When grace isn't quite so graceful

Man, I messed up big time the other day. My words and my actions totally threw my life out of balance and I spent a lot time trying to make amends for my sinfulness. I'm sure you can relate to my dilemma because you've probably recently found yourself in the same spiritual quagmire. You royally blew it and now you feel slightly less worthy than a piece of maggot-infested garbage. Why do we continue to struggle with the same old sins for which Jesus suffered and died?

Maybe your issue isn't what you've just recently done but rather what haunts you from your past. There was that time in your life when you were far from God, living a life that now makes you want to retch. Or perhaps you are the product of abuse, whether it was sexual, physical, or emotional. Your view of yourself is so low that you struggle to move on because of the guilt and feelings of inadequacy that you can't seem to shake.

But then God stepped in and the miraculous happened. Jesus found you and in the arms of His redemption and grace you have found purpose. You have been set free, the weight of sin and shame no longer pinning you down and convincing you that you are unworthy. You have been declared righteous - justified - in the eyes of God and He sees you as His precious child, beautiful in His sight. Do you deserve all of this? No! None of us deserve God's grace and mercy and love and forgiveness yet He gives it to us - He lavishes it on us! (Ephesians 1:7-8) - freely and without hesitation.

Yet in spite of God's love and incredible forgiveness, you can't move past your past. Something inside of you just can't accept His grace and unconditional love. So you hide deeper within yourself and you die a little bit spiritually every day, malnourished from your refusal to dine at the Lord's table.

It is an absolute tragedy when God's grace is not accepted. And this refusal of His grace usually hits us in two ways. First, when you struggle to accept God's grace for your life then your focus becomes YOU and not Him. Jesus bled and died for you - there is nothing that can separate you from God's love in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39) - yet somehow you have managed to wedge yourself away from the reality of His grace. Oh don't get me wrong, you can do nothing to diminish God's grace and salvation, but it is possible to render yourself ineffective by refusing to live in the reality of it.

When we do this, we live selfishly as if grace is not enough. This isn't humility - it's self-flagellation - and it's offensive to God because what Jesus bought us on the cross is ENOUGH. No amount of self-abuse that we might bring upon ourselves will add one micron to the salvation and grace that has been freely given to us in Christ. If this is you, stop acting like you are helping God by punishing yourself. He doesn't need your help and it's laughable that you live as if He does. Instead, swim in the sea of His grace, not because you deserve it but rather because He gives it in spite of our unworthiness.

Now here's where it's about to get real, even more serious if that's possible. There is a second way that the grace of God is refused. In our world and churches there are "Christians" who have set themselves up as the judge and jury for God's grace and have taken it upon themselves to dispense and withhold grace to others at their own bidding. Somehow if your sin is too great in their eyes then they decide that you are anathema and therefore not worthy of their time or God's grace. It doesn't matter that you have been redeemed, you aren't fit to serve. You may be forgiven by God, but that's doesn't mean I have to accept you. You don't deserve God's grace.

I know that may sound harsh. After all, we must be careful whom we allow to hold influence in our churches and ministries. There is no way in the world that a convicted sex offender or habitual drug user is going to serve in my student ministry. Some sins, while forgiven by God, disqualify us from serving in certain leadership areas. But there is no sin no matter how big or small that God's grace cannot cover, so stop treating people as if they have no hope! How dare we view God's grace as more sufficient for some over others!

The Lord told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace was sufficient for him in his greatest weakness.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we are told that we are saved by grace through faith, not by any work we may strive to perform or leave undone.

God's grace is enough. It is all we need. His grace covers our sin and our past, refusing to dredge up our past failures and instead setting us up as more than conquerors through Christ who loved us (Romans 8:37). May we see grace as God sees it and not as some measuring rod that we use to sinfully hold those back for whom Jesus bled and died. Let me finish by saying it this way: Get over yourself and stop being a grace-baiter.  

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