The topic of grace is one of great, if not greatest, importance in the Gospel. It is by the grace of God that we are saved by faith–it is by faith that God’s saving grace embraces us and overwhelms our lives. But it would be foolish to simply state that the issue of grace, simply because it is fundamental to the Gospel, is one to be easily embraced and accepted. Grace is hard to accept, mostly because it requires for the Christian to give up so much of who we are and the elements that we see ourselves entitled to.
This month our church has started a new series called “Unpack Your Bags.” And yes, the overarching theme is the aspect of giving up our baggage to God. As saints, we have been “justified by His grace as a gift,” therefore, whatever baggage we carry we us throughout our life is immediately dropped off the moment we received God’s precious gift for us.
Our pastor’s sermon this past Sunday ended with the following statements:
- I have baggage.
- I cannot work my way out of it.
- I believe and I receive (the gift of grace which not only saves us but transforms our lives through the righteousness of Jesus).
As part of our daily devotional that goes along with the series, I have been reading the Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul. Reading through the second chapter, I realized that God had already begun to highlight some of the baggage that I have been carrying around for a long time.
Romans chapter 2, verse 1 states: “Therefore, anyone of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge do the same things.” The initial chapters of Romans are tough to get through. They go after our heart, the little dark corners of it that we don’t want to shed light on. We refused the light, not because we don’t want to know what is hiding there, but because we know exactly what is hiding there–our baggage.
My whole life I have lived by standards and rules. When younger, I used to play baseball, and my life outside of school was guided by a few simples rules: “three strikes and you are out, three outs to an inning, always avoid getting stuck in the outfield, be a loyal baseball team fan, etc, etc.” Even after I had given up baseball, in high school, I still held myself to standards of merit and accomplishment such as GPAs, number of AP classes I was taking, grades, SAT scores, etc. The problem with constantly living a life that find meaning in merit and standards is that it’s easy to become pretty judgmental of others who fall short of your standards.
When you become judgmental, anger follows right behind. One day you wake up and you realize that you are a very angry and judgmental guy in his twenties and that you actually need a lot more of God than you though you did.
I thought, and sometimes I still think, that a lot of my judgment and anger is still justified. I like to tell myself that I know better and that if i am pissed off about something, I am probably right to be pissed off about it. I don’t like being told that I am wrong and when it happens I am not a happy guy.
But this isn’t right. This isn’t the person Jesus wants me to be. As a son of God I know better and by God’s grace I am able to live in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, a freedom arrived at by God’s unlimited grace.
I am reminded of the lines in Psalm 32:
“How happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
How happy is the man the LORD does not charge with sin,
and in whose spirit is no deceit!”
I have been very angry. I have been very angry for a long time. I think I am still angry about a lot of things. But I shouldn’t be angry. There is no point, no need, and nothing to gain from what is building up inside of me.
I pray that God continues to work in me and continues to transform me more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.