Monday, July 2, 2012

Fall Into Grace

Happy July 1st!  Can you believe that we are all ready starting the 7th month of the year?!  Time sure is going by so fast! It seems like someone should shout out "Happy July Fools Day! It''s really February! ". But it is July, and today is Sunday.  My church today had a "Freedom Celebration" during its church service.

Last month--June--marked my 25th anniversary of me being a Christian! I can hardly believe it has been so many years! Thank you Jesus for looking down at such a young pitiful boy and showing mercy to me!!!  This journey has been awesome!  Jesus has definitely been my best friend who was and is definitely closer than any brother I could ever have!

Looking back, God has brought me through a lot of stuff and has taught me some valuable lessons!

What do you think is the hardest lesson for a Christian to learn?  I can't speak for other people, but for me, the hardest lesson for me to learn is:  Accepting God's Grace!

Why has it been so hard for me to learn how to accept God's grace?  Why is it hard for people in general to accept God's grace? In my opinion, I and humanity have been trained by society (and sometimes by some churches) that we have to earn everything.  We are told that we have to go get a job and work so we can eat and pay our bills.  If we want to buy clothes or buy cds or a house, we have to earn money for those things.  Because of all this training, we naturally assume that God works the same way.  To get to Heaven, we are told by some people that all our good deeds have to outweigh our bad deeds.  So we start to work hard to make sure to have more good deeds under the belt.   So instead of accepting Christ's sacrifice for our sins, some people will refuse to take the first step to salvation, because they would much rather get to Heaven by their own effort.

Even for those of us who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, even we fall into the same trap. Once we have accepted Jesus' free gift of salvation, satan begins to make us doubt that it is a free gift.  satan will say "Did God really is a free gift?". If we start to doubt what God has plainly said, then satan will eventually have us believing that we have to somehow pay God back for our salvation.  It's like that we purchased our salvation with a credit card and every month we have to make monthly installments to God for our salvation. 

So how does that play out in a Christian's life?  Some Christians will go to church regularly, fast, witness to people, say "Hail Marys", go to confession, volunteer at soup kitchens, go on mission trips, etc...And when we sin, some of us will become scared of death of God and worry that we will go to hell for that one sin. We'll repent of our sin (as we should) and then rush to perform some good deed or penance (as Catholics call it) in addition to the repentance.  So this type of Christian tends to never really be at peace with their lives.  They always have some type of doubt whether they will go to Heaven when they die.

For example, when I lived in Alabama, I attended a church  where the pastor once said that you could be a faithful Christian for 30 years, but if you left one sin that wasn't covered by the blood, you would go to hell. That never sat right with me. And I didn't know why. Now that pastor was a Godly man and generally preached the truth, but of course, being human, he wasn't perfect. Because of that and perhaps a lack of knowledge of theology, I believe I subconsciously was scared of God.  This showed itself more clearly during lightning storms. During my time in Alabama, i worked at 2 grocery stores---Schambeau's Foodland and Greer's Food Tiger. During some of my time at Schambeau's, I would have to carry out customer's groceries to their car and load them in their car. At Greer's, one of my jobs was to bring in the grocery carts from the outside.  I would have to do both of these things even in the lightning.  During those times, I was so scared of lightning, I would pray frantically to God promising Him different things if He would spare my life.  Most of those promises have been broken by now.  Looking back, this occured because subconsciously I had an improper view of God, a lack of Biblical knowledge, and an improper interpretation on what I did know from the Bible.

Now, that I have been living in Minnesota for almost a decade and have been under 2 Biblically sound churches and have been through some trials, I have a better understanding on how God and on how His salvation works.  God has also taught me more about grace.

So how does one get saved anyway? Ephesians 2:8a says: "For by grace you have been saved..."  What is grace?  Grace is:  undeserved favor/mercy/blessing from God.  How does one receive this?  Ephesians 2:8a also states: " have been saved through faith".  So we receive this gracious salvation by believing what God has said about His son without demanding any proof.  Then we admit that we are a sinner, confess our sins and ask God to forgive us. Then we are born again. 

But it isn't by what we do that gets us saved nor keeps us saved.  For Ephesians 2:8b-9 says: "..and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast".  So we are saved not because of what we have done, it is because of what God has done.  He has decided by His grace and mercy to give us this gift of salvation for free. IF we could obtain this salvation by our works, then we could pridefully boast that we saved ourselves and have no reason to worship or praise God for getting into Heaven. 

So with that in mind, if we cannot get saved by our works, then we cannot keep our salvation by our works neither. It is God who keeps us saved!  Ephesians 1:13b-14 states: "...having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possssion..."  Ephesians 4:30 also states : "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed  for the day of redemption"   So when we as believers first get saved, God grants us the Holy Spirit as a seal to preserve us and our salvation until the day we die or get raptured whichever comes first.  The Holy Spirit keeps us saved.  And whosoever God has sealed with the Holy Spirit, nothing and no one (including ourselves) can break that seal!  Revelation 3:7 states: "...He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and noe one opens".  Whatever doors God shuts no one can open, and whatever door God opens, no one can shut. What great news this is!  There's nothing that we can do nor not do and there's no forces of evil that will cause us to lose the seal of the Holy Spirit; henceforth, that will cause us to lose our salvation.  Talk about a wonderful  beautiful picture of God's grace and of His undeserved favor!

Here's another picture of God's grace...Several years ago, I was driving home from my job at Northwestern Bookstore.  On the way home, I was rocking out to some Christian music not paying attention to how fast I was driving.  Halfway home, I see behind me flashing red and blue lights!  So I pull off to the side of the road, and the cop walks up to me and asks for my drivers license.  He said; "Do you know that you were going 55 in a 35mph zone?".  Of course, I didn't know. So he went back to his car to run my license.  While he was doing that, I was preparing myself to get my first ticket. I just knew I was going to get a ticket for speeding.  When the cop came back, he said that I had a clean driving record and that I needed to keep it that way.  He let me go with a warning!   Talk about being relieved!  But this is how God is. We may expect to get punishment from God for the negative things we have done since being saved.  However, what God does, He says: "You have a clean record".  And doesn't give us punishment even though we deserve.  It is because of Jesus we have the clean record. Now that's grace!

Given all this, why do we as believers still struggle with receiving God's grace?  It is because that we struggle with our weaknesses.  Often, when we fall into sin or make a mistake, we will beat ourselves up and sometimes will believe the lies that satan tries to sell such as "God doesn't love you've lost your salvation...can God really love someone like you who always messes up...etc..etc..etc.. But we have to keep in mind that without weakness, we would have no reason to depend on God.  Paul asked God 3 separate times to get rid of a thorn in Paul's flesh.  But God said in 2 Corinthians 12:9a: "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."   So when we struggle with weakness, we have to remember to ask God for His strength and for His grace to help us deal with our weakness. Whenever we encounter our weakness, we should allow our weakness to teach us to depend on God.  These times are an excellent opportunity to learn how to receive God's grace.

Struggling with weaknesses can cause us to have a low view of ourselves--a poor self-image.  Again, satan will bring all kinds of condemnation to our minds of how bad a Christian we are and how we really don't deserve God's love.  We might even think we have lost God's love and His grace.  But we can't believe those lies.  We cannot lose God's love nor grace. With God's help, we need to improve our self-image and see ourselves as God sees us.  1 Corinthians 15:10a states: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in van;"  What an encouraging verse!  Remember, you are who you are because of God's grace!  God has wired you to be a unique person---different from all others!  Who you are is no accident! And you do not surprise God by being who you are or by the things you struggle with. God did not waste His grace on you!  You are a child worth saving!  You are a masterpiece in the making. So take a hold of God's grace and run with it! And don't be ashamed of the man of God that He has created you to be! Accept God's love and grace for you! After that, love and forgive yourself!  Once you do that, satan won't be able to beat up on you and he won't get you to listen to his lies anymore.

So to summarize...the reason people have a hard time accepting God's grace is: We have been taught by society that we need to earn everything.   Nonbelievers want to work their way to Heaven instead of accepting the gift. Believers believe the lie that they have to do good works to earn or keep their salvation. The solution is by simply accepting God's grace and love for us and then loving and forgiving ourselves we can put ourselves in aposition where we dont believe satan's lies anymore and live a more fulfilling Christian life in the midst of God's grace and love.



  1. time is flying by so fast! I can't believe it's going to be a year since we've been living in L.A.! 25 is a great amount of time! That's inspiring for me :)

    This is a really good post! Adam was asking me what he should do to be "better in God's eyes" and I wasn't sure if he meant what he can do physically, or what he can do for himself with his personal journey with Christ. I did explain to him about salvation, which is a common confusion. It took me a few years to really understand that. I'm sure you know that my dad is currently struggling with that understanding as well. Sadly, a lot of potential believers turn away because they feel that being a Christian is too much work, it's really not as difficult and scary as they think. Trust and faith are important. Thank you for sharing your personal stories with us!

  2. Another star post from the star blogger ;) I should've read this earlier! But before I go on, congrats on the 25 years! That is definitely something to celebrate! And I doubt you were a pitiful kid ;)You had some wisdom and good sense to turn to the lord at such an early age!

    I agree with you, accepting God's grace is a challenge. Better yet, sometimes it's a difficult thing to understand. You hear the word "grace" all the time, but never really take the time to understand that word. You hit it perfectly when you said that society trains us to believe that we have to earn everything. I tend to humanize God a lot. I'm not saying that I think he's a person haha but sometimes I forget that God's love for us is already there.

    Great examples you used from your actual experiences! and thank you again, for your explanations. I always ask people questions relating to this subject and they look at me like I'm a moron! haha. I'm reading the Bible for the first time, so I'm just learning things. Even the things in Zach's blog are new to me. Some people say "well you shouldn't call yourself a Christian yet, if you aren't where you need to be" I've just been praying for guidance and I've been struggling lately. It's probably a tiring subject for anyone to hear, but it's the truth :( lol. I guess the first few steps is to forgive, and put pride and shame away.

    It's cool how you kind of answered a question that's been floating in my mind without me even asking. It's obvious that I'm lost jk lol. I do enjoy your entries and they are always helpful. Your friendship is special to me too :)