His grace is sufficient for me (and you, too!)

I used to be kind of jealous when I would hear a brand-new Christ-follower share their story. I envied how easily they could believe in grace, not only intellectually, but down deep in their souls. They were always so grateful and so trusting of God’s love for them!

I, on the other hand, had been raised in grace. I heard it taught in Sunday School. I heard it described from the pulpit. I knew from an early age that it was defined as, the free and unmerited favor of God. My problem was that while I heard it taught, for safety’s sake, the adult Christians I knew added a whole list of “do’s” and “do not’s” to it. Just in case grace didn’t actually cover, I guess.

To this day, I can still recite many items contained in that do’s and don’ts list that I was taught to live by. (I’m going to date myself here…)

Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. No dancing. No short skirts. No shorts. No mixed swimming. No movies. No going out to eat on Sundays. No gossip. No anger (because Christians don’t get angry). No bad attitudes. And, if possible, be male, because although God loves girls, males are more important to him than females.

And on the “do” side: Have your devotions first thing in the morning (I guess it proves you’re thinking of God first.). Be at church whenever the doors are open. Do any ministry asked of you, whether or not you are up to the task. Always have a Christ-like attitude about everything. Be more excited about God than you are about anything else. And ABOVE ALL ELSE, do not fail! Failure means you aren’t trying hard enough to love God.

Looking back, I did fairly well at most of these tasks. I really tried! Hard! I wanted God to love me, although it really hurt that no matter what I did I knew He wouldn’t like me as well as He liked the boy sitting next to me. I wanted so badly to be important to God, so I tried harder. In high school I had my daily devotional time; I served on a team that went out to other churches to sing and minister; I went calling to invite people to church (a true disaster); I was a leader in my youth group; I carried my Bible to school; I made sure my non-Christian friends (which were all the kids that went to a church that wasn’t mine) knew I was a Christian. I was a WITNESS!

And then, you know what? I got tired. Tired of trying to be perfect. Tired of trying to make God like me. So I gave up.

I decided I would be one of those people God would let into Heaven because I believed in Him, but He would not particularly like me. I would not be special to Him. And I would learn to live for Him anyway. That’s just the way it was. Not every Christian was meant to be dearly loved by God.

But I kept hearing about grace… And although I knew the definition, I had no concept of not using what I ‘do’ for God as proof of my love for Him.

In Philippians, Paul tells how he struggles with this same concept. He had a spiritual pedigree that was without fault. He states,

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

However, after listing his qualifications, he goes on to say,

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Somehow Paul found a way to put aside everything he did for God to prove his love and he was able to understand loving God and being loved by God, through faith alone.

Now I’m no theologian, but I say it was because he was finally able to grasp grace.

Paul came to the realization that what he had done in the past in the name of God was evil in God’s eyes. He was totally done in, I’m sure, by what he saw when looking at himself and his self-righteousness. There was no chance of undoing the wrongs he had committed. There was no good thing that he had done that could possibly make up for the evil he had committed. At that point, God’s grace was all he had. He grasped it in desperation and discovered it would hold him.

Grace is what my friends who are brand-new Christ-followers have grasped. They know they don’t deserve God’s love and they revel in the fact that they have it anyway. But me? I had spent a lifetime really, really trying to please Him. I had done the correct things spiritually. I had proved my love by not doing evil (at least not outwardly). So what was grace for me? I didn’t have a lot to be saved from, so my goodness should count for something…

And then, almost a year ago, the bottom fell out of my life. I stepped away from my spiritual community; I left my job; I found myself in disagreement with Christians whose views I respected; and I was challenged by outside circumstances to question everything I believed about God, what it means to follow Him, and who is qualified to receive His love. (I think they call it “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” of faith. It’s not for the faint of heart…)

I now believe God let everything I depended on fall away so that grace would be the only thing left to which I could cling. I have clutched it desperately and it has held me. It is all I have.

It is all ANY of US has.

If you’ve taught Sunday school for 30 years and led people to Christ,
GRACE IS ALL YOU HAVE.
If you’ve been involved in working in the church most of your life,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
If you’ve studied the Bible and have knowledge unsurpassed by anyone you know,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
If your theology is correct (as if any of us are going to be right more than we are wrong) and you can defend it when asked,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.
Even if you’ve loved your neighbor as Christ would have you do,
GRACE IS STILL ALL YOU HAVE.

We are all dependent on grace alone.

My hope for you is that somehow God will bring you to a point where you will know His grace (love) and that you, (as Paul says) being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

And may I say, if you come to this point through the loss of everything else, it will be worth it.

 

4 thoughts on “His grace is sufficient for me (and you, too!)

  1. Carol, I love this post!!! So much of this has been on m mind over the last couple years…, I have felt like God probably doesn’t like me that much, but rather tolerated me and will let me into heaven because all of the “right boxes” have been checked off. Thank you for sharing all that you have. It has helped me more than you know.

    Linda Goff

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  2. Carol, You’re absolutely correct, grace is God’s mode of dealing with those He loves. Just as God’s Spirit overcame the excessive works orientation you had received, and engulfed you in Christ’s love, so He did for me. It’s “All of Grace,” as Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago. It’s by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Holy Scripture, and not as some erroneously perceive it to be, i. e., half grace, and half works.

    I enjoy your post! Keep writing for the love of the Savior! I too was entangled in a “must do good works or your not saved” falsehood for many years. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13,14).”

    Do we as Christians do good works? Absolutely! In order to be saved? No! Rather, because we are saved; and we love Him supremely, because He first loved us!

    Bluegillbill (Billl Biza

    Like

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