Over the course of the last couple of years in which we have preached a growing revelation of Grace, we have bumped heads with a fare share of people who really don’t like to hear the Good News for some reason. Granted God Himself said that Jesus, the cross and the gospel will be a stumbling block, an offense for many people. I always wondered why that is. Why do people get offended by good news? I believe it comes down to an identity crisis.
Many people, especially believers, who hear about grace for the first time react strongly against it because grace presents an identity crisis for them. For years they have been taught they aren’t worthy of God’s love, that they are sinful pitiful beings who need to throw themselves on the mercy of an angry judgmental God who utterly hates them for sinning and is about to punish and destroy them for being so useless. They have been shown what God likes and what He hates. Then they are constantly weighed in accordance to their ability to do what God likes and to refrain from doing what God hates to determine their worthiness of His love. “If you do what God likes, God will like you. If you do things that God hates, God will hate you too. God will love you more if you come to our church, give more than 10% of your hard earned money away and live as a morally upright person in the community.” Religion fed them with a formula of do good to become worthy, do bad and become unworthy and they have found their identity in that balance.
When Grace comes along and says what you do makes no difference to how much God loves you because He loves and favours you above all else, their whole identity structure comes tumbling down. This makes them angry because somewhere deep inside they realize they have been lied to. For years they have found their identity in the product of their constant efforts to appear pleasing to God and man. As long as they felt justified regarding their opinion of God’s opinion regarding them, which to them is determined by their good behaviour outweighing their bad behaviour, they were happy. They have found solace in thinking or believing their efforts are pleasing to God because of a bunch of rules they can keep. Unfortunately this does not constitute a relationship, nor does this in any way resemble Christianity as God intended it. The only thing that pleases God is Faith. Faith in Jesus to be more specific. Faith in your effort and ability to be righteous before Him is not pleasing faith, I don’t care how strongly you believe it is.
Your identity should be found in Jesus, not in your works. You have been saved by grace through faith. Not through your own works. Jesus would not have died for you if you weren’t worthy. He would not have died for you if He didn’t already love you. His love for you is unconditional. That means your effort to be pleasing or worthy of His love is not a condition for His love. No amount of religious good works or pious performance can make you worthy. You are worthy. You are deserving. Full Stop. You just have to read the Bible to see that. It is right there in black and white and sometimes red.
You have to decide whether God loves you or not. Once you have decided that He loves you, since it is abundantly clear from Scripture, you then base your identity in that. John got that. He always referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus loved all the disciples equally, but John found his identity in that. He knew it was important. Once you know Jesus loves you no matter what, you will not try to impress Him with your efforts and abilities, but instead cease from your works and rest in His works. This is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us first. If grace offends you, go check to see where you are trying to make yourself more pleasing or worthy before God and just stop it because you are achieving exactly the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish in the first place.
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
If your identity is found in your works or your efforts, you are under law. I don’t care how much you plead, beg, confess, go to church, pray, do good or soak or tithe. By relying on your ability to make yourself pleasing or worthy, you removed Jesus from the gospel and it is no longer good news. You have set aside the grace of God and for you Christ might have well died in vain.
Gal 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Find your identity in Jesus, in His grace, love and favour that abounds toward you at all times. You are righteous because of His gift, not because of your effort.
Gal 3:2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
You received The Spirit by Faith. You received salvation by faith. You received the Gift of Righteousness by Faith. Not works.
Col 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him
You received by faith, now walk by faith. You didn’t receive by your own effort, so don’t walk by your own effort.