Monday, 30 April 2012
I want to talk about grace. Grace is not something that I have understood very well, and I still really don't understand it. As far as I was concerned, grace was a cute term people used for the reason why God offers us salvation even though we don't deserve it. It is that; the offer of something we don't, and can never, deserve.
We all know Ephesians 2:8-10, where we see explicitly that salvation is given by grace and through our faith, right? But I was already saved, and I knew that I couldn't have worked my way to heaven if I wanted to, so what more use for grace did I really have? The truth is, grace is something I need a lot of, and probably not something I have been very good at accepting from God.
I still don't completely understand grace, but I do know that God's love is extended to us by it. Grace is the reason that God can continue to love a stupid, selfish, hurtful sinner like me, and love me just as I am. Even in my best version of myself, I am nothing that God should love me.
This knowledge brought me to tears one day as I was out mowing my lawn. I was sitting on my tractor, cutting down rows of grass and pouring tears down my face because I had been brought to the brink of self-realization; I saw myself as I was, and I knew that God should not love me. There was no reason why He should continue to bother with me. I was only going to hurt Him more the longer He stayed, and I told Him that. I also was afraid that one day, He would wake up and see what a dope He has been pouring His love into, and what a dead-end that is, and then He would leave me.
I should not have been afraid. I should have known that God already knows me even better than I know myself, and He knows all my . I should have known that I was being foolish, and that God's love is not dependent on a reason to be there, like our love is. Our love is conditional; it hinges on whether there is a good reason for love to exist. If there is something to love about a person, then we give them our love.
But God's love is unconditional. We've probably all heard the concept of unconditional love so much it doesn't register as a truth anymore; God's love is unconditional. It is extended to us whether there is something about us to be loved or not. And there will never be anything about us that is worthy of the love of our God. He's too great to care about us. He's too fantastic; He's too holy to be mixed up with us, these disgusting little creatures called humans. Like it says in Isaiah 64:6, 'For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;...' Even when we're at our best, none of our good deeds stack up to anything more than a pile of garbage. It's not only not good enough, it's awful!
So why does God continue to love us? Why is He faithful and just to forgive us? It's not because He's naive or stupid, or blind to our faults. He sees us as we are, and He loves us anyway. He doesn't fool himself into thinking that we're any better than we are, but He continues to love us so much that He wants to give us good things because of His grace. I always kind of assumed that God's love for me was given out of obligation; kind of like how you love your family, but you really can't stand them. But God's love is not obligatory. He doesn't have to love me. And He doesn't love me because of who I am or who I'm not, and He doesn't love me because of who I might be someday. He loves me; He rightly and truly loves me, and He will never stop loving me. He will never stop loving YOU.
Grace is what keeps God coming back to us; grace is what allows us to receive God's love. His grace is never-failing and unending. In 2 Corinthians 2:9, He says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." God has enough grace to pour out to us no matter what we do to Him. God has grace in abundance.
But, ok, great, so God loves me. I already knew that. And God gives me grace, but who cares? How does that help me? What kind of practical application does that have? The practical application of that knowledge is in this: You cannot work to please God. Nothing you can do will ever be good enough to please God or to earn any blessing from Him. You do not become a disciple of God because you want to be blessed by Him, because blessing doesn't come that way. It is not an earned income; there is no tax on it. It's a gift.
We become disciples of God because we love Him, and when we're called to give our whole lives in service to Him, we do it because we couldn't stand to do anything else. One of the facets of grace is that God gives us the grace to endure, and the strength to perform, when He gives us a task. Meaning, if you are called by God to do a job, He will give you the strength to complete that job and the joy to work that job. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." It was the grace of God working in Paul that made him who he was, and it was the work of grace in Paul that made Paul want to work.
You might be called to be a disciple of God as a missionary or another type of full-time worker for God. But you also may not be. If the idea is repellent to you, then it is not of God at this time. When God wants you to do something, it will likely be something you want to do. And it's not our job to work it out or make it happen. All our effort comes to nothing. It must be done by God. Search your heart, and know where God is leading you.
What is grace to you? How does grace impact your relationship with God?