Why does my soul erect walls against something as beautiful as God’s grace? Why don’t I leap for joy over it?
I know I’m saved by God’s grace. I know I’m supposed to live every day by His grace. Yet when I read about grace in the Bible, I tend to skim right over the word. And when I read about it in other books, my emotions start mortaring bricks quickly enough to make any mason jealous.
Is it because I don’t believe that God is that good…that He could possibly be gracious enough to forgive even a wretch like me?
Well, there was a time when that would have been true. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I believe I know now that God’s grace is all about who He is, not who I am. (If this is something you struggle with, I recommend Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges.)
No, my walls are made of Fear Bricks, well-mortared by a thick, pasty Distrust. Not distrust of God, but of myself. The giver of grace is holy and good, but the recipient…namely, me…is pretty rotten.
My concern isn’t that my rottenness will make God unwilling or unable to give. Not at all.
My concern is that I will abuse what I receive. I am offended and repulsed by a mental image of myself as I grab God’s grace, click my heels, and shout with glee, “I got away with it all!”
Are you with me? Do you struggle with the same thing?
It’s a terrible thing to abuse grace, twisting it into an excuse to sin (Jude 4, Rom 6:1-2, Heb 10:29*). But we all do it, to one degree or another. If you doubt it, just ask yourself about your pet sin(s). Would you be less likely to indulge in them if you could see an angel standing nearby with a flaming sword? I know I would. And that’s a sure sign that, at least subconsciously, I abuse the grace of God. I sin because I don’t expect the sword to fall. (*Am I implying that every time I sin I’m in danger of the kind of drastic consequences mentioned in Heb 10:29? No, not at all. But that discussion is for another day.)
I know this about myself, and I hate it. So when I read about grace, I do Jericho in reverse. The walls go up.
I don’t want to make God into a sucker, so I get protective of myself, to guard against that sin. And I don’t want anyone else to make God a sucker, either. So I get protective of Him.
Wait a minute…me, protecting Him? Does that strike you as just a tad humorous?
I’m sure that, at some confused level, there are noble motivations here. But I think I need to raise my view of grace, as well as my view of God Himself.
Do I really believe that God came up with the idea of grace during a moment of weak naïvete? Did He fail to foresee the abuse potential here? Did love make Him foolhardy enough to be willing to do something wild and reckless, even though it would come back to make a mockery of Him sometimes? If we aren’t willing to go that far in our views of grace, then what? Do we think He chose grace as the least flawed of all His options?
Or did He choose grace because it was absolutely the only way, the best way, indeed, the perfect way to save us and sanctify us?
Why did He choose to save us by grace through faith? Because we weren’t good enough to save ourselves? Sure, that’s part of it, but is there something more? What does grace do that nothing else could do for our salvation?
Is there more to grace than just choosing not to punish our sins? What exactly is the role of grace in our lives, and in our growth in holiness (known as “sanctification”)? What does grace do that nothing else could do for our walk with Christ?
If you, like me, have feared grace because of the human potential to abuse it, I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Accept God’s wisdom as higher than your own, realize that He does not need you to protect Him from His own ways, and ask Him to help you grow in grace…in an understanding of what it is, why it is, and what it means to all of us.