Working hard for grace…

Posted: 23/10/2011 in God
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There is a lot that could be written about the grace of God, just look up any bible commentary or dictionary and the descriptions are plentiful. My very simplistic understanding of grace relates to sin and salvation – an act of mercy through the undeserved gift of forgiveness. And yet how I have complicated it! I have not only rejected this beautiful gift but turned it into something I fight against. Why is God’s grace such a difficult concept for so many Christians to understand? We see our sin as far too big for God to forgive and so we walk around bent over with the burden of it, whipping ourselves with words of condemnation. And in doing that do any of us ever get to the point where we take the burden off our back, put down our whip and silence our mouth thinking “there I have done enough to gain God’s forgiveness. I have achieved what Jesus couldn’t on the cross”.

When Jesus hung on the cross and cried out his last words he did not say “it is mostly finished except for such and such whose sin is simply too great to be wiped clean by grace”. Nor did God tear the curtain in the temple most of the way and leave a little bit at the bottom to stop some of us entering His presence because of our huge, great and unforgivable sin. Jesus cried out IT IS FINISHED (John 19:30) and the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). The word finished comes from the Greek telos meaning to bring to an end, complete, fulfil. Not one of those words implies that there is anything more that has to be done. The very fact that God raised His son from the dead demonstrates that He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus as a once and for all act of liberation for everyone, no matter the sin. From that point forward nothing in all of scripture says anything about us having work for grace. And yet as we come to the foot of the cross we are not willing to allow it to really be finished, we want to work! I have done this so often and still do. And when I do, I am basically inferring that what Jesus did was simply not enough and with all my weaknesses and flaws, somehow I will be able to achieve what he couldn’t. Paul says in Romans 11:6 that as soon as works get involved grace is no longer grace. We are in a sense rejecting God’s gift.

So how to accept grace? I have come to realise two things this week. First, grace is immeasurable and unstoppable. It does not come in quantities based on our sin nor can any sin stop God from giving me His grace. Grace is grace is grace! Secondly, accepting God’s grace requires humility. It requires us to present ourselves to God, just the way we are, knowing that we can do nothing more or less to receive His grace. Nor do we have to earn it. We simply have to confess, repent and receive His forgiveness. I don’t have to put on a show to impress God, he already loves me (John 3:16). I don’t have to crawl in on my hands and knees beating myself on the back with a whip to prove my repentance because He already knows my heart (Psalm 139:1-4). I don’t have to demonstrate my allegiance to God by making a religion out of scripture reading and prayer; He wants a relationship, after all I am His child and His friend (John 15:14-15, 1 John 3:1).

Grace is a gift. Either I take it and walk in freedom and peace or I continue to deny that the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Spirit that raised him from the dead are enough to wash me clean of all sin…ALL sin! It is almost arrogant to think I can do more than that. The prophet Isaiah writes of Jesus in the following passage and I now recognise that if I read this, see what Jesus has done and think that somehow by my own effort I can do better…well not only am I deluding myself, I’m in for an unnecessary, long, hard and painful prison term of my own making.

Isaiah 53

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true. Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—the best of everything, the highest honors—Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

“Grace” a beautiful song by Michael W Smith

  1. […] Working hard for grace… ( […]

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  3. cindyhfrench says:

    I can hardly wait to see what everyone else’s response is to this most excellent post.. Hopefully if they don’t get it the first time, they will get it the 2nd time. There is also a little discussion going on in one of the Christian groups but it is being controlled by a Messianic Jew who wants everyone to also follow Moses(jewish law) and work out our salvation. he seems to think we can lose it and really doesn’t understand Grace. In fact, he warned me that I need to be careful that I am not one of those deceived that just thinks I am a Christian and will be so surprised on judgement day!

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