And that is the sunny side, where we can sometimes walk along quite nicely. The dark side comes, when by God's grace the outcome of all our plans and good works is a bad outcome, when the things we've believed God for and hoped for in this life do not come to pass. Then we find ourselves in a predicament. Were we hoping for the Kingdom of heaven, or this life? Were we trusting in God or our works? If it is in our works, we will feel that God was unfaithful. He did not keep up His end of the bargain. But, and this is where most of us sinners will find ourselves, what if we failed in our good works? What if we did not do everything right? What if we did not repent of all our mistakes? What if we still sin every day, and not always notice? What about all the sinful thoughts and attitudes that others see in us that we haven't even noticed, and the things we've done as a result and haven't repented of, and never will because we've long since forgotten them? Then all the bad outcome is our fault. We've failed in our end of the bargain and experience the angry frown of God. We must find out how to get back into His good graces. We look for fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and where we lack them we seek to manufacture them ourselves, through hypocrisy. We act like we're loving, or patient, or kind. We feel guilty and try harder. When that doesn't help we feel our guilt even more keenly. We know we must grieve for our sin - but that may not be enough - we must grieve hard - no harder. You've got to be really, really grieved to the core of your being to be forgiven, right? Perfect forgiveness must require perfect repentance, right? Grace comes through repentance, right? Wrong. If you are repentant, it is an evidence that God's grace and favor already rests on you. If your repentance is perfect, it is evidence that you have died and gone to heaven - the only place where anything any of us does will be perfect. To try to earn God's favor through repentance, is not repentance, it is penance. It subverts grace.
Nothing we can do can earn us God's favor. Nothing. Every work we do is nothing but wood, hay or stubble unless it is done in the absolute freedom of the gospel. Every act motivated by slavish fear or guilt will perish. Every ounce of God's favor toward mankind for all of time was purchased by Christ on the cross of Calvary. Every time we try to earn anything from Him we diminish the work of the Cross. And this brings me to my point. To believe that God accepts us purely on the basis of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice is the hardest thing in the world to believe. Because of this we all need to hear the gospel every day - every hour of every day. To that end, I would like to introduce you to the e-mail ministry of Graced Again. "Gracedagain is compiled by Tom Wood, Church Multiplication Ministries, a non-profit, whose mission is starting, strengthening, multiplying grace-centered churches through consults and coaching church planting pastors, leaders and emerging leaders." They send weekly e-mails with gospel quotes like the one below, which I received yesterday:
To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil...goes about seeking to devour us by roaring: 'God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever.' In all these difficulties we have only one support, the . To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot be perceived with the senses... The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil...the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts, 'Abba, Father.' And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God. cries because of our weakness...(and) is sent forth into our hearts...to assure us of the ." Martin Luther, Commentary on GalatiansThis ministry has been a real blessing to me. I know it will be to you as well. You can sign up here: http://www.gracedagain.com
Many thanks to my friend Deb at Philippines Journey who introduced me to this ministry.