I’m a broken person. I fall short of God’s Holy standard on a daily basis and that’s the definition of sin. I make mistakes. Like Paul described in Romans 7, I often find myself doing the thing I don’t want to do and not doing the thing I want to do. That’s why I’m ending this week of thanks with Grace. Gods’ Grace.

This post is all about my Savior and my faith. If that isn’t your kind of reading, check out one of the other posts from this series-

  • Perspective – Why looking back at past challenges can make current ones seem, well, not that big.
  • Relationships – I am where I am in large part because of the people who have put time into my life. Relationships matter.
  • Self Employment – I made the decision to try it this year, and I’m glad I did. I think you can make that same decision.
  • Community – The SQL Server community is an amazing community of technologists that gets stuff done.

What is Grace and Why be Thankful?

Some have turned the word grace into an acronym – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – and I like it. That sums grace up quite well, I think. Another definition that works is, Unmerited Favor.  These drive at the same point – Grace is a gift. Grace is a gift from God. Grace is a gift from God that we don’t deserve. Grace is a gift of God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, that we don’t deserve. But he still offers it.

I never realized all this before I started talking to Christians. I had my own notions of Christianity before. I thought Christians were mean, self-righteous people who worked at good works to earn favor with God. I thought they were all hypocrites. I wasn’t sure what I believed about the eternal state of my soul but I certainly felt that I hadn’t done anything that bad. I hadn’t killed anyone, I helped other people, I shared. I figured I’d be fine and didn’t need to turn into one of them.

It wasn’t until I started a Bible study with a Pastor who was trying to answer all of my objections to Christianity that I realized that the Christianity I saw on TV or even in the way some faiths try to live it out wasn’t what the Bible said at all. Condensed way down

God is perfect. God is Holy. God is Righteous. God is Truth. Our sin separates us from that type of being. We can’t ever enter into His presence in a state of sin – nor would we ever want to. If you think of God’s standard as a “heavenly yardstick” with holiness at the full yard, we barely measure a quarter of an inch with our “good” or with our  attempts at “righteousness”. God’s standard is Himself – Romans 3:23 describes this standard – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” One lie is enough. One lustful look is enough. One selfish, pride-filled moment is enough. One moment of greed is enough. You get the point. We daily fall short of the glory of God. Whether you are Christopher Hitchens, Mike Walsh, Billy Graham or your dear grandmother this holds true.

So where does that leave us? Condemned in our sins – heading towards the just punishment for those sins – an eternity apart from Christ (Romans 6:23a – For the wages of sin is death). In fact it isn’t even a punishment only, it is what we want. If we don’t want to chase after God in this life, if we don’t want to love Him then why would He force us into His presence forever? Whether we want to admit it or not (and I didn’t for the longest time) – our sin has a price. Our sin fixes a gulf between us and God.

But Grace created a bridge. God’s grace provided a path – the only path – to salvation. Out of a motivation of Love (John 3:16), God sent Christ to take our place. The only One who could legally pay the price of sin – for He was man – and the only One who could pay the price for all that ever have or will live – for He was God. This Christ came to earth, as history and secular scholars agree, and took on our punishment on that cross. He laid down His life, but more – he faced the punishment of our sin on that cross. His fellowship with His Father was broken, He bore the full weight of our sin. Romans 5:6-10, one of my favorite passages in the Bible, describes this act:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10 NASB – emphasis mine)

That’s grace. Grace is a gift. It is a gift offered to all people in all times but having a gift offered doesn’t mean it’s ours. If we need a lifesaving blood transfusion and someone is willing to offer it to us – that isn’t enough to save our life. We have to accept that gift and apply it to our lives. We have to receive the blood. We have to open ourselves to it. God’s grace –  God’s unmerited favor – is the same. We have to accept it. We have to receive it and believe it. At that moment we get to see the joy in the second part of Romans 6:23 – It started with “For the wages of sin sin is death”  but I thank God that it doesn’t end there. Instead it ends “But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus” That’s grace. I’m thankful for Grace. I’m thankful for God entering history to make a difference for me. I’m thankful that 10 years ago I was convicted of where I was on that yardstick and realized that my “good acts” mattered not for eternity in light of all the ways I fall short. I’m thankful for all the people along that path.

To this day, I still hold that this is a decision I would have NEVER MADE on my own. I didn’t want it, I didn’t think I needed it and I thought that I was smarter than “those” Christians. I was relying on me and thought the Bible to be foolish (The Bible even says it is foolishness to those who are perishing, as I was! – 1 Cor 1:18). God, through His Grace hasn’t left me in that state. I have banked my eternity on His grace and after ten years of answered prayers, walking with Him, Bible study, apologetics study, research, etc. I can say with confidence that my faith is well founded. That the grace it is built on is real.

Not Holier Than Thou

As I see the Christians I spend time with – the committed, Bible believing, Grace reliant Christians – I see that the perceptions I had of holier than thou attitudes were not typical of Christians at all. The perception of people working hard at being better than everyone else was not Christianity! I’ll even say that those churches that rely on works for salvation are not founded on Biblical principles. Salvation is a gift of grace. That means that I’m not any better or worse than Billy Graham. That means that I don’t deserve this grace any more or less than Ron Bronski (His story is an interesting one). You see these Christians that I started getting to know are all people, just like me. They have hurts. They have pains. They mess up and still make mistakes after accepting Christ but they are still different. Their hearts are burdened for Jesus. Their hearts ache when they mess up, they have a love for others and a spirit of giving that puts the United Way to shame.  They don’t judge, because they realize that they are the same. They don’t judge because they know they, too, need grace. I’m telling you, you haven’t seen love like the love you see when a group of Christians comes around another battling sin or battling something personal and perhaps even embarrassing. The outpouring of love isn’t natural, it isn’t something that the world normally resorts to. It is the result of that Grace that they’ve received. I am so thankful for the loving church I go to. The compassionate believers I worship our Creator with. Thankful for the love they show new believers, visitors and even believers who fall down. We are called to be Christ to people and the Christians who work at this instead of seeing their mission as condemning and distancing actually make a difference in lives every day. I’m thankful for that.

A Community

Last, but not least, I’m thankful for the #PassPrayers group and discussion list. I’m thankful that Christians are part of one body – Christ’s body. That we are united by something that lasts for eternity. Wherever I go, when I meet a Christian – there is an instant friendship, there is a closeness that I can’t describe. I got to witness it first hand at this years SQLPASS and saw the impact the #PassPrayers group had. Brothers and sisters from around the world gathered together to share prayer requests, to share burdens, to Worship our God in song and thanksgiving. It was great. It was actually the highlight of the entire conference. There were deep hurts shared openly at prayer request time. There were unashamed, unembarrassed voices lifted loudly to bring praise to God in public while we sang along with Rob Farley and his guitar. Even now, the #PassPrayers e-mail group is active. Sharing encouragements, stories, prayer requests and looking to have more meetings across the country. I am so incredibly thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected, for the hearts that are willing to share with others, for the hearts that pray for others. I’m thankful for God’s grace that allows me to be a member of the body of Christ.

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