It is Sunday morning and services have concluded. The big people stand outside the church doors talking all things theological. It’s just what they do Sunday after church. And the little people play in the grassy church lot that doubles as parking.
I’m one of those little people, barely four years old. Michelle Carver runs up to me and pushes me into the scratchy Florida pompus grass. Buried underneath the long painful strands of grass lurkes an ant bed. I’m an unwelcome intruder who stays too long and the ants are obliged to inform me of my error.
I emerge from the grass mad as the firestone the preacher just spoke of. I run until my sights are on one unsuspecting Michelle Carver. I reach for her and can taste vengeance. The ant bites swell and burn on my legs and I bite back. In the soft flesh of her arm, I give Michelle Carver what she deserves.
She runs off towards the group of big people, screaming and crying like a banshee.
The big people are not happy.
“You need to teach your girl a lesson,” Michelle’s dad sternly tells mine. He’s got one eye on teeth marks and one disapproving eye on me and my dad.
So Dad walks me over to the oak sapling growing on the property. I’ve often wondered about that lone tree, wondered if it was planted just for the purpose of teaching me lessons. My dad selects a branch and gives me a good southern “switchin.”
Blow after blow, the streaks draw blood. While I cry and beg for mercy, the big people stand watching, arms folded, nodding their approval. The lashes continue until I’ve been put in my place and the big people are satisfied.
The switchin’ I received that day summarizes much of my church experience, and maybe yours too. I learned young that perhaps if I loathed myself enough, if I shamed and condemned and beat enough, if I tried hard and tried again, I would somehow one day be good enough.
The early experience out in the church yard did teach me a lesson. It thoroughly and erroneously taught me how to live the Christian life.
Even so, I am thankful for it! The Law is not bad, it is only limited. Every failure I’ve had trying to keep the Law actually did what it was supposed to do: point me to Christ.
Sisters (and brothers), the Bible is very plain and straight forward about this topic! There are two approaches to being good, no more and no less. (See Romans 10 and John 1:17 for two of the many references) There is the law. Or there is grace.
And the purpose of the Law is to show us that we need grace. Have you come to that point? Have you come to the fork in the road? Each and every one of us is on one of the two paths. If we are on the road marked “Law,” then our approach is self-effort. We work and perform at our own individual standards of “righteousness.”
If we are on the road marked “Grace,” however, our approach is faith in the goodness of God and the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work.
Sadly, many in the church are afraid of grace…afraid to preach it how it’s presented in the scriptures… afraid to be generous with it for fear of giving “license” to sin. That is because Our understanding of grace is under-developed. So let’s state it plain: Grace is more than forgiveness. Grace is the power of God to do what human effort cannot.
If there was a single verse to use to summarize what the whole of Scriptures teach, it may very well be II Corinthians 9:8: Grace is God’s all sufficient power and provision granted to us at ALL times, in EVERY situation, to do every GOOD and righteous thing.
That’s why grace is described as “amazing!” There isn’t a single moment of your day that full, sufficient grace isn’t present.
Some of us need to understand the scope of Grace. It is the righteousness of God not only imputed to us but also imparted, on a moment by moment basis, every single day of our lives.
Be it mothering, ministering, loving an un-lovely, speaking in kindness, eating right, taking care of our bodies, and a thousand other right things, God’s provision for the practical outworking of every good deed in our lives is grace.
The grace-based approach to living is truly amazing!
Next week we will look at how to take grace and apply it in the moment. But there is one last thing I’d like to close with. This is for the one who may be reading this, longing to make the switch from law to grace. Here are the scriptures that show us how:
“For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself.
Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with
God by trying to keep the law.”
~ Romans 10:3, NLT
First, understand that grace is the way God makes people right with Himself. It is an absolutely free, un-merited GIFT because God is Love.
Understand that embracing grace means letting go of your own self efforts to be right with God. You can’t double dip.
“Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness,
you who seek the Lord:
Look to Abraham your father,
and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain.”
Secondly, follow the example of Abraham and pursue righteousness the same way he did: by faith in the grace of God.
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:22
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
“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. Philippians 3:8-9
God simply wants us to believe His character as stated in the scriptures! He is who He says He is and He’s done what He says He’s done. He is good, kind, gracious, and loving enough to grant us full, abundant, free grace, every moment of our lives. Amazing, yes?!
My friend, whoever you may be, I invite you to lay down the rod. Maybe today finds you beating yourself up over your shortcomings and failures. Lay down the shame and condemnation and self-berating and take up the provision of grace. Accept the provision of God’s grace that doesn’t just forgive… it also teaches us how to live godly and self-controlled. It strengthens in weakness. It goes the distance and it is always there.
So live today… Graced.
All posts in the “Grace” Series: