Not everyone inside the church likes grace. Some resist and fight again the idea that we are made fully righteous and pleasing to God by the heart response of faith. They want to say, “Yes, but now…” I understand. I fought against it too. Every person does. In light of who God is, and who we are, it seems like there should be something I should do in order to make Him like me, favor me, and bless me. I am drawn to lists, rules, guidelines, prerequisites, and requirements that I can try to accomplish in hopes of gaining a greater smile from God and have Him bless my life.
The message of many churches today says, “Do this spiritual disciple, give this amount, pray this prayer, join this church, memorize this passage, serve in this ministry, and as a result you will have greater favor from God!” The other side of the coin and message goes something like this, “You are not and will not experience blessing in your life if you don’t do these same things.”
In other words, “God demands that you ‘do’ and then He will bless.”
Something is wrong with that message.
The wonder of what God has done through the cross and resurrection is of greater exponential value than we have realized. To think that you can do something to gain greater favor and blessing from God than what He has already lavished on us through the cross is to have sorely missed the wonder of what He has done. If this is how you think He wants us to relate to Him, then you have misjudged the wonder of forgiveness, you have miscalculated the magnitude of being made righteous, and you are clueless as to what it means to be free.
Many people fear this type of freedom. “You mean all my sins are forgiven? You mean I am made holy? You mean that I am free from having to keep the law? You mean that I am free from condemnation, blame, and fault? You mean I don’t have to keep up some standard in order to have God’s favor? That can’t be!”
What do I do now? How do I live my life? What am I supposed to do? You do what people do who have experienced this kind of freedom. You love! You love the One who freed you. You love others so they can be free too.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It’s humbling.
In Jesus’ day there was great fear and resistance to the message of grace. There was so much resistance that they crucified Jesus. The same resistant group would later imprison Paul, persecute Peter, and send John to an island prison. Much of the New Testament was written to people who were struggling to live in this new freedom. Many were uncomfortable and wanted to go back to the measurable and definable approach to relating to God. They preferred the lists, rules, guidelines, ways to compare themselves, and something they could do to make themselves more pleasing to God. At the end of the day they honored their dedication, discipline, and abilities. They looked down on those who were not able to discipline themselves with such forms of dedication. They could measure blessing by their actions. They could measure trials by a lack of being pleasing to God. They rejected the favor of God through Christ and instead chose their ability to make themselves pleasing. They feared and opposed the message of grace.
There will always be those who oppose grace. They will mock its freedom, judge its wideness, and despise its apparent lack of accountability. They will fear letting go of their disciplines. They will fear telling people they are free. They will fear what people may do. They want others to live by the same rules they think they have to live by.
And they will miss the wonder.
We are invited to experience rightness with God by the heart response of faith. This response of the heart in the face of our sin becomes our victory – receive the wonder of God by humble acceptance. We’re free from measuring our worth by the standards of the Law. We’re free from condemnation, rejection, and the pressure to have to perform. We’re free to know the vastness of this that existed before we were born. And we’re encouraged to be led by this truth!
Step out of fear and into the marvelous light of God’s grace!
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Galatians 5:18