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“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” -Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Justice has no room for grace and grace has no room for justice. To live in one excludes the other. In justice you deserve what you receive. Grace, undeserved favor, is the opposite. Grace has NOTHING to do with deserving! Grace is a gift of compassion and provides freedom, peace, and contentment.
Pride and shame are siblings, the offspring of self. Pride gloats in your success; shame despairs in your failure. Both stand against grace. Grace is outside of self. To live in grace is to turn away from self; to accept favor that self can never attain.
Self reliance is manifested in DOING; following the rules, taking the right action, checking off the list. Pride grows when the task is done well; shame when it is not. Pride and shame mature into legalism. Grace is manifested in BEING. The focus shifts to character. Actions are determined by your internal nature; completed solely because “I am what I am”!
The greatest work of legalism is judging. We lavish praise for success and punishment for failure. The greatest work of grace is forgiving. Actions are seen in perspective and healing is offered. Legalism and grace are alike in that they recognize, name, and confront sin. They are different in that legalism responds with condemnation; while grace responds with mercy.
Grace is not blind to your sin. This is the paradox: a sober realization of self is necessary to recognize your need for grace. Acceptance of your flaws is preliminary to grace transforming your character. Pride and shame will not allow such acceptance. They see and despise the flaws. Grace covers the flaws with faith, hope and, love.
The transformation grace produces is not always instant. Self will fight with every once of strength until the final breath. Pride and shame are self’s hardened warriors deceiving you. Their lie is that living in grace allows you to continue in your flaws. Grace does not grant permission for the flaws to remain. Grace acknowledges the war and offers solace. Grace is generous, patient, persistent, and sympathetic.
The transformation grace produces may not take the expected form. Rather than a specific flaw being changed, you may prevail over it. Rather than an ailment being healed, endurance may be perfected. Rather than circumstances being changed, patience may mature. Rather than problems being eliminated, wisdom may be granted. This too can be a battleground. You may become disappointed if grace offers something different than your expectations. If disappointment is perpetuated, you may become resentful of grace.
Living in grace is different in nature from living in self. It will feel odd in the beginning. The most prominent quality of grace is peace. Grace provides a calm assurance that you will be cared for, loved, and protected. Peace is most radiant in the peak of struggle. A belief persists that regardless of circumstance something positive will be gained. This hope is reinforced with the wisdom granted with grace.
Grace transforms lives. It cannot be hidden. It produces an outflow of strength, confidence, and power. This outflow is a quiet, calm, humble steadfastness that permeates all circumstances. The life in grace is not shaken by attack, failure, success, or prosperity. Grace is not shaken even in the face of death. Being outside of this world, grace overcomes this world. Nothing in this world is formidable to grace.
The life of grace cannot be hoarded! After receiving grace, it is extended to others. The more grace is given; the more there is to give. Grace is never exhausted! The more it is shared, the stronger the desire grows. It can be agonizing to see others remain bound in the prison of the old self. Grace never judges their choice. Grace remains engaged, constantly presenting itself. No jubilation compares to freeing another from that prison through the extension of grace. No gratitude compares to being released.
William L. Syrcle is a therapist and coach at Synago, in Macomb, Illinois. He has a Master degree in clinical psychology, is a certified Professional Christian Counselor, is licensed by the State of Illinois, and been in private practice since 2002. He also specializes in business, executive and leadership coaching. Learn more about Synago here.