Tag Archive: grace


The Basis of Forgiveness

… is a recognition
1. of my own sin. These days it is unpopular to consider personal guilt; it is approached more like a neurosis than a moral fact. But all mankind displays this tendency to sin. No amount of education or social engineering can change that.
2. God really has forgiven me. This incredible gift is given not because I earned it, but because of His love for me.
3. Universal guilt also means we can’t brag about how much better we are, and none can judge. The Christian lives purely by God’s grace., and this is key if we are to avoid a holier-than-thou attitude.
4. As we live in this forgiveness, our hearts start to change for the better in practical fact. And that is just plain incredible.

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The Opposite of Religion

“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭149:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What is humility? It’s not, the saying goes, so much as thinking less of yourself but of thinking of yourself less. The humble look outside themselves, past their own abilities and agendas in concern for others and to seek grace to live lives that please God.

Religion seeks God on its own terms; I put God in my debt by my good works. Then I get bragging rights and can feel superior to others. But Christianity says there’s nothing I can bring to the negotiating table: I am accepted only by God’s raw grace.

The defining mark of God’s people is a conscious dependence on their Saviour. It’s not so much a prerequisite as it is a structural necessity: we have to be humble to look for help beyond ourselves.

Does God Require Sacrifice?

“If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭50:12‬ ‭NIV

God doesn’t need our sacrifices; He doesn’t need to be appeased. It is the reality of justice and the goodness of His creation that we offend against when we sin that makes atonement necessary.

It is because He is just that there must be payment for sin; to do less is to devalue the victim of the offence.

Why are we are so outraged when a murderer or pedophile gets a light sentence? Because it treats the value of the victim as less significant than the rights of the perpetrator. We instinctively feel the punishment should fit the crime.

It was sheer grace that even the Old Testament sacrifices were even allowed to atone for Israel’s sin, and it is a far greater grace that the death of Christ is sufficient for ours.

Christianity has never been about appeasing an angry God; our penalty was taken by Christ. We just have to put down our pride long enough to realize we could never earn our way back anyways. It’s a gift of grace, and it humbles us to accept it.

Guilty Christians?

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me”.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Why do Christians still struggle with feelings of guilt?

I think it’s because we continue to judge ourselves and our motives. Being the imperfect humans we are, we always come up short. It robs us of the joy we should expect as Christians.

Many blame this guilt on organized religion, but I think that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think the problem actually lies deep within our own hearts.

We are still trying to justify ourselves. When we judge ourselves or others, we are measuring our performance as the indicator of our spirituality. This kind of justification is not by grace, but still on works; our own or others. We have fallen from grace, literally.

Why would we even want to go there? His justification is free. Might it be because in justifying ourselves we can still feel we are our own boss? We desperately want to call our lives our own.

True grace and who’s really in charge of our life are two sides of the same coin. We can’t hope for His grace without submitting to the death of our own agendas, for that is what making Him Lord in our lives really means: what He wants must become more important than what I want.

What counts now is simply a decision to please Him in obedience to His revealed will, and the daily seeking of the grace to do so. We may take it as a given that we will act out of (at best) mixed motives, but God has forgiven us. We can’t change our hearts; that’s His business.

Give Him your life, do your best, and trust Him as your justifier. And stop beating yourself up.

Two Kinds of Legalists

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Legalists come in all sorts of flavours, but the common thread is that they look at the Bible as primarily a set of rules.

There are two kinds of legalists. Some try to justify themselves by obedience to the rules (religious legalists). There’s a lot of these in churches.

Others seek to justify themselves by rejecting the rules as too hard or modifying/interpreting to a more comfortable fit (liberal legalists). But both display a misunderstanding of grace, because both are still trying to justify themselves.

You can tell either type by the way they view those who don’t measure up. Religious legalists will be judgemental towards those who don’t follow the rules closely enough.

Liberal legalists, on the other hand, will be judgemental towards those they think are bigoted and intolerant.

Both consider themselves better than the people they judge, and they justify themselves by their own actions and enlightened attitudes.

The person who understands grace does not deny or change the rules. They acknowledge the claim the rules make on their lives; they don’t try to change the them to fit, but embrace their failure and trust in Jesus as their justifier. Remember the tax collector? “God, be merciful to me a sinner”. And he went home justified.

Can We Live As We Want?

Many people think that because Jesus paid for our sins, we can relax and just live as we please. He’s a forgiving God, right?

Not so fast.

Even a casual reading of the Bible will tell us that God cares, and cares very much, about how we live. Christ’s death puts us in right standing with God, but if we have any concept of what it cost God to pay our debt, we would hardly live to further indulge that which separated us from Him in the first place.

In Galatians, Paul lays it out pretty plain: God’s moral law delineates simple, unselfish living: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. But when we try to do this, we often fail; there is sort of a moral gravity that pulls us towards selfish thoughts and actions, and even though we know better, we break this law. Our inability shows us our need for an intervention.

Our failure to be perfectly moral serves now as our “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”; it is only by knowledge of our moral imperfection that we realize our need of God’s grace.

The gospel tells us we don’t try to earn our way into God’s good books by keeping the rules but by admitting our need. We have to trust Him and His provision. And if we hope for forgiveness we must bear in mind that codes and creeds don’t forgive, but persons: and we are dealing with a real Person, not just a religion. And that relation will change us from the inside out.

Anyone who thinks they can now live without care for their own behaviour simply shows they neither understand nor appreciate the Grace that is offered them; it’s only the heart that weeps for its own spiritual poverty that stands ready to accept forgiveness.

God will always care very much about how we live. If we are really His, our lives will reflect it, dead to our old selfish ways and following Him not because we’re being forced to, but out of humble gratitude for the work done on our behalf.

Religion and Grace

“Gospel” means good news. Before it’s anything else in our lives, it’s an announcement, a proclamation of a wonderful event that has taken place.

It changes forever our “search for God”. It’s no longer what we do for Him, but what He’s done for us.

We often forget that Jesus didn’t come just to teach; His primary purpose was to accomplish the mission of sin-bearing and redemption on our behalves.

Religion says “I obey and therefore I am accepted”.
The Gospel says, “I am accepted, and therefore I obey”. It’s still a path of moral effort, but the motivation is exactly opposite and comes from a place of rest. We work to please the One who has already saved us.

The only real optimists are those who can rest in this grace, because their hope is based on something eternal and outside of their own attempts to justify themselves. We’re certainly to do our best – but we now do it out of grateful obedience, rejoicing in what has already been done for us. We don’t need to prove ourselves anymore.

Don’t beat yourself up when you fail; in fact, to do so is an act of disobedience to the Spirit of Grace. Return to the place of rest, dust yourself off, and move forward.

Fallen From Grace

We often use the term “fallen from grace” to describe a person who’s given up on religion – but the ones who appear the most religious are often the ones furthest from that grace.

How so? The default mode of the human heart is legalism: because we’re always trying to justify ourselves instead of letting God do it. We strive and measure and compare.
A person can be very religious and still be a hide-bound legalist, one’s sense of self-righteousness, the very reason for existence all tied up in personal performance instead of just resting in what God’s done. But the tax collectors and prostitutes who met Jesus had no such illusions about their train wreck lives and heard the message of grace gladly. The interesting thing is that after meeting Jesus their lives got a lot more moral, but it was a RESULT of the grace already given.
Hold nothing back; He wants nothing less than all of you. Give Him your heart – really – and you will be changed, but in a new way: from the inside out, a fundamental remaking of who you are.

 

… is one of conscious dependence on God. It’s not a state of spirit or mind you achieve, but learning (often in trial and perplexity) to cry out to God for help. Read the book of Psalms. A significant portion of it has these godly people crying out “God, what now?!? ” – confused, wondering where God went, but still determined to trust.

How can we know if God’s really there until we’ve hit the wall? Unless you’ve come to the end of yourself, you’ll never know if it’s God or your own talents and skills that brought you through. But once you’ve done all and still come up short, then God can work.

Think of how you came to Christ. When you realized you were, in spite of your best efforts, a sinner still, and deserving nothing but judgement. God’s moral law really is our “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” (check out the book of Galatians for more). It shows us His righteous standard, and in trying to keep it we discover our own inability to do so. And so -if we have any sense – we throw ourselves on God’s grace. And He meets us.

But this isn’t a one time thing. Our lives are to be a constant coming to God for supply and grace to live a life pleasing to Him. We should hardly be surprised when the you-know-what hits the fan. You really get to know someone when you’re in the trenches with them. It’s in the valleys that we know Him better.

Fasten your seat belts.

Feeling Judged

Nobody likes to feel judged. We get defensive when someone points out we’re less than perfect: who do they think they are, anyways? One of the reasons moral law is rejected, and one of the reasons Christians are accused of being “legalistic” is because by highlighting God’s law, peoples’ lives are shown to be defective.

But there’s another component: the fact that we look at ourselves at all. The self-centred life is consumed with itself, its needs, wants and agendas, and especially How It Compares To Others.

The Law is the ultimate yardstick. It shows us that we are no big deal, and worse, that we are failures. The moral law is a mirror that isn’t at all flattering, and (let’s be honest) we resent it being pointed out. But it’s  only a teacher. By highlighting our less-than-stellar performance, it points us in the end not to ourselves, but to relationship for mercy and acceptance.

A fundamental characteristic of successful relationships is that we focus on the other, rather than ourselves. The Law does not flatter us: no worries. We’re not supposed to be concentrating on that anyways, save as a guidepost to something better. And that is exactly what  a relationship with Jesus is all about. We are called out of selfishness, called out of concern with ourselves and our shortcomings (though it is a veil we must pass through to realize the necessity of this new life. To bring us to the point of dismay over our own attempts at  goodness, the law is a necessary teacher), to relationship; to the heart of Love. By the Law we see  our shortcomings; but grace tells us to look not to our own goodness, but to Jesus as the basis of our relating to God.

And another thing: when we are thus occupied, we  care less what others think of us, not because we feel superior or inferior (it’s a non-issue) but because we care more for what God thinks of us than what the rest of the world does. This is a genuine freedom.

As we draw near to God, we either feel small and dirty next to His holiness, or we don’t think of ourselves at all. As C.S. Lewis points out, the latter option is preferable. Besides, how can we love perfectly when we are busy thinking about ourselves? By being called  into vulnerability and relationship, we find our ultimate healing.

It’s like fussing and fretting over our reflection when our date is at the door, waiting for us. But He sees us, not by the reflection in the mirror – however true it is to life – but in the light of His love; because He sees what He made us to be.