Isn’t the grace of the Lord beautiful? Grace is one of the those concepts we hear a lot about as Christians. After-all, we are saved by grace through faith. Without grace, we would all be hopelessly lost and condemned by our sin.
I have some thoughts today about grace, and I don’t think it’s something I’ve written much about. As Christians, we don’t have to look very far to hear about the gospel of forgiveness for our sins, graciously bought with the blood of Jesus. When we struggle with sin, the grace of the Lord can be very comforting, and it should be.
However, is the gracious gospel of forgiveness all there is to the story? It is true that we can find freedom from the shame and guilt of past sin, but what about freedom from sin itself? Isn’t that also given?
As for me, I’m thankful for all things the grace of God brings. I’m kind of rambling here, but maybe I can get to a point…
When I first started taking the faith seriously, as an adult at least, I wanted to live righteously. I couldn’t. I was thankful for forgiveness and the gracious gift of faith, however being bound to the sins I hated was no fun. As I learned more about the scriptures and the way the Lord wants us to live, I saw my sinful nature all too clearly, and it was painful. Previously, I thought I was a pretty good person. I wasn’t.
I’ve written before about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and recently I’ve learned not to view this idea too legalistically. I used to think that if we did not have an experience like we find in Acts, then we didn’t have the Holy Spirit in us. Since, I’ve come to know some who had an experience like mine and those who did not, and all have grown in the things of God.
Anyway, I write about the Holy Spirit baptism for a couple reasons. One, to encourage others to seek it, because we don’t know what the Lord will do or requires for us, and our experiences there might vary depending on God’s will. Secondly, I want to get back to the idea of the Lord’s gracious forgiveness—and freedom.
When I received the Spirit, some sins I had struggled with were gone instantly. For the most part however, it’s been an on-going battle and trial of my faith (and faithfulness). If we consider the moment we receive the Holy Ghost as our rebirth, then I’m a little over two years old—and I have a long way to go.
I mess up a lot, and I am not living a sinless life. However, the Lord continues to work on me, change my perspective, and help me grow in understanding about who he is and what the Christian life is about. He also continues to change my nature so that I can find freedom from the heaviness of sin.
Sin is called a stronghold for a reason. I know for me, when I want to stop sin, it’s not just a simple matter of making a choice to stop sinning. Before receiving the Spirit and even now, there are matters of nature that are so strongly set within me, that it’s not so simple as that.
When a person forms habits of thought and behavior, our brains are physically altered. Whether from the way we were raised or from trauma, many of the sins we struggle with are more than just a choice—they are part of who we are. They become our nature.
Yes, the grace of forgiveness can go a long way towards helping our peace of mind—and it is something we all need because none of us have been without sin. However, why don’t we see the grace of freedom from sin preached just as much as the grace of forgiveness? Why, in the place of gracious freedom from sin, do we tell people to “choose” to do the Lord’s will and “choose” to stop sinning?
We cannot choose to stop sinning—in many cases at least—any more that we can choose to be forgiven. Both have to be given by the grace of God, and both are intricate parts of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Everything we have is given by God. Everything is a matter of grace. If we are breathing, it is grace. If we have food to eat, shelter and clothing, it is grace. If we have faith, it is grace. If we are forgiven, it is grace. If we find freedom from the sins that destroy our lives, that too is grace. If we are raised from the dead and granted everlasting life, it’s grace.
The grace of God is so much more than we understand—and I’m sure I have a long way to go both in terms of understanding grace, appreciating grace—and the Lord willing—receiving grace.
Let us consider how beautiful the grace of Jesus really is, and how we might be more gracious towards others who struggle with sin. Let us push forward—onward and upward in righteousness with faith that the grace of Jesus will free us from the bondage of this world and grant us entrance into the kingdom of heaven now and eternally.