Why do we have a hard time fully accepting the grace that is offered through Christ?
By “fully” I mean completely, from beginning to end. Similar to my previous devotion about trying to earn forgiveness and righteousness, we often try to do as much as we are capable of and then rely on God to cover the rest. Even if that means all we think we can do is 0.00001 percent of what is needed and rely on God for 99.99999 percent of the work. We still try to “do our part.”
At best this is a misunderstanding that limits our present experience of the unshakable certainty of who we are and what we have in Christ (Hebrews 6:19).
At worst this is prideful self-righteousness that unknowingly seeks to rob God of the glory He alone is due.
The sin of Adam and Eve was in trying to be like God or equal to Him in some way (Genesis 3). We fall into the same wrong thinking when we try to take upon ourselves the work only God can do. God is the only one that can make us right with Him. He is the only one who can atone for sin and bestow righteousness. All that we receive from Him is by grace. The only thing we could ever “earn” is condemnation.
Simply accepting the grace of God without trying to do even the smallest amount on our own gives all the glory to whom it is due–God–and keeps us grounded in the truth.
When we unconsciously think that there is even the tiniest amount of favor with God that depends on us in any way, we open the door to our failings leading us to think our relationship with God or position in Him is placed in jeopardy.
The Galatians struggled with this issue. After accepting the grace of Christ through faith, they then began to try to earn favor with God by following the law. Much of Paul’s letter to them is rebuking this sudden reliance on works and exhorting them to again trust in the grace of God through faith to accomplish God’s work in their lives.
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” – Galatians 3:2-3
While it is easy for us to see the error in the Galatians thinking, we often fall into the same trap, just under a different guise than trying to follow the Old Testament law.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 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 forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” – Galatians 4:8-9
When we try to do things on our own, instead of being independent it actually enslaves us. When we don’t accept God’s grace freely and fully, we become prey to worry and doubt, we become legalistic and judgmental of ourselves or others, and we forfeit the freedom we have in Christ (Galatians 5:1).
We must continually embrace the words of Ephesians 2:8-9,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
No one can boast. No one outside of God deserves any of the credit for our salvation, our position in Christ, and our relationship with Him.
It is grace leading up to salvation and it is grace continuing on after salvation. Throughout the book of Acts it is clear that the work the disciples do is all by the grace of God (Acts 4:33, 6:8, 11:23, 13:43, 14:3, 14:26) and in 1 Corinthians Paul says,
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10
All of the credit for Paul’s work went to the grace of God, not his own work. In the same way, the work we do is a product of God’s grace in us.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 3:20-21
We are to humble ourselves in the same manner that Christ did (Philippians 2:6-11), to count ourselves as though we were dead. As we humble ourselves and die to ourselves more and more we are better able to fully accept God’s grace that the Lord pours out on us.
The more undeserving this grace we receive appears the more glory God gets in giving it.
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 5:20-21
Humble yourself and accept the Lord’s grace so that the He may lift you up. Learn from the Galatians and rely fully on the grace received through faith in Christ and glorify the Lord by accepting that grace.