Too Good to be True

Let’s face it. If we are pointing out enemies of grace, particularly those areas where the path is hard from years of tradition and wrong thinking, we don’t have to go any farther than our own minds. I define the flesh as the system we developed to handle life. Perhaps we could broaden that to simply the things we learned and accepted about life from the world, our family, and the devil. I have written extensively about the flesh, but it is worth pointing it out again here.

Most of us learned that life worked a certain way. We were told that hard work and integrity paid off in the long run. We were shown how to manipulate the system to avoid some of both. And we learned that life had a certain “cause and effect” law that had to be acknowledged. If you played the game, you had a chance at winning, or maybe just at staying alive.

We learned that behavior and performance were keys to success. If you didn’t rock the boat and performed well, you would be accepted. If you met the expectations of your parents, teachers, boss, etc, you would succeed, or at least be left alone. Everything was about doing.

And, since that was what we already believed about life and ourselves, we opened ourselves to a religion that taught the same thing. If we were good enough, maybe God would accept us. We would have to play the game and see.

Then along comes this message from God. He says that He loves you just as you are and that you could never change enough to please Him because 1) you are too messed up even to know how to change and 2) He will make whatever changes He wants to see in you. His love isn’t about your performance or behavior. It’s about His love.

He says He will do whatever it takes to get you to Heaven forever; in fact, He has already done it in Jesus. He says that all your sins are already washed away and you can’t keep them even if you want to. He says you are good enough right now to be accepted by Him because He loves you already. No amount of service or sacrifice, obedience or devotion, will make you more acceptable or more loved.

But that message doesn’t fit with what we thought we already knew. The ground around our thinking is already hardened by a system of performance and behavior. We like the message of grace, but it is just too good to be true. So, in our hearts and minds, we resist. We want to believe, but we also want the message of grace to fit with our fleshly ideas.

Remember that sin you would like to forget? Of course you do. When God tells you that He loves you, does that old sin come to your mind? Do you miss the joy of His love because you want so badly for that sin to be gone? God says He doesn’t even remember it.

Maybe that old sin is something you still do. Does that make it even harder to believe that God doesn’t see it? Is it hard to believe that there is no sin on your account before God, no matter what you did this morning? This is the truth about grace that doesn’t fit with the flesh.

“There is a price to pay for doing wrong and there is a reward for doing right.” That has been hammered into us for so long that we believe it without thinking. When God says that Jesus paid the price for your wrong and that no amount of right will earn you the love He has for you, it’s hard to accept.

Accept it anyway. It’s the truth. That’s grace.

Pastor at the Chapel in Drake, CO - third church in 35 years of pastoral ministry.

Director of Grace for the Heart, online teaching and counseling ministry.

Teacher, writer, counselor. Happily married to Alice for 37 years with 8 sons.