Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
There is something profound about the idea of grace and peace given to God’s children. The idea of having peace with God as a non-theist is why God’s redemptive plan is so important. But that is not what I want to discuss in this post. What about the idea of not feeling peace with God as a follower of Jesus?
This concept became highlighted to me as a youth pastor. Something in me, possibly a prompting of the Spirit, made me analyze my preaching over several weeks. As I did I realized when we would have a time of prayer at the end of service several youth would continually come to down to the alter area and re-dedicate their lives to Jesus just about every week. It seemed like the same 9 or 10 students were praying the “sinners prayer” every week. Seeing this I realized that as a Pastor I must not be clearly preaching the Gospel. So I decided to take a couple of students out for pizza and get to the bottom of what they were feeling.
To my surprise this very topic of “peace” was at the forefront of their thinking. Many of these students struggled in various areas of their lives. When they would fall short they felt such shame that they would consistently feel like they had to get saved all over again. Now you may be thinking that this is normal for young students who are a little immature. To a degree I would agree with you. However, what bothered me was their thinking and actions after they felt guilt guilt and shame. Many of them told me they would pray to God in a way that would make deals with him. For example, “God, I know I sinned I promise I will go to church every Sunday if you will help me”, or “Lord, I will read my Bible everyday if you will do such and such.”
This kind of thinking and action broke my heart. Why? It is a complete misunderstanding of the Gospel. The Gospel is a place of rest and that rest is found in Jesus. Because we are in Him, we have been privileged through Christ to become adopted in God’s family as son’s and daughters. We have peace. This peace is based on the work of Christ and not on our works or works we do because we feel guilt and shame. Guilt and shame is not how God motivates his children. God motivates by love. Guilt and shame are like rust on a car. They are a poisen to the care but not a real thing in and of themselves. If you remove the rust you have a car, but if you remove the car you have nothing. That is how guilt and shame are in contrast with God’s love. Guilt and shame are poisen to God’s love. Remove guilt and shame you have God’s love. Remove God’s love you have nothing.
It is understanding who we are because of God’s love that should motivate our life even in our failures. His love has brought us peace in Christ. In this light we can see repentance as a real gift based on God’s love and not as something we do because we see ourselves as a failure.
When we confuse guilt and shame as something God uses to motivate us towards him it leads to an endless cycle of appeasement. This is the lie the students bought into. They may have felt guilt. However it was derived from sin not the Holy Spirit.
God’s children do NOT need to do deals. They just need to ask forgiveness. When we believe this incorrectly we do deals with God to try to make up for our failures. This may seem innocent enough but when we do things like this we are saying, even subconsciously, that the work that Jesus isn’t suffiecent. We are saying we must make up for what the cross lacked. There is no power in that thinking and ther is no victory in that thinking. However, I have some great news for you. The redemptive work of Jesus was more than sufficient. In fact, it is so powerful it renews us and reshapes us everyday as we journey our lives with God. This is the good news of the gospel and the power of grace.
The good news is that you don’t have to appease God anymore you can rest in his work which has givesus peace. So if you don’t feel peace with him and you keep trying to make up for your wrongs by “doing” something for God. You are going down a fools road. Pause and communion with him and remember what Jesus has done. It is his work, his love, his peace, based on his grace that gives us rest. So stop trying to appease him and instead receive his grace. It’s a grace based on something real. His love which was shown to us (historically) through Jesus. He isn’t mad at you and his desire isn’t to be made at you, but to walk with you in love and forgiveness. So if you make a mistake tell him and let the power of his grace renew your heart and mind in that area. This is just one of the treasures we have in Christ. So when Paul writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” My heart jumps and says “AMEN!”