Grace Struggles

Grace. God’s unmerited favor. His love and forgiveness freely dispensed. One simple act of faith – acceptance of what Christ did for us on the cross – provides forgiveness of our sin and a promise of eternal life with Him. We need do nothing more; we need know nothing more. Just accept it. Utterly amazing!

Unfortunately, too many Christians I know struggle with God’s grace. Their struggle prohibits them from experiencing the freedom His grace provides. Their struggle prohibits them from feeling the joy His grace manifests. Their struggle prohibits them from exercising the power that His grace imparts. My observation is that their struggle is both conceptual and pragmatic. While most won’t admit it, I believe people’s conceptual struggle with God’s grace is that it’s too easy and too simple. I believe their pragmatic struggle with God’s grace is that they are too proud to accept it.

TOO EASY

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, NIV).

If you are anything like me, you are skeptical of free gifts. This is especially true for gifts of great value. Our tendency is to suspect that the gift-giver has ulterior motives. We wonder if they want something in return, either now or at some point in the future. Such suspicion may at times be justified amongst our fellow humans, but it is wholly unjustified when it comes to God’s grace.

As the above verse makes quite clear, God’s grace is a gift, no strings attached. All we need do is accept it through faith. God is looking for nothing more from us. He has no ulterior motives. Not one. God does not bestow His grace on us so that we, in return, will stroke His ego by continually reminding Him of our gratitude. He does not bestow grace so that we will strive for His approval. We need not wonder when He’s going to ask for something in return.

Yes, it’s easy. For some it is seemingly too easy. Well, too bad. You need to get over it. You need to accept God’s grace for what it is – free. When you do that, you too will be free.

TOO SIMPLE

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:20-24).

For some reason, which I have yet to understand, humanity tends to complicate. We tend to not accept “the easy.” I don’t know if this is due to naivety, doubt, or just plain cynicism. We are seemingly unable to accept the fact that we need only accept God’s forgiveness. We feel the need to add on to His grace. What I like to call a “grace-and theology.” You know, grace-and-works, grace-and-sacrifice, grace-and-giving, grace-and . . . any other complication you can think of. Utter nonsense.

We cannot be declared righteous through anything we do. We are justified freely by His grace. That is the truth, plain and simple. It may not be an intellectually satisfying truth, but it is truth nonetheless. So stop complicating, and be free. There is freedom is simplicity.

TOO PROUD

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6, NIV).

Most of us understand that it is not always easy to forgive. I know some people who refuse to forgive others for wrongs (both real and perceived). The reason that it’s not easy, and for some impossible, to forgive may be summed up in one word – pride. And that’s not just true when it comes to forgiving others. It is true when it comes to forgiving ourselves.

I know far too many people who say they have accepted God’s grace, His forgiveness for their sins, but they continue to wallow in guilt and condemnation. Whenever they stumble, which we all inevitably do, they beat themselves up. They refuse to walk in the freedom that His grace should provide. Even though they have seemingly accepted God’s forgiveness for their sin, they cannot forgive themselves. What pride!

I have long believed that main inhibitor to people walking the freedom and victory of God’s grace is the inability to forgive one’s self. I recently discovered that this believe is backed up by science. In the book, “The Willpower Instinct,” the author, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, describes some experiments conducted with people with addictive behavior. These experiments show that the people who can swallow their pride and forgive themselves for relapses are more likely to overcome their addictive behavior.

You sin. I sin. We all sin. This is a fact of life. While we will never become sinless, we can certainly sin less. We can overcome the sins that seem to overwhelm. We just need to accept God’s grace and forgiveness, and swallow our pride and forgive ourselves.

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