A little while ago, I wrote about the trouble I have accepting love. One point I didn’t really touch on was accepting grace. When I refer to grace, I mean the unmerited favor of God. Keyword: ‘unmerited.’
It scares me that I didn’t earn grace. If I had, then I would be able to sit here, secure in the knowledge that I had brought something to pass and therefore have control over it. It’s difficult to explain how my mind works (even to myself) but basically, I feel like if I had earned grace, then I would have control over maintaining possession of it.
As it is, grace was a free gift to me. It is mine to keep but I’m left feeling like there’s some other secret half of a contract I have to fulfill. It makes no sense in my mind that I (of all people) would have received such an unfathomable gift for free. So my human reasoning has informed me that I did, in fact, do something to earn it.
But rather that fulfilling my end of some bargain, I feel like God must have seen something good in me and the grace He gave me is more like an investment. The danger with this conclusion is the understanding that if I don’t live up to expectations then the grace will be withdrawn.
This thought pattern is a lie from satan, and I don’t think mine is the only ear he’s whispering it in. The entire concept of modern day ‘religion’ is based on the notion that we have to perform set standards in order to keep our grace. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, He will naturally develop fruit in your life. But this fruit is not good enough for most of us; we need to feel we have produced something in our own power.
The Galatians had a similar problem and Paul had some choice words to say about it. In Gal.2:21 he writes,
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
He goes on to say,
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by obeying the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?… Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Gal. 3:2-3,5)
Very clearly, grace is a free gift, one wielded by faith, not by works. It must, because there is no way in our human capacity that we could ever follow the law to the extent that we earn our own righteousness.
That is why Gen. 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
“But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Gal.4:9)
The answer to the second question is, ‘Yes! I do!’ I feel more secure in my enslavement because there I have the illusion of control. If I’m a slave then it is by my own power that I am saved, or so my deceitful heart tells me.
I know I’ve said it before but I’m finding more and more of my problems run back to the same core issue: I need to trust Jesus. It’s scary relying on Him to continue to give me un-earned grace. It’s scary to feel like the power and control are in His hands rather than mine.
But it doesn’t matter how scary it is, it remains a solid fact that I cannot change. The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus. And I rely on Him completely. I cannot take my next breath without Him. I have no grace without Him. There is no love apart from Him. Therefore, what other option do I have but to trust Him?
Gal.4:6 reassures that,
“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
The name ‘Abba’ most closely matches our word for ‘daddy.’ Thinking I can reach God in my own strength is a dangerous notion that has fed my actions for far too long. It is a fantasy, one that is hindering my relationship with my Daddy. I’m claiming the truth that I can do nothing to earn grace and that I can trust my Daddy for an unending supply of it.