The concept of God’s grace is one that I think people assume they understand, but often don’t. If you grow up in a Christian family like I did you hear about it from a very young age, are taught it is a gift that we don’t deserve and we should be thankful. But there comes a point where we have to address what it really means to have God’s grace, where we realise that it is not a simple fact but a monumental display of love. It’s not something we are owed or are entitled to, in fact quite the opposite, but the magnitude of God’s love is so huge that he gives it to us anyway.
This moment came for me at a youth group camp when I was 15. We had spent the evening in silence, working our way around several stations designed to seem like the routines and behaviours maintained by a Jew before the crucifixion. These were hard hitting, inviting us to examine our hearts and minds in such a way that it was very difficult to maintain the excitement and hype of the first night at camp. We read parts of Leviticus where it describes various laws and rules that were to be abided by at the time. The sheer volume of these rules, routines and laws was astounding to us, it was not something that had been described or explained to us before.
We were then given a talk on grace, and this is when it really sunk in for me. Jesus died so that we would not have the same separation. We didn’t have to keep so many rules of cleanliness or make sacrifices of animals; Jesus had paid the price for us. He died to remove these barriers and give us access to God. We can speak to him at any time; we can encounter his presence without going to a temple. For Jews before the crucifixion God was always at arm’s length, but we have the incredible privilege of him being with us always.
Wow. When you put it simply like that its incredible isn’t it? The grace of God allows us to be in close relationship with him. We are broken, we are sinful, and we should be kept as far away from God in his complete perfection as possible. But despite our sin and our brokenness, God is desperate to be in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with us. And he brought himself to our level, made himself a man, allowed us to kill him in the most brutal way imaginable, in order to do this.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
As a child this wasn’t something I understood. Yes, Jesus died for me and took on my sins, paid the ultimate price as a display of God’s love to me. Standard Sunday school knowledge right? Every child who attends church is told the same thing. But it had no impact on me whatsoever. It was presented as a fact of life, something that everyone knows and accepts. We can carry that knowledge and continue with life as we please. I became a Christian still holding this view. I wonder if I had truly realised what grace is, I might have found my early teenage years a little easier. The more I learnt about what it really was to be a Christian and about the sacrifice that was made for me, the harder I found it to try and be in relationship with God. I wasn’t worthy of his love, I wasn’t good enough to be close to him. I spent a great deal of time running from who God is with the misconception that he couldn’t possibly want me, feeling guilt and shame any time I attended church with my parents.
What I should have realised is that God accepts me as I am. That is what grace is. God loves me with all my flaws, failures, and feelings of not being good enough. He made me as I am, knows the things I have done and the things I am yet to do. He loves me and is proud of the person I am, warts and all.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
The best thing is, God doesn’t just accept our flaws and failures, and He forgives them. He took them all on at the cross. Before we were ever born, before our parents were born, when we were simply an idea in God’s head of a person to be created in thousands of years’ time, He loved us and paid for us. Isn’t that amazing? The enormity of that stops me in my tracks every time. God’s love is so huge that he can love everyone who has ever been, everyone who will ever be and everyone who exists now, billions upon billions of people and he loves then wholly and completely with everything He has. And we are forgiven.
The knowledge of that grace now inspires me rather than shames me. I have the opportunity to make mistakes and mess up, and fall no further in Gods eyes. There is nothing I can do to make him love me less or love me more than he already does. His love in never failing, all consuming, and covers every aspect of who I am. It inspires me to strive to be the best person I can be, to fulfil all of my potential in him, because I can.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9
Millie is a part of the Create team, passionate about writing and loves Tea (but if you make her a brew, make sure you leave the tea bag in!).