I have titled this post “A Life-Changing Truth” because that’s exactly what I want to share with you today. There is one important truth that has the power to see you through every dark night, every valley, every stormy trial. It’s taken me way too long to realize, but I’d like to share it with you, that it can encourage you and carry you as you face each new day.
Let me paint you a picture of reality, where the world is full of people with a long list of expectations they have for you. They talk about acceptance, loving you for who you are, and meanwhile making mental checks of your faults and shortcomings. There are always a bunch of standards you must strive to meet, from being a “good” neighbor to a “good” friend, from a “good” sibling to a “good” son or daughter. If we don’t meet all the criteria, then basically, we’re just not good enough.
It’s exhausting to live in this world! I know it is! Yet, isn’t this how we live our lives? We constantly strive for something we are unable to obtain. Always working toward meeting these standards, trying to measure up to what is expected of us, we get burned out. We can never seem to meet every requirement, every expectations. We can never be or do enough.
So we live our lives like a hamster on a wheel, going in circles, desperately trying to reach something we will never be able to reach. Life becomes a dark hole; we’re trapped inside this endless cycle. We’re worn. We want to quit. Why bother with even trying if we will never reach it?
This mentality has, unfortunately, spread into Christianity. We try so hard to be a “good” Christian. We work will all of our strength to be everything we think God wants us to be. We never pray enough. We don’t read the Bible enough. We don’t give enough, serve enough, do enough. Enough for what?! For God to be happy with us? For Him to love us? Of course – surely He would be happy with us if we served the right number of hours each week and read 100 chapters every day. I mean, right? This is what we’re being taught, so it must be true… Right?
Wrong! God’s favor is not dependent on what we do. His love is not determined by how much we give or when we pray. Think about the logic of this for a minute. We were dirty, depraved sinners before salvation, completely helpless and unable to do anything on our own to secure or earn our salvation. And even still, God loved us in this state. (Rom. 5:8) He loved us regardless of our sins, regardless of our helplessness.
So turn the tables now. We are saved, and think of the mindset our churches have adopted and drilled into our heads. We must become more like Christ. To do this, you must follow this exact set of rules, all of the time, and work with every ounce of strength you have to be pure and holy, just as God is. If you by chance fail and sin, you must beg God to forgive you, to reconcile you and remove the sin that’s standing between you and Him, and work as hard as you can to essentially stop that sin in your life. Basically, your works are what earn you God’s love and favor.
What happened?! Before salvation, we were helpless, unable to earn anything by our works. But after salvation, something magically happens to make our efforts mean something, so that now we suddenly have the power to make God love us based on what we’ve done?
People, we have done nothing! God’s love for us didn’t change after salvation. Our abilities didn’t change after salvation. We are still incapable of earning anything by our works, and God’s love is still as unconditional and undeserved as it was before.
To try to be like Christ by our own works, to think we can achieve it by our efforts, is literally trying to sanctify ourselves. It will not work! We are human beings, flawed and imperfect; we will mess up – by this system, we will never, ever obtain that state of being just like Christ, pure and holy. Not by our own works. Sanctification is through the work that Christ alone is doing in us. (Phil. 1:6) He is the one who is perfecting us, shaping us, and making us more and more like Him.
Listen to this good news – we live in Christ. We don’t live as ones who are constantly trying to match up to standards, constantly falling to sin – we live in Christ. Literally. If you are a believer, you died to your sins, to the self that was born in sin, and you have been made alive in Christ. Literally.
So here’s the truth that will carry you through the dark nights and stormy trials. God isn’t waiting for you to get your act together, to do “enough”, or to meet a certain set of requirements to find joy in you. He isn’t judging you, giving you a list of standards, or waiting for you to fulfill all of His expectations. As His child, there is no condemnation for you. Read that again. There is no condemnation for you. He has already removed your sin – He no longer sees it. He really, truly loves you exactly as you are, as His beautiful, chosen child.
It’s called the grace of God. We don’t deserve it, but He has given it to us anyway. We don’t deserve to be called God’s children. We don’t deserve to have all of our sins erased forever. We don’t deserve such an unconditional, everlasting love. But it is all ours.
So while we live in a world who will shower us with expectations and standards, we can cling to a God who takes us exactly as we are. When it seems like we’ve failed yet again, we can remember that God does not count it as a failure. Oh thank you, Lord, for your wonderful grace!