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Grace – The Enormous Gap Between What I Deserve & What God has Given Me

October 15, 2009

This past Sunday my pastor made the bold statement that all of the problems we have in our life are the direct result of us not understanding grace well enough.  Whether it is anxiety, grief, stress, conflict, fear, temptation, depression, or anger, it is caused by the fact that we don’t fully grasp this idea of grace.

I have been thinking about this all week, and I feel he is correct.  If we truly viewed our lives everyday through the lens of what we deserve vs. what God has given us, every difficulty we face would shrink in significance compared to the astonishing, scandalous love He has recklessly poured out on us.

There are two sides to meditate on in order to get a better idea of how vast this grace actually is: one is our total depravity and the other is God’s amazing and unbelievable love, forgiveness, and acceptance of us.  The further apart you can push these two things in your own mind, the better you will understand this concept of grace.  The more you understand grace the less you will struggle with the day-to-day difficulties and hardships, the more you will honestly desire to love other people, and the more you will look like Jesus to this world.

However, this requires great humility. It requires you to face the reality of who you really are and what you really deserve.  The more you understand your own depravity and become fully aware of what you deserve in this minute, the greater God’s grace will grow in your eyes.  The more you cling to your own pride, self-esteem, and worth, the less you will grasp grace and the more you will find yourself struggling with living the life Christ has called you to.

1.) Total Depravity

As I mentioned above, in order to expound our understanding of grace we need a deeper understanding of our own sinfulness.  This is never fun.  In fact it is humiliating and painful.  But, oh it is necessary.  This is also not a message that you hear anywhere.  This culture doesn’t believe it and even churches don’t teach it.  So I’m going to shatter a few cultural myths that we all believe (at least to some degree).

Self-esteem is a cult.  I know that isn’t what you are told to believe.  You are told that you need to have a high view of your own worth, and that is healthy.  No.  It is VERY unhealthy.  What you need is a high view of God’s worth and that His worth is given to you even though you don’t deserve it.  Self-esteem is nothing other than pride.  The bible says that Pride is evil.  In his book “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis wrote:

“The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Nowhere in scripture will you see a positive view of your own self-worth encouraged.  Quite the opposite.

“He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way” ~ Psalm 25:9 (see also Psalm 10:4; 18:12; and 94:2).

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished ~Proverbs 16:5 (see also Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; 16:18-19; 18:12; and 21:4, 24)

I know this is a tough thought.  It’s tough for me too.   I have been wrestling with this for some time but I am starting to understand.  I need to get over myself.  I need to let it sink in and go down to my core.  I am not a good person.  I am not a valuable asset to God’s team.  I do not deserve to be treated well.  I am worthless.  That’s right I said it.  I’m worthless.  Apart from God, I have no worth.

Why would I say that?  What does the word of God say about all of us in Romans 3:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~ Rom 3: 11-18 (emphasis added)

People will say, but we have worth because we are created in God’s image.  Yes, the fact that we are created in the image of God gives us as humans elevated worth over other creatures, and even angels.  However, even that “worth” doesn’t come from us, but from God.  We are only worth anything because we reflect His worth, His glory.  God is not obligated to treat us any differently because he made us to reflect His glory.  In and of myself, I have no worth.  I have nothing good to bring.  There is nothing good that is left unspoiled in me as a human.

Every part of us has been tainted and spoiled by sin.  This is what the Levitical law was intended to show is.  We are like the article of clothing that is infected with a spreading mildew and must be burned because the whole garment is contaminated (Lev 13:47-59).  In the Bible, sin is frequently compared to a minuscule amount of yeast that permeates all of the dough (Matt 16:6, Mark 8:15, Luk 12:1).  This is what is meant by total depravity.  It isn’t that I am so bad that I couldn’t be any worse.  That would be “utter depravity”.  It is that we have all sinned and that sin has infected every part of our being.  There isn’t any part of us that isn’t tainted by it.  That is why nothing we do is ever good or unselfish.  We are all totally depraved.

It is only by understanding that I have no merit on my own that I can begin to base my merit on that which will hold up, that which will stand when I fail, when I am ridiculed, when I am laughed at, when I am  slandered.  It is only the humble Christian that can truly find joy and peace in who they are because they know that they are nothing and that Christ is everything.  After that realization, there is nothing anyone can say that can hurt you.  You pride is in your father’s love for you and not in your own worth.  This is what I call Christ-esteem, and it is infinitely better than self-esteem.

It is our own elevated view our worth that causes us to cringe when we read the Old Testament.  Why is God seem so cruel and harsh?  How can He sanction the murder of so many people, even women and children?  How can He have the nation of Israel stone a man to death who used the Lord’s name in vain?  To us these seem over the top, unmerited, and even cruel.  That is because we have the false belief that these people deserve better.  We believe that we are owed forgiveness from God.  Oh how wrong we are.  We need to realize that not even the fallen angles are offered forgiveness.  There is absolutely nothing that compels God to forgive me.  He owes me exactly nothing, except eternal punishment.  Why, because I deserve it.

The amazing American pastor and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, articulates this better than I ever could in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”:

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.”

When you begin to see yourself as God see you (apart from Jesus) you will be on your way to seeing grace as far more than you ever have before.  It is only when you begin to understand that this morning, instead of waking up in the fires of hell, which you justly deserve, you have the amazing blessing of going out and living as a slave to your merciful Lord today.  You will be able to rejoice in hardships and trails because, no matter how bad it is, it doesn’t even come close to what you deserve.  This is why Paul is able to express joy in 2 Corinthians 6:

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” ~ 2 Cor 6:4-10

2.) The Love and Mercy of God

It is unbelievable to realize that we have been pardoned from the just punishment that we deserve.  If that were the end of the story we would have more than enough reason to praise God and give our lives over to Him for His service.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Not even close.  He has done so much more than just pardon us.  He has shown such unbelievable love for us.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~ 2 Cor 5:21

Jesus, perfect and sinless, had never known the pain, guilt, regret, and shame of sin.  We have all felt it.  He volunteered to go to the cross, the bible says “scorning its shame” (Heb 12:2).  All of that guilt and shame was placed on Him.  He felt it all.  The weight of trillions of people’s countless sins all on Him at one moment.  The thought is just too staggering for me.  Why did he do this? “that we might become the righteousness of God”.  Oh, that you could see how God sees you if you believe in Jesus.  He doesn’t see a sinner.  You are a saint.  The very righteousness of Jesus is transferred over to you.  You have become HIS righteousness!

When God looks down upon you, saint, he not only sees someone who He has pardoned, but He sees one who has the very righteousness of Jesus.  He sees you on the same level as Jesus Christ.  You can approach Him as His child!  You are blameless in His sight!  This is truly the “Good news”.

You are adopted.  You have become a child of God.  You can never do anything to make Him love you any more or any less.  You are not on a merit/demerit basis with Him.  You know this full well because you understand that you have no merit except that which you have been given from Him.  You did NOTHING to earn this.  Even your faith in him is a gift from God.

God will never stop loving you.  He has no more wrath for you.  It has all been paid for by Jesus.  But oh what a high price it came at.  It cost Jesus so much.

Doesn’t that motivate you to want to love Him?  Doesn’t that cause you to long to serve a God who would love you enough to pay your gruesome dept?  If it doesn’t then you still don’t understand it.  This makes me want to spend every minute of the rest of my life serving Him.  I thank God for the unbelievable honor of being a slave to Him.  This is how Paul felt.

“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” ~ 1 Cor 15:9-11

Paul understood grace.  God’s grace towards him was not in vain because Paul was so moved by it that he devoted his life telling everyone about it.

Are you that moved by God’s grace toward you?  Are you willing to lower your pride and accept who you are and what you really deserve?  Can you fully grasp or understand the cost of your freedom?  Can you wrap you head around the depth of love it took for the God of the universe to humble Himself and become a pooping, crying, infant child, born to a poverty-stricken, nothing family in nowhere-ville, placed in a feeding trough for animals, all for you? Can you really stand thinking about the Almighty God of all creation enduring torture, mocking, insults, and hate?  What about when you think of the Alpha and Omega, hanging on a tree being laughed at and cursed at, while He pleads for His Father to have mercy on those cursing Him and to forgive them?  Can you continue to go your own way if you understood that He said His very last words, “it is finished”. . . your forgiveness is finished . . . while they shoved a feces and vinegar stained cloth into his mouth.   Do you realize that it is your filth that was in His mouth?  It is your shame He was wearing.  That was your cross . . . and you deserved it.

Scandalous, scandalous love!  Who could ever believe such love?!  This is why the cross is foolishness to the world.  But, to us who have been gifted understanding, it is a wondrous, hideously beautiful thing.

Oh God forgive me for thinking that I am owed anything today except to be placed on my cross and to suffer forever.  There are never enough words to thank you for saving me, cleansing me, and redeeming me.  You can have today.  My life is yours now.  Use it and spend it however you please.  I will pick up my cross and follow you.  What joy and peace there is in living in your grace.  I know that nothing comes to me except that which you allow for my benefit.  May I praise you today for everything that you bring.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2009 1:52 am

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

  2. Malcolm permalink
    September 19, 2011 8:07 pm

    Love it , really moving

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