Grace is a topic of discussion often in the church world. It is a word freely used, but sorely undervalued, abused, and often misconstrued. If I were to define grace in a couple of sentences it would be the unmerited favor from God due to the finished work of the cross that allows us to be in right standing with Him despite the fact that we have sinned in the past while carrying no shame or condemnation. Grace is also the unmerited empowerment from God to accomplish all that God has called us to do. When we struggle with the concept of grace as a follower of Jesus in the context of messing up, stumbling, and sinning we tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories which will be the focus of this post.
There is one category of people who become apathetic to the need to receive God’s grace, ignore the issue altogether and try to go on living their life at least for a season without God’s grace or they claim God’s grace covers everything and use it as a license to live however they want and do whatever they please. This is not a wonderful place to be in the Lord. I encourage anyone in this place to not stay there long at all.
If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus and know that you fall into this first category, you are walking on a dangerous tight rope and you should not think that the status quo can stay that way forever and everything remain good. Things will take a turn for the worse and you will find yourself in a place you don’t want to be. God is such a kind and gracious God, but His grace is not to be taken for granted. Paul writes in Romans clearly that our life in Christ means a new life that reflects Christ, gives glory to the Father, and that we should not sin so that grace can abound all the more.
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
The rest of this post will focus on the second category of people. This category consists of those that are all too aware of their stumbling and are in the habit of condemning themselves for not being perfect. I tend to fall into this category when I forget to remind myself of God’s grace. We want to absolutely beat ourselves up and think we deserve to feel bad because we’ve messed up.
We love to give ourselves a mental lashing for not performing better, for not spending more time with God, for allowing ourselves to drift into complacency in our relationship with God for a season, losing control of our thoughts and actions, for having some kind of sinful issue that we are working through, etc. If you fall into this category then if you sin even once you feel like you are in the pits of despair and feel almost as if you have to completely start over with your relationship with God (this might be slightly exaggerated, but not by much). It is receiving God’s grace that will help you overcome in these areas so that you don’t beat yourself up anymore and you can move past the area of struggle for good! If you fall into this category, you know who you are and I strongly encourage you to take the words in this post to heart.
Receive God’s grace and mercy. I will write it again. Receive God’s grace and mercy. Check this out in Romans 8:1.
1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who[a] do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
If you are in Christ you don’t have to go around condemning yourself all of the time. When you stumble or sin, yes, there is an initial conviction and guilt feeling from the Holy Spirit. That is God’s way of loving us enough to put us back on the right track. However, once you have repented of that thing with sincerity in your heart, you have been forgiven. God has extended His grace and mercy to you. After that, if you are continuing to feel guilty, shame is seeping in, and more condemnation emerges, it is coming from one of two places.
It could be coming from the devil and his hoard of darkness. The devil loves to make us feel guilty for what God has already forgiven so that we continue to soak up as much shame, guilt, and condemnation as possible. Why? Because when we are focused on looking inward having a pity party about our selves we become ineffective in fulfilling God’s will for our life. It is our responsibility in these moments to stand on the truth of God’s word and remind ourselves that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Memorizing scriptures like Romans 8:1 and others of a similar theme is the key to anchoring this truth in our heart. Another great scripture to memorize in this area is Ephesians 2:8-9 which states, ”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.”
The second place that this continued guilt and shame can come from is an improper view of the finality of the cross and not having scriptures on grace and mercy in our heart. We have got to get into our spirit that when Jesus chose to die in our stead for our sins He took the punishment that we rightly deserved. This shows God’s mercy towards us – that He withholds the punishment we deserve. I firmly believe that Jesus did not die a brutal death on the cross for us to then still carry around the punishment as weight on our shoulders that He already carried on His shoulders all the way to death.
One of my favorite scriptures on mercy is found in Lamentations 3:22-23. Let it seep in and take root. See below:
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I will never forget when I read this scripture and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to its meaning. I am not sure that I have ever been more excited to go to bed and get up the next morning than I was that day. It was the most joyful feeling to realize God’s love doesn’t stop and that His mercy is new every morning. His mercy towards us never taps out yet sometimes because of guilt, we choose to tap ourselves out. Receive His grace and mercy.
I also believe that we forget that the finality and victorious nature of the cross and resurrection means that God made a way for us to experience His empowerment every day. While the cross and resurrection is a finished, irrevocable work, Jesus’ work in our life did not end that day. He didn’t go through all of the pain and suffering to check out once He arrived in Heaven. Jesus went through everything that He did so that we could have a restored relationship and so that He could live in us and accomplish His purposes in the earth through us with His empowering grace.
God didn’t and doesn’t need us, but He has chosen to use us. If we find that we are able to do things without His grace, then we need to stop and realize this is probably not a part of His will. We are designed to need His grace to accomplish all that He has called us to do.
If you find that you are stumbling, stuck, and not making any progress, it is time to step back and ask if you are allowing God’s empowering grace in your life. We were not designed to make it without His grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 makes it so abundantly clear that in fact, God wants to use His grace to put His power on display in areas where we are weak. Allowing God in our weakness allows a way for His power to move in our lives.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Life Application Questions:
Do you fall into one of the two categories? You might not fall into either category, but you definitely know people that do. The categories are: 1) Ignoring God’s grace and mercy altogether and just doing your own thing 2) You find yourself being one of those that is all too aware of their stumbling and is in the habit of condemning yourself for not being perfect.
If you did fall into one of the two categories, what are you going to do to change this?
- Choose today to receive God’s grace and mercy into your life.
- Pray and ask God to forgive you for trying to do things on your own, thank Him for the finished work of the cross and resurrection, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you receive God’s grace and mercy every day.
- Memorize the scriptures that are in this blog post so that God’s message of grace and mercy becomes hidden in your heart. Hiding the scriptures in your heart through memorization will help you know the truth going forward so that you won’t fall back into your old ways of not receiving God’s grace and mercy.
This post first appeared on Zach Jones’ personal blog, “A Fire That Keeps.”