Have you caught yourself ever asking or thinking this?
Yeah? What about this one?
I’m not sure if I’ve said either one but I think I’ve thought both. Probably more the second one than the first. I have heard folks express either one in so many words.
The problem is, both miss the point. The grace of God isn’t like either one of these.
Some people overstep grace, thinking God’s undeserved gift is so based on faith alone that we have the freedom to push the limits. Once forgiven, always forgiven, right? As long as we believe, right? As long as I don’t let myself get sucked into a continuous pattern of sin, right? God wants me to be happy and enjoy myself, right?
That’s like a soccer player asking his coach whether they can still win the championship game if they practice one less hour a week. Well, yeah, but . . .
The definition of Biblical faith is an active faith. We obey Jesus’ commands and behave in certain ways because we trust God to know what is best for us. Like actions toward a parent we adore, we wouldn’t want to do anything to displease our loving God who has sacrificially given us so much. So while, yes, God will let me into His heaven if I’ve watched an R rated movie, got a tattoo on my ankle, or sat in a bar, His eye is on the bigger picture and He wants my eyes to look in the same direction. I have to ask myself: am I doing these things for my own pleasure or am I doing them to please God and strengthen my relationship with Him? Once I’ve accepted His grace, I’ve accepted His world-view as well. I’m going to choose to do things that please Him. I’ll make choices that show my loyalty to His Kingdom instead of supporting and strengthening the kingdoms of this world. After all, God looks on the intents of the heart more than He does the outward action.
Lest you think I’m hammering the freedom lovers, let me examine the fingers that most often point at me. Have I done enough for Jesus? After all, I don’t want to let down my Lord.
Some Christians are so concerned the Lord will meet them at heaven’s gate with a disapproving frown. He’ll say, “I am so disappointed. You didn’t volunteer for that committee, you never stepped foot in the nursery, and couldn’t you have fixed just one more dozen cookies for Vacation Bible School?”
Is God such a nitpick? What about the dear soul whose aging body and physical deterioration won’t allow them to get down on the nursery floor, bend crooked fingers over the organ keys, or grip a wooden spoon to stir a batch of brownies? I have news for you. Tally marks were banned from Heaven a long time ago. God wants your love, not a completed accomplishment log.
The person trying to do one more thing for Jesus hasn’t caught the essence of grace either. Perhaps we have to ask ourselves—am I doing all this extra work to get God’s approval, or the approval of others? Maybe I don’t want to let me down. Maybe, <blush> I’m trying to look better than the Christian brother or sister next to me?
There’s no pecking order in God’s Kingdom. And if there is, wouldn’t it be a sorry day to discover God’s brand of holiness was far different than the external actions we so often count as spirituality? I’m slowly learning that it doesn’t matter who gets the work done in the Kingdom of God; it matters that it does get done. There’s a lot of work to do if we’re going to rescue as many people as we can from Satan’s clutches.
Accepting God’s grace is relishing His forgiveness so much that we want to hold on to that restored relationship forever. We want to walk with Him and talk with Him. We want to learn what makes Him tick and how we can tick right along with Him. We’re enjoying our salvation so much we want others to know about it too, so we’ll roll up our spiritual sleeves to do just anything we can to get the word and the love out. We delight to see His smile when we use our gifts to make something beautiful for Him.
We’ll still make poor choices. Sometimes, really poor choices. There will be moments when we cave to the lures of the world and forget about the love of the Father. Like anything in life, following Jesus takes practice. Plenty of mistakes happen in practice sessions. We get up and try again. Our task is not to feel like we’ve failed Jesus but to use those moments to learn how we can do better next time. Not because we have to—but because we want to.
We keep trying.
Jesus emphasized in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that we are to give back the best of what God has given to us, not the same amount that others give. We keep searching for ways to “I love You, Lord, with all my heart.” After all, He loves us. First. Always. Lavishly.
He did everything He could to bring us back to Himself. He wants us more than anything.