I don’t like pain. However, dealing with my personal sin, repenting of it, and seeking to do things God’s way is painful. Sanctification isn’t an overnight process. We will spend the rest of our days undergoing it. Yet I willingly face up to my sin and ask God to hold me accountable because I have hope in Him. That hope is found in His grace.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:16-17, ESV
One of the things I had to grasp was that if left to the Law, that which God revealed was His standard, I couldn’t do it. I would violate it whether in deed or thought. I could and tried to put forward an outward appearance of goodness but it was just a facade. And when I tried to embrace this false self, the biggest person I fooled was myself.
Understanding that now, I still strive to adhere to what God has commanded because I love Him and I want to please Him. I keep after it because it is what He expects of me and because He deserves no less. However, when I fail, and I do more often than I’d like, I realize there is grace. Jesus brought grace. He brought forgiveness. He brought restoration. This doesn’t excuse my sin, but it provides a way forward if I seek to follow and love God and attempt to overcome my sin. I can’t do it without Him and I don’t have to. This is grace upon grace to me.
God doesn’t beat us down and tells us we will never be good enough and never make anything of ourselves. Throughout Scripture we find God lifting up those who have failed if they turn to Him. We see Him redeem and restore people we would give up on, like murderers, prostitutes, swindlers, power mongers, tyrants, and thieves. They sought Him and turned from their sin and He was there for them. We have these examples because God is trying to get us to understand that He is there for us, too. This was so hard for me to accept.
I used to think I had to do it all on my own merits. When I failed, rather than facing up to the fact that I needed others, I instead blamed others. This was true whether I made a bad play in a game, didn’t get a good grade, was an obnoxious jerk and treated someone badly, or anything else that wasn’t a favorable outcome. It was always somebody else’s fault. Or so that was my line of thinking. That was my defense mechanism to keep me from admitting I failed and dealing with the pain of that failure. I told myself I didn’t fail; someone else prevented me from succeeding. After the Holy Spirit through Scripture helped me understand grace, if only in the smallest of ways, I finally understood my previous way of thinking and existing was all nonsense. Grace helped me understand how foolish I was and how I was responsible for deceiving myself.
Yes, God demands perfection but He knows we can’t meet it. That’s why His Son is our representative, our propitiation, our stand-in. He’s the perfection we can’t attain. It’s okay not to be perfect. God made a way for it to be okay. We still do our best but we understand that our best isn’t enough and we need Him. And He’s there. Grace. Grace upon grace.
If you’ve fallen into any of the traps I’ve discussed, allow Him to break you out. Fall back on grace. Give yourself permission not be be perfect, to accept that you will fail. This is true in pursuit of our goals, in our relationships, and in our obedience to God. By being able to admit defeat, we are able to better understand what we should do next time, how we should avoid that which derailed us, and be able to do it God’s way. Then we try again. When we are disobedient we repent. We seek His forgiveness, which He promises to give, and we try again. We seek to do better out of love for the One who first loved us. We live grace. We extend grace. We rely on grace. We are grateful for grace. We live more abundantly because of grace. All because of grace.