According to many in the postmodern religious world, grace is us climbing up a ladder toward an intimate relationship with God, and getting close to the top, only to not have enough rungs on the ladder. God reaches down and yanks us up…
According to scripture, grace is not God’s yanking us up when we can go no farther, it’s the ladder. We sin often, and it is in our nature as humans to sin. Not that we can’t choose to resist, and not that we’re born guilty of sin as many with Calvinistic bent would postulate. But we’re human… and it is so much our nature in a fallen world, that Christ “emptied himself” and became like us. In this, he experienced life as one of us – to truly be an appropriate sacrifice for us (Philippians 2). As a human, Jesus prayed to the Father, indicating a need for that relationship. In Galilee he wept over the casket (or tomb) of his dear friend Lazarus before raising him to God’s glory (John 11). In the temple, he was filled with anger and drove the entrepreneurs and traders out of his Father’s house of worship with a whip. In the garden, he begged God to let the cup of suffering pass from him on the night before his crucifixion. He was… human. But the New Testament tells us he was sinless. He suffered and died so that he could learn obedience and take our place in punishment… that, is GRACE.
Unlike the understanding I acquired growing up, the first Epistle of John says, “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His son, ‘purifies us’ from all sins.” Some taught that there were all sorts of sins – and that I was just as guilty for sins I didn’t know about, but I had still committed. I often lived in fear that if I did not beg for God’s forgiveness as the last thing before bed every night, I was no longer in his good graces… or more appropriately, in His Grace.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Oh I can be separated from God and need to repent, for sure. And I have been separate from God – and it was because of my own selfish sinful practices. But when we walk in faith, we will falter, and we will fail. When we walk in faith, we will allow ourselves to stretch out, and when we walk in faith, the Holy Spirit will guard our hearts and minds (Rom. 5). The Spirit gives us peace, and if we allow ourselves to be empty jars of clay for God’s use, his Spirit will empower us in our daily walk. That is grace! That is holiness, and that is a life of faith.
John also said in 1 John 3:6-9 that if Christ “abides” in us (or ‘remains’ in the Greek, denoting a location, or a place of presence) we cannot sin. Knowing from many other passages in the N.T. that we cannot go without sin for long as humans, this must mean that my daily walk is in my mindset, my habits, and my practices; not merely in my individual sinful act when I become weak. This is JOY for a Christian. It’s the fact that the eternal victory of Jesus is stronger than my individual failure. Father, forgive my lack of faith and help me to be a vessel of honor, that I may walk in the Spirit and have life and peace (Rom. 5:8).