I used to imagine that the grace of God was a fine thing that was necessary for salvation.
I was right.
As I began to grow and learn more about salvation, God, and the way He moved in the world, I started to realize that the grace of God was far more than necessary for salvation. Indeed it was sufficient for salvation. What a glorious thought! That God's grace alone is the source and cause of our salvation. That I need not look for any other cause, any other source, any other solution.
I was more right than I knew.
You see, I have spent many years imagining that I knew all about God's grace. That I could quantify and define it well. That I could express its realities and effects and that by so doing I would grow more thankful for the grace of God in my life.
I was wrong.
There is a wideness to God's grace that I have never known. As I assumed the vast focus of God's grace was exclusively on the glorious act of salvation, I have spent much time overlooking the grace of God in sanctification. Let me see if I can prod you to interact with it as well.
Have you ever desired God to punish you?
Oh, I don't mean expect Him to punish you but want Him to do so? That rather than know His gracious dealings with His beloved, you might be able to feel the scourge of His disapproval? Maybe it is my errant understanding of the "fear of the Lord." Maybe it is my pride wanting to take part in my own atonement so that maybe Christ would not have to suffer so violent a death if I suffer more intense consequences.
The more I grow as a Christian, the more I realize that there are parts of my heart that despise grace. Parts of me that would sooner suffer a thousand lashes of sorrow than the loving look of all-sufficient grace in the face of my Father. I, at times, want Him to look on my sin and deal harshly with me. Not in chastisement but in hatred. At least then I could feel vindicated, having suffered sufficiently to assuage my guilt.
Do I know? Do I even have the faintest inkling of the depths that Christ already suffered to rob me of my guilt? To steal away that precious guilt that pets my heart while singing soft words of hopelessness.
"Those who desire grace and forgiveness are weak," it hums, "but you are strong with me."
What I have learned is that the song is very deceptive and that without pride it would never stand. Because, I am weak but I think myself strong. The guilt that fights the onslaught of grace's siege has but the appearance of strength and can not endure. Eventually the defenses that guilt and pride have built will crumble at the sheer determination and consistency of the grace of God. And, as another section of the defenses fails as the grace of God floods the ramparts, I begin to see that my guilt, my sin, and my pride are no match for the grace of God that defies all measure.
It reminds me of an old hymn:
There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea.
There's a kindness in God's justice, which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful we would gladly trust God's Word,
And our lives reflect thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.
May God make me thankful for His grace.