“But by the [remarkable] grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not without effect. In fact, I worked harder than all of the apostles, though it was not I, but the grace of God [His unmerited favor and blessing which was] with me”
~1 Corinthians 15:10 AMP~
All by the Grace of God…
There is one predominant theme at The Church of Anderson: Grace. The grace of God is present in the songs we sing, the preaching of the Gospel, and in the very culture of our church. Pastor Jonathan believes in the grace of God and the implications that grace has on our lives. I would dare say it is a personal conviction of his, one that he preaches from every time he is in the pulpit. And because it flows freely in the songs and the sermons, grace is evident in the very culture, specifically in the way that we relate to one another.
When Casey and I started visiting TCA, Pastor Jonathan was sharing a teaching on the Benjamin Generation, the grace generation. This is still one of the greatest teachings I have sat under, helping me to grow in my understanding of the grace of God.
I struggle with the tension between grace, faith, and works. I grew up in a traditional church, where the Gospel was taught, and I don’t believe my struggle with this is a product of what was taught there. I do struggle with believing my value or acceptance comes from my performance. I don’t teach this, but I struggle with accepting it for myself.
Over the past five years, my understanding of grace has changed to the point where I honestly believe that if my eternal destination depends in any way on my performance, I will never make it! If my performance has anything to do with it, I am just not going to make it! I am completely dependent upon the grace of God for my salvation.
One of the predominant teachings at TCA is that God’s grace is big enough to cover our past, present, and future.
Grace for My Past…
In understanding the grace of God, accepting His grace for our past sin is the easiest to accept. We all know that we have missed the mark in our past. Some of us have an extremely dark past. Others might not. I am equally in awe of the testimony of someone who has not walked such a dark path as I am of those whom God radically rescued from addictions, criminal activity, and other behaviors.
No matter what our history is, we were all in need of God’s grace. The Bible tells us throughout that no one meets the standard of holiness. We were all without hope, except for the grace of God shown to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And because of this amazing grace through Christ Jesus, we have the opportunity to experience forgiveness for our past sins and can begin to walk in our new life in Christ.
Although it is easier to accept forgiveness for our past, some of us struggle with leaning to accept that forgiveness. Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive is the person looking back at me in the mirror. This is true for many people and I admit that I struggle with forgiving myself too!
Grace for My Present…
Believing in grace for my present sin is a bit more difficult to accept as someone who is more performance driven. Just recently last week, I lost control of my emotions and let several four letter words flow out of my mouth. I could spend a few minutes trying to explain this behavior away, but I don’t want to focus on my behavior no more than necessary.
What I do want to highlight is what Jonathan text me in response when I messaged him to pray for me. He told me, in summary, to pick myself up, knock the dust off, and get back on track. He told me not to worry about it, but to walk in the grace and forgiveness of the Lord. And, in the moment, that is what I needed more than a lecture about how we (Christians) should be an example to others. I needed grace. I was repentant. I knew that I had blown it. I had let my emotions get the best of me and I missed an opportunity. The key was to not dwell on that, but to move forward and accept God’s grace. To learn to depend on God’s grace, not my performance.
An important topic in this discussion about receiving grace for our present sin is to understand how quickly our present becomes our past. Just in the few moments that I sent out that short text to Jonathan, my present circumstances had shifted to my past. In the blink of an eye, the event went from present tense to past tense. And then you have a choice to either dwell on your past, or repent, learn from it, and move forward.
None of us are deserving of God’s grace and we will never in a million years earn it! Even if I could live today in complete and perfect obedience to God’s will (not likely cause I need a lot of work), that is one perfect day out of over 12,459 days of my life. Trust me, I just did the math and this is a small percentage (0.008%). It would take more than 100 of these “perfect days” for me to even register close to one percent. I am not saying all of this so that we simply throw up our hands and give up on living a holy lifestyle, but I am saying that it is not going to happen in our own strength.
The Apostle Paul teaches throughout his letters to the New Testament church that we are justified (righteous in God’s eyes) through Christ Jesus. Jesus is our righteousness and it is only through Him that we are deemed righteous.
Learning to depend on the grace of God is learning to accept our inability to do this in our own strength. We need the strength of Christ Jesus to walk out this Christian lifestyle.
Grace for My Future…
The most difficult grace to receive is future grace. I think most people simply struggle with accepting that God actually offers grace for the sins we have yet to commit.
I believe that people who struggle with accepting God’s grace to cover future sin have an error in their doctrine in at least one of the following, if not both…
They believe they will reach a point in their lifetime in which they no longer struggle with sinfulness.
They believe their sinfulness will one day outgrow God’s ability to cover it with grace.
To be fair, I believe we all struggle with these beliefs for a certain amount of time. I have certainly struggled with this and I believe this is part of what we have to learn as believers.
However, I know that I will stumble and fall from time to time, and it is my faith that reminds me to get up and move on each time. It is the grace that God offers us that enables us to have that opportunity. And it is that grace for which I am truly thankful.
A New Sermon Series…
We started in a new series this week, Learning to Depend on the Grace of God. Pastor Jonathan focused this week on explaining that the grace of God is unmerited, undeserved, and unearned.
For those of you who regularly attend our services, I encourage you not to miss these messages.
For those of you who do not have a regular church home, I hope that you would consider joining us for these services.
You can find all of the service times, church address, and contact information at www.thechurchofanderson.com