The biggest thing to happen to me in the last few years is a fuller understanding of God’s grace; it has changed the way I see just about everything. One of the most freeing things for me has been the way that grace makes total honesty with yourself, God and perhaps even other people possible.
What do I mean? Grace means that we can present ourselves to God as we really are, and how we really feel, regardless of how right or wrong we may be. I know that for some this can go against the grain, but think about it for a moment. When I admit to God where I really am, that is not when He finds out about it; if I confess my sin to Him it is in no way an education for Him. He saw me, my failures, my rebellion, my immoral thoughts etc. long before He saved me, and what’s more they are all dealt with through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God has reconciled Himself to us once and for all, His position toward us who believe doesn’t change – God will forever be our Father.
I sometimes think we are like the kids you see on “You’ve Been Framed”, those tv shows where you see home videos of things going wrong or people falling in lakes. I have seen a few where a child is covered in chocolate or Mum’s make up, and when asked have they been up to mischief, they say “No…, it wasn’t me”. When we present God with our best face, when we put on a front for His benefit, He still sees us covered in the mess of our sins, denial and misdemeanours. The only person who believes our statement is us?
I think this need to present our best front comes from living without an understanding of grace. Let’s face it, if we go for an interview, go on a date or even meet with friends, we present them with our best front. We all want to be accepted and we are pretty sure that if people could see us as we really are then they would almost certainly reject us. Things are then made worse when this way of thinking creeps into our relationship with God; after all if He really knew what I was like He wouldn’t want me, would He? Now I know that we can rationalise what I have just said and say “I know that, I am always truthful with God”, but I am not so sure that we are. The reason for my uncertainty is the way most believers speak and act around the person of God. For example using unfamiliar language, be it Latin, Elizabethan English or Christian clichés; I am not at all saying that God is not worthy of respect but there is absolutely no point in trying to present ourselves as anything other than what we are – and here is where the contradiction strikes. I am the ‘the chief of sinners’ but I have also been made ‘the righteousness of God’, so what gives? How do I present myself to God?
For me I am learning to balance the two contradictory truths of my sinfulness and my righteousness. First, I accept the unchangeable fact of my salvation, that I have been made right with God and that is the foundation of my relationship with Him. Then my selfishness, lust, anger, greed etc. are to be confessed and purged as they stand in the way of my maturity and fruitfulness but in no way stand between me and eternal life. The reason I do this is because I believe it to be truthful; I am neither denying my salvation nor my sinfulness, I am saved by grace but wanting to mature and honour God in my living.
Jesus came filled with grace and truth; we are saved by grace not performance and the Holy Spirit allows us to relate truthfully without our salvation being threatened. The best example of this for me is the Psalms where we have the writer one minute declaring himself to be a worm and then a little while later praising God for his salvation. Of course King David who wrote many of the Psalms was chosen because God said he “was a man after My own heart”. Yet David broke every commandment, he murdered the husband of his mistress, took food from the temple, disobeyed specific commandments from God and yet his relationship with God continued. Though he often suffered as a result of his behaviour God still honoured both their relationship and the promises He had made concerning David.
All of this is very good news for those of us who follow Jesus. The outrageous nature of God’s grace means that we are not only saved by Him but also kept by Him. We are free from the pressure of trying to pretend that our religious standards or spirituality are anywhere near high enough to ensure an ongoing relationship with Him. This freedom allows us to be totally honest about the deepest, darkest parts of us without fearing rejection. He knows we do not love Him with all our, heart, mind and strength and He doesn’t need us to pretend that we do. When I admit that to Him, and invite the Holy Spirit to come and work in my idolatrous desires, then there is hope. I am already forgiven, but it is the working of truth that sets me free to grow into the nature and stature of Christ.
I don’t believe that this process will be anywhere near completed in this life, but that doesn’t diminish the hope and freedom we have in Christ. We can be confident of eternal life while being free to grow, our honesty giving the Holy Spirit liberty to prune away the dead wood in our lives so that His fruit can start to bubble up in our souls.
God’s radical grace allows for radical truthfulness which gives us a radical freedom that no religion or philosophy can even begin to compete with.
Go well my friends 🙂