I can actually remember the moment in my life when I realized that there was more to this “grace thing” than met the eye. For a long time, I looked at it as this little baby-sized concept in the big picture of our walk with God. At one point, I remember it popped up in a sermon when I was in college. The preacher clarified, “mercy is not getting what you do deserve, grace is when we DO get what we DON’T deserve”. OK, check that box off, I’ve got it! Mercy was forgiveness instead of guilt and punishment, but grace, in my eyes, basically equated to some kind of special favor from God just because He loves us. I kind of looked at it as a series of finite, concrete, isolated actions – like him giving me a good parking spot or helping me to concentrate on a test. I couldn’t see it as the deep flood that we live in … that His kindness toward us is never ending – not a single gesture here and there but instead that we are constantly drowning in His BIG, BIG, BIG grace.
When grace was first revealed as something more than the little box I had put it in (along with God), I was in grad school in Fargo, North Dakota going through a dark winter, both in the outside world and inside of me. I had started to push past my sadness and desire to isolate myself, choosing to start attending a Christian club on campus called The Navigators. I’m so thankful for the Christian community that I found there, people who extended their friendship and love toward me with warmth and authenticity (I will write more about this in future posts). That particular night, we had a guest speaker who sat with us at a table in a dorm and spent an hour talking about God’s grace and how it truly amazing it is.
I was scandalized.
I remember feeling uncomfortable and filled with a thousand questions. How was it possible that God could be soooooooooooooooooo good to us in the face of how bad we are toward him? How could he bless us even after we mess up? I could understand blessings when everything is going right but not if you weren’t doing it all perfectly….because there’s a human on this planet that is possibly pleasing God based on their own righteousness, right?? I’m pretty sure I just had 14 unholy thoughts before I even finished writing that sentence.
Unable to handle the incredible grace of God, I quickly tucked away in my mind that this speaker had some lopsided theology and I would need to keep working for my blessings. Somehow in my mind, I knew that I didn’t deserve to be blessed but if I checked the right boxes, maybe I deserved to be blessed a little bit. If I fasted and prayed, or read my bible morning and night, then I must be good enough for a blessing right? Shake some grace over my life Jesus, I met my own standards of righteousness today!
How many red flags did that just set off for you? There are at least three things that immediately pop up for me revealing how fundamentally wrong that line of thinking is.
1. I am not, nor have I ever been or ever will be, good enough in my own self for God.
Isaiah 64: 6 “…and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”
Romans 3:10 “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one”
No one has ever been, nor ever will be, up to snuff for God’s holy standard on their own. If it was up to my righteous to get me saved, or keep me saved, I’d be lost forever. There is only one perfect one, and His name is Jesus.
2. I stand before the living God, completely holy and blameless in His sight because Jesus’ righteousness has become my own.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Colossians 1:21-22 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—”
It was a major spiritual breakthrough in my life when I let Jesus be enough for God and let me just be loved. I’m not saying that I don’t try to live a life pleasing to God, because I do, but I do that because I am deeply, deeply in love with Him and not because I think I can earn or keep my salvation on the basis of my own
“goodness”. Jesus is enough and He is perfectly covering me to the extent that I stand before God as righteousness itself. That’s an amazing place to be.
3. Because Jesus is enough, the grace I receive is not based on how good I am, but instead, how AMAZINGLY GOOD my God is.
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?”
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
The reality of the Christian life, the substance of the air that we breathe, the very context of the totality of our existence is immersed DEEP in grace that we don’t deserve. Are you breathing and saved today? Are you loved by the Creator of the universe today? When you stop breathing are going to spend the rest of forever curled up in the presence of your Eternal, Holy, Perfect, Complete, OVERWHELMINGLY POWERFUL Father? Yes, yes you are. Hello Grace.