The further I go in my journey with God, the more I come to realize how massive His grace is and how massive a concept it is. In the last few weeks it’s a topic that has popped up with me in the “teacher’s seat” several times. I haven’t figured out yet if it’s God telling me I need to explore more, to learn more about this gift or if it’s for the good of those I’ve shared the lesson with. Probably a little of both.
Grace was both one of the most difficult concepts for me to understand leaving the Mormons and one of the most freeing.
When I first came to the Mormon church, I remember sitting with my friend Laurie and looking through the hymnal. My favorite song from childhood was missing. “Amazing Grace” was no where to be found. I just figured they might have all been original hymns in the book since I wasn’t familiar with most of them and left it at that. Years later I came to realize that omission is purposeful. Theirs is a religion of works. And there works are required for salvation. Certainly for “exhaltation”. And just writing that makes my heart incredibly sad. Sad because they’ve missed the boat.
Grace is not given “after all we can do”. It is given INSTEAD of anything we can do.
In Romans 3:23-25 it reads: For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life shedding his blood.
Romans 3:27-28 continues:
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
Ordinances, works, these things imply there is something we can do, or need to do, to earn a position, favor, love. Grace says there’s nothing we can do. We are not worthy of the gift we’ve been given, but we are so loved that He would give His only son, that He knows we would always fall short and so He gives us the gift of Grace. We are loved and beautiful and perfect in His sight.
I used to spend so much time working, and studying, and DOING that I often felt unworthy. Could I have done more? That was always a lingering question. When I would read scripture for five or 10 minutes, could I have given another five? Could I have made an extra meal tonight to give it to someone who needed it? I remember feeling like I was doing something wrong, not measuring up when I would receive a calling that I knew didn’t match my spiritual gifts. I thought maybe God was displeased and so I had to work harder. Work, work, work. I spent so many years feeling fear for my salvation. Feeling like if I didn’t get my family on board my eternity would not be as glorious as it might be. I spent so many years missing the fullness my relationship with God could have been. And even for that, Grace covers me.
Salvation is a gift. It is not earned. It was provided for by Christ’s sacrifice. I think the most tangible teaching moment of this gift that God gave has provided for me was in church in early January 2016. Pastor Doug invited a man named Chad to speak. Chad, it turns out, a few years before had been suffering from a rare liver disease and needed a live donor to save his life. Family and friends were tested and it turned out his younger brother was a great match. The family came together the night before to celebrate and to spend time and share love with one another. Both Chad and his brother were married, Chad’s brother a father to young children. The next day they entered the surgery wing together, and though both emerged post-surgery, only Chad would wake up. Chad’s brother, who so lovingly and bravely gave a portion of his healthy liver to save his brother’s life, did not wake up. After a few days in a coma, his vitals dropped and he passed away. Once Chad woke and became lucid, he asked about his brother, and while leaning down to kiss his forhead, his father uttered the words, “God is good,” and with that they shared with Chad that his brother had not survived.
My heart literally burst at this point in the message. I cannot imagine the pain his father must have felt, the pain Chad felt, the pain the family felt. But in it, in the midst of it, their father could still say, “God is good.”
Suffice to say, the experience I had hearing the story shared was life-changing, and most importantly freeing. It was a breakthrough moment for me. One I will never forget. It broke my heart into a million little pieces and caused me to feel (albeit an ounce if that of what God must have felt at His son’s death) God’s presence, and more importantly, the vastness of His love for me. That He would allow the sacrifice of His son for me. Little ol’ me. Is there a place for works when there is grace and salvation? Of course. But today I have it in perspective. I understand it is not to earn a place in His kingdom, it is not to earn good favor. I’ll use Paul’s words again, this time in Philippians 2:12:
Work hard to show the results of your salvation.
Because I am already saved…nothing I can do will change it or better it. I am already counted for in Heaven. Anything I do on His behalf is only to show my love back and my gratitude for His great gift. When I love on my fellow man, when I make a meal for someone, when I offer a ride to someone who is otherwise stranded, I do this to show my appreciation for the times God has picked me up, fed me, loved on me. And I do it with thanksgiving in my heart. I’m far from perfect, but grace makes up the difference and in His eyes, I am perfect. Grace might just be my favorite …