I am going to share with you the single most important thing I have ever learned about God.
If I asked you, “What do you value MOST about God?” What would you say? His forgiveness? or his truth in the Bible? or his gift of eternal life?
For me…his grace. That he accepts us no matter what, because of Jesus’ death for us, because Jesus gained righteousness FOR us.
I came to learn this through a very difficult relationship.
While in college, I shared the gospel with a friend named Mary, and she did ask Jesus into her life. She began growing right away. However, over time, Mary became really dependent on me.
She wanted lots of my time, lots of my attention. She would do almost anything to try to force me to spend time with her.
Like, late one night, in freezing cold weather, with piles of snow on the ground, I found Mary outside, washing my car for me, in the dark, in the cold!
Her demand for my attention was way over the top. I felt smothered.
Sometimes she would pound on my door screaming, “Why won’t you spend time with me?” I would, but it seemed never enough.
She wouldn’t let up and I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t crazy. She was just very emotionally needy. And I found myself getting angry.
Yet, I couldn’t escape Scripture. The greatest command, Jesus said, is to love. And I couldn’t love her. Here I had led her to Christ, and instead of loving her, she was driving me crazy.
So I thought, “Maybe I need to pray more about it.” So I prayed. A lot. Nothing changed.
Mary continued to want more and more of my time. I simply wanted to be free of her. However, it felt selfish and judgmental on my part.
Being a college student I spent time with lots of people. And with studies and responsibilities, my time was limited. I wished Mary would stop being so needy.
I thought, “Maybe I need to read the Bible more and have God teach me how to love her.” That didn’t work. I asked a friend for counsel. That didn’t help. I finally thought, “I just need to trust God more.” And that didn’t work either. Mary was relentless.
This went on for many months. You know what finally worked? I graduated from college and was free of Mary!
But there was still a problem.
I was about to become a full-time staff member with a Christian organization, and I couldn’t love someone I had led to Christ.
After graduation, there was one full month before beginning with this organization. I dove into the Bible, spending 4 to 5 hours A DAY reading the Bible, asking God to help me understand why I couldn’t love Mary.
I studied Romans, Galatians, Ephesians…and on and on, for nearly the entire month.
And then one day, I finally saw it.
God never expected that I could love Mary. He never anticipated that I could be “righteous” and “holy” and a “perfect” person. That’s exactly why Jesus died for my sin and clothed me in HIS righteousness.
I read Scripture like, “…the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:20-21
Over and over again, I saw Scripture talking about living under God’s grace, free from trying to perfectly fulfill his commands, free from the demand of the law. We do not belong to written orders. We belong instead, to Jesus.
Here is a summary of what I learned:
If you struggle trying to feel acceptable to God…no matter what your sin, no matter what your efforts, or your failure… he loves you. He loves and accepts you. He calls you his own, his child.
The law causes us to focus on our performance, and we fail. The more we concentrate on trying to be holy, the more we will see our sin. And the more we sense our guilt, the more we would naturally feel like a disappointment before God, and want to withdraw from him in shame. It’s a spiral downward. And it isn’t how he wants us to view our relationship with him.
He knows our tendency to chose our way instead of his way…that is WHY Jesus died for us. To pay for that sin, to free us from the demands of the law, to free us from guilt, judgment, condemnation.
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Our hope in not ourselves.
“The mind set on the flesh is death. But the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6
I pray that you are living in the freedom of his acceptance and love for you!