As I thought about what I am thankful for, with yesterday being Thanksgiving Day in Canada, it is grace and God’s love that immediately came to mind. There are many other things, to be sure, but this year that love and grace are my lifeline.
This thankfulness is inspired by the ongoing awareness that I am terribly human. But, that when I sin, God does not cast me aside. In the past year, there have been numerous times when I struggled to accept grace in personal experience. I saw my sin, my humanity and my failures, and I was overwhelmed by them. Almost consumed.
Definition of GRACE
We say, and hear Christians say, “It doesn’t matter what you have done, God’s grace is enough, and His mercy.”
Nice words, really. When you think about it, it’s a wonderful concept. And it seems easy enough to apply when a sinner first comes to Jesus for forgiveness. But then what? Our humanity continues. We fall. We sin. We fail…
Some of us struggle with substance abuse or other addictions, some of us with homosexual feelings, some of us with gossip, or gluttony, and so on. And the one who gossips might well look at the one with addictions and judge him or her. The one with addictions may scorn the one with homosexual desires. And the one with homosexual desires may see the others as hypocrites, and judge harshly, because they are no better, and yet judge him or her.
It is difficult to extend grace for a struggle we can’t understand or have not experienced. So we ‘grade’ sins. The big bad ones go in one bin. They receive harsher judgement. The ‘little’ sins, the petty ones that we can hide better, the ones that don’t look like gaping wounds on the image of the church, those we slip into a bin that hopefully no one will notice. They’re not that bad, and grace has them well covered, because they’re so small.
But the big ones…. We pull at the corners of grace, like a stretchy blanket, and struggle and strive to make it fit. But somehow, in our human minds, grace is just a little skimpy around the edges for those struggles. Grace barely has what it takes, to walk the brother or sister in their battle, through to freedom.
It is something that troubles me, not only about the church and Christians in general, but about me. I have been guilty of this for years. It is only in the past several years that I have begun to allow God to teach me the depth of His grace. And I still don’t fully understand it.
What I know for certain, because of some of my own sins and failures, especially in the past two years, is that God’s grace is bigger than we’ve understood. It is bigger than I allowed it to be. Both in prevention and redemption.
God’s grace is there, when we are tempted, to keep us from sinning in the first place. The problem is that if we don’t understand the power of redemption in God’s grace, that it is enough when we have sinned, then we cannot fully tap into the grace to keep us from sinning. One is connected to the other.
If I know that God’s grace will forgive me when I have sinned, then I will also recognize that it has the power to keep me from going there. Contrary to popular religious belief, teaching grace does not become a license to sin, it actually empowers us to overcome sin before we commit it.
If I don’t believe God’s grace can forgive, and if I feel helpless in the face of temptation, then my battle becomes futile. I am ‘damned if I do, and damned if I don’t’, so to speak, when it comes to trying. Because I know I will sin. I am human. Therefore, my fate is sealed in condemnation, making it harder for me to stand up to the enemy.
If I have the confidence that God’s grace is greater than my sin, then I know for certain that I can overcome. If I fall, God will forgive and love me to wholeness. I stand a fighting chance if I give it my best, and slip up. His grace is enough.
That creates in me the mindset of an overcomer. I will dare to try, and if I fall, I will rise again. It isn’t over. It takes all the power away from the enemy.
“What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin, so grace may abound? By no means! How can we, who are dead to sin, live any longer in it?” The question is not, ‘is grace enough’, but, rather, the question is, ‘with grace being enough, how can we continue in sin? There is no life in it.’
How we see things changes the power we give it. If we see grace as having power and authority over sin, then it will influence and change our thinking.
Grace sees through us, knows our weaknesses, and still lets us rise again and become all that we are created to be. A caterpillar only becomes a butterfly if no one squishes it before it goes through the process of transformation.
© Trudy Metzger
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