ has accomplished for us, and continues to work in us: grace, amazing.

[In the next post, I will discuss the difference between repentance and self-condemnation, so stay tuned!]

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kathryn, I believe we're all Inadequately equipped to discuss Grace. Biblically that is my name and I constantly fall short. I'll say Chance for an example. I don't consider him a friend because friends communicate no matter how strained the relationship is. He still deserves Grace as much as we do and I pray he remembers high school because he may run across people with developmental disabilities and we need extra patience,and communication to be understood. I cannot be ignored because I am not a psychic nor do I know "the right questions" to ask as someone else put it. Grace is a new beginning daily and we get it pure.