Welcome GraceBreak Cycles, Embrace Grace
The memories play on repeat. The shame weighs heavy. How can it be? There is this grace that pours down like sweet rain. Will I dance in it or will I run from it? Will I see that it’s running into grace that wipes shame away or will I let shame whisper it’s lies to me?
If anyone had reason to feel shame it was Paul. Here was a man who persecuted Christ’s church. His hands were covered with blood and righteously he justified his actions. But then Christ intervened. In order for Paul to see, he had to be made blind. And in his physical blindness, God set him free from his heart blindness.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:12-14
But instead of letting shame stop his witness, he used his past to bring glory to God. Paul didn’t try to pretend it away by never making references to it. He knew exactly what he was before grace rained down on him.
He called himself vile names: persecutor, insolent opponent, and blasphemer.
Do you call yourself names? Do you call yourself cheater, abuser, failure, or not enough?
Stop trying to convince yourself you’re not those things. You are. But you’re also redeemed. Shame keeps you locked into your past, but Christ in his grace and mercy came to set you free from shame. Don’t pretend you didn’t need Christ. Use what you were to point others to Jesus.
You once loved nothing more than to share the latest juiciest bit of news? Christ set you free. Talk about him. Talk about how he changed your words and showed you how to build others up. Share your struggles.
There’s no shame in having struggles. It’s the hiding of them that causes shame.
You took a knife to your own skin because you couldn’t bear the internal pain anymore? Christ set you free. He gave you hope. Share that hope with others. Your soul’s enemy plays on your shame to keep you from sharing your hope.
It’s because you recognized that you sin that you realized you need Jesus. Jesus came to save the lost. It’s okay to own your lostness, and it’s okay to talk about what you once were. Let God redeem your past. You can say you were a slanderer and gossip, but that Christ set you free. It’s okay to say that you despaired so deeply that you cut yourself, but that Christ became your hope.
Your sin and Christ’s grace collide to create this most beautiful expression of life. But it doesn’t stop there. It becomes this dance of remembering your past while embracing your present identity in Jesus.
That’s what makes your testimony powerful.
Jesus road into Jerusalem ready to conquer your sin and shame. Take a few moments to ponder what you would be without Christ.
Listen to this song and let the words become your own heart’s cry.
Then stretch your arms wide (for real, stretch them, it’s okay) and say, “Holy God, here I am. Vile. Wretched. Selfish. Take my sin and shame. Pour your grace on me.”
Dance in grace’s rain. Let it wash your shame away.
How many times have you gotten up and within fifteen minutes wanted to crawl back to bed? Or you just wondered why you keep pushing forward and onward and ahead? Last week, I wondered “why” and my why’s took me down dreary paths. I moped and questioned God and his leading. For two days I alternated between demanding God do something and pouting that he hasn’t.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
These verses from Thessalonians pack a whole lotta hope tucked in a challenging call. I tend to skim over the secret ingredient that makes the challenge doable, but let’s first take a look at what Paul is telling us to do.
Be worthy of God’s calling.
Be resolved for good.
Do work in faith.
These three challenges address our heart, our choices, and our actions. In order to be worthy of God’s calling we must have our hearts cleansed of unrighteousness, which means that we basically need to get rid of slander, gossip, hate, and murderous thoughts, and anything else that pulls towards unrighteousness.
Our minds, will, and emotions must be resolved for good. This requires developing self-awareness. Where are you at in your thoughts? I tend towards speaking poorly to myself and about myself, which trickles down into what I think about others. Resolve your mind for good. When you choose good things to pursue that benefit others and yourself, you demonstrate a will resolved for good. Bringing your emotions to God, and letting him administer grace to you is how you resolve your emotions for good.
We often don’t see the outcome of our work. And by work, I don’t mean your day to day job where you exchange your time and effort for a paycheck. The work I’m referring to is your work of kindness and service. It takes faith to serve someone else without expectations placed on them. To act like you’re trusting God when you don’t see any evidence that proves that you should trust Him is faith at work.
These verses from 1 Thessalonians contain a secret ingredient that makes the three challenges possible. It is God who works in you to be worthy of God’s calling, to resolve to do good, and to work in faith. It’s God’s grace and power that enables you to leave behind your sinful habits and rise up to be a beautiful testimony of God’s amazing grace in your life.
It’s God who works in you to hope in him when all is dark.
God works in you to build your faith as you step out in faith and serve your neighbor.
Expect maturity to be a winding road and not the direct interstate. Enjoy the journey of surrendering your weaknesses so that he can be strong in you. It is his grace that works change in your life. Rest in that truth and know without a shadow of doubt that God has you close to his heart even on the days that you wonder what the point is to this Christian life.
And there is a point. It’s to point others to the grace and lordship of Jesus Christ. Then you get to experience God’s glory flowing in you and through you so that other’s may see God alive and current and present for our lives.
May God work in you to make you worthy of his calling, to resolve to do good and work in faith. May God make his power and glory known. You are a mighty force in his kingdom. Turn to him, rely on him, abide in him and turn your weaknesses over to him.
It is God’s power who works in you to make you worthy of his call, fulfill your resolve for good and every action done in faith.
Pray a prayer of faith to ask God to work in you in order to shine his glory to those around you.
Rely on God and not your own strength. Own your weakness and then exchange it for his strength. You’ll see his glory rise up within you.
Have you heard the phrase, “What’s the catch?” or “If something is too good to be true, then it probably is?” For example, commercials. If anything brings out the skeptic in me, it’s commercials. Nothing is as it seems. But listen long enough and pretty soon, we’ve ordered that amazing product. Only we find out it’s not so amazing because the grill that’s “smokeless” just actually “smokes less.” It’s incidences like this that grow skepticism.
Being a skeptic is not necessarily a bad thing, it keeps us from being gullible and being taken advantage of by miscreants. But God is not a miscreant. He is the king of the world, the great creator, and deeply interested in my heart. And in yours.
He made you for relationship with him. But the pesky thing called sin stands in the way of knowing him. We can know about him, but to truly know him, we must experience him through his grace.
But, we lean towards performance and the unwillingness to receive anything for free. For example, someone gives us a compliment so we feel obligated to give one in return. Someone surprises us with a birthday gift, and we feel the need to return the kindness when their birthday rolls around. Pretty soon giving is tied to obligation and worth is tied to what we can do.
If we can wrap our heads around the idea that God, while we were wretched, hell-bound sinners, loved us enough to save us, then we must let go of the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back,” mentality. God loved you while you hated him. God loved you while you hated yourself. He looked into the future and saw a beautiful son or daughter distraught by life’s struggles and he whispered, “Come to me.”
His love for you doesn’t change once you love him back, but it does enable you to live for him. We can’t save ourselves. We can try, but then we lose the depth of grace in our lives.
I know what I am. I know what I once was. Do you?
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-8
God saves you. He takes your dead heart and makes you alive. He pours grace into your life so that you will walk in the ways he has for you.
Going to church, reading your bible, being in community with other believers is vital to your health as a follower of Christ. But they won’t save you. They won’t prove to God that you’re worth his time and attention. Your faithful heart that receives his grace is what he’s looking for. He’ll take care of the rest.
Open your heart to him and receive him.
When has performance replaced grace in your life?
Would you tell me in the comments about a time you’ve exchanged performance for grace in your life?