But if it (God choosing a remnant to be His) is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:5
People can tell a lot about what’s important to me by how much I talk about it. I have stories I repeat, I know that. Part of it might be aging but most of it is due to a desire to keep talking about what has impacted me the most. These are the defining moments of my life.
For Paul, it was the moment God snatched him from unbelief by an enormous act of grace. A moment before his conversion, he orchestrated the stoning of Stephen. He held the coats of those who needed a free arm to throw the stones but the next minute, he put his face in the dirt of the Damascus road. The one who had offended Jesus was offered outrageous forgiveness and grace.
From that moment on, Paul’s theme was grace. Nearly every reference to the topic of grace in the New Testament is Paul’s reference. A hundred and twenty eight times. He never forgot his sinfulness. But then, he also couldn’t get over God’s graciousness.
Grace and a sense of our unworthiness must go hand in hand. If I ignore either side of the equation, it distorts badly. Grace without unworthiness is entitlement. Unworthiness without grace brings self-condemnation and misery.
It seems to me one side of the equation describes most everyone in the church who experiences some kind of spiritual imbalance. A spiritually ill believer is either self-righteous or self-punishing. My father-in-law, a well- known evangelist now with Jesus, used to say that you can’t get a person saved until you get them lost. Kind of another way of saying that they won’t be attracted to grace until they know they feel unworthy.
As a Christian, I must continue to acknowledge my need of grace. If I’m afraid of my issues, running from any reminder of my own brokenness, I will live in the deception of self-sufficiency and turn my head the other way when God graciously offers me Himself. I will believe that the only thing I needed was salvation and nothing else.
The themes of my life need to be an awareness of my sin and God’s incredible grace. My joy is God’s goodness. My lament is my sin. And oh, how the first outweighs the latter.
You are so gracious to me that I cannot take it in. Exploring your goodness will take me an eternity. Amen