Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him. Jerry Bridges
Grace, I never knew you. Not in middle or high school. Certainly not in college. Definitely not until the Navy provided the opportunity for me to know no one while across the country from everyone I had ever known.
I remember having a conversation with my brother, this was during my conversion from legalism, when I realized I really wasn’t doing a good job following God’s law and felt really discouraged. I knew all along I was screwing it up, but I was getting closer to admitting my own failings (obvious though they were). He asked me why I was a Christian if I felt guilty all the time. To quote John, “So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” I was called to Jesus and even though I was struggling to understand, I knew there was nowhere else to go. It was and is Jesus or nothing at all.
I spent a lot of time nursing my guilt and not turning to God because clearly He knew how bad I was. You guys, I’m such a butthole. Just last WEEK I watched Diners, Drive ins, and Dives just to make fun of Guy Fieri. For, like, 2 hours. Admittedly, I was handing out sick burns like a boss. But just because you are particularly gifted in your sin of choice doesn’t mean it’s God glorifying.
Let’s get wordy y’all. I knew that Jesus had died for my sins. That work was done. That’s justification. Sanctification? That was harder for me. I thought that once I was justified it was up to me to follow the law. To get my devotions on and love people well and to stop judging people and getting annoyed by things that do not matter. Jerry Bridges says this: “So where the law condemns, grace forgives through the Lord Jesus Christ. Where the law commands but gives no power, grace commands but does give power through the Holy Spirit who lives and works within us.” I was not leaving room for the Holy Spirit. I was trying to be nicer, and it wasn’t working. No one wanted me on a leadership team in college. I was “the least of these.”
A beautiful cocktail of good teaching, a friend who often said “There but for the Grace of God go I,” and people who loved me opened my heart. People who saw that I never did dishes and just helped me do them, people who didn’t gossip about others- not self righteously, but because the love of Christ drove their actions. People who willingly offered the gospel of grace- those people showed me grace. The Holy Spirit changed me and it used the people around me to do it. I realized I was worse than I thought. I saw that God loved me more than I deserved. He loved me- not just when He died on the cross for me- but when I was binge eating fries because I just received bad news or when I was crying out against Him because we keep moving.
Spend a day with a toddler and watch her make the same mistakes over and over. Spend a day with yourself and notice the same thing. Prepare to be amazed by the grace of your Heavenly Father unto you. Know that God longs to be reconciled with you- so repent with confidence! Fess up to your slanderous words about a Food Network star. Jesus paid it all.
Thanks for being there for my sanctification Lord, because the closer I get to you the more I realize my sin is like the peeling of an onion. Layered, odiferous, and sometimes makes you cry. I can only close with this song by Bethany Dillon- a Campus Crusade muse for the ages- but as I grow in faith I realize just how on fleek ole B-Dills was. I know you might not know her, but she’s married to one of the Shane’s from Shane and Shane and you have to know them. I mean, you don’t have to. But c’mon, you probably do right??
I follow all the rules, well at least I’m trying
Hoping when my days are through, You will be pleased
I’ve lived the longest days, thinking my heart was so bad
Too scared to look into Your face. Oh if only I had.