From postcards, t-shirts and lock screens, culture today is telling us to listen to our heart. Go where it leads, do what it tells you to. At first glance, it seems liberating, almost noble and daring. Many have tried to heed this advice. The only problem? Our heart has schizophrenic tendencies.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV)
Did a good job at work? Felt like you’ve been productive and been ‘your best self’ in front of the people you want to impress? Your heart is happy. On the other hand, if you make a mistake, do something idiotic or uncool, your heart is the quickest judge to condemn you as a good-for-nothing failure. At the end of the day, we find ourselves at the mercy of our performance.
Yet it is here that we find grace. Undeserving, unmerited yet freely given to those who would humbly receive it. Grace that says I can try again after I fail; it says I’m not doing this on my own strength and willpower. Grace says no matter what mistakes I have made or how I feel about myself, there is still a God who loves me and wants me to grow in this process. The Creator always has the final say regarding the created.
If I can’t trust my heart to lead me, I need to follow the One greater than my heart.
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.” 1 John 3:20-21 (NKJV)
We don’t ever need to believe our heart. It is so limited, only able to register right and wrong. There is a higher court of appeal, the One who knows all things. The devil wants us to believe there’s no way we can recover. That sense of failure makes us want to walk away from God. Don’t do it!
Believer, there is no such thing as permanent failure if we respond correctly to God’s grace. He wants to heal us from all condemnation. His love for us has nothing to do with our performance. Condemnation points to our deeds; conviction points us to our Saviour!
Something miraculous happens when we have the grace of God. It will transform and reform us. It brings salvation.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14 (NKJV)
Paul wrote this letter to young Titus, charged with establishing the fledging work in Crete. False doctrines were beginning to creep into the church and Paul exhorted Titus to teach sound doctrine (Titus 2). Without proper teaching, we can misuse or abuse the pure gospel of grace.
These verses show us that grace will teach by warning and enabling us. Grace has two aspects: The evidence of grace (saying no to ungodliness and worldly lusts) and the empowerment of grace (to walk soberly, righteously and godly).
How is it possible to respond wrongly to grace?
We can turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (uncontrolled lust).
“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4 (NLT)
Being saved by grace doesn’t mean we can live any way we want to. “Once saved, always saved” is not found in any form in the Bible! We need accountability and the body of Christ to provoke us to good works. Relationships are often catalysts for us to change. We can’t learn forgiveness and patience from a book!
We can fall short of the grace of God because of bitterness.
“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)
We can fail grace if we have pride—unwillingness to surrender and admit we are wrong. Yes, we get hurt and may get angry. However, manage your anger before it manages you. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a choice! Ask for forgiveness. Don’t cover up.
We can take the grace of God for granted.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV)
Grace does not mean we can keep sinning and sinning because ‘grace covers it all’. That’s not the attitude of grace at all! Our relationship with God is precious. Don’t flirt around with sin. True grace is never about doing the minimum, getting as close to the fire without getting burnt. True grace means we want to stay away from anything ungodly because our relationship with God is more important and worth fighting for.
We can receive the grace of God in vain.
“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1 (NKJV)
As partakers of grace, we will want to share it! That’s why the gospel we share is a gospel of grace. We who have received much must also give it to others.
We can insult the grace of God.
“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.” Hebrews 10:26-29 (NLT)
Walk soberly. To deny means to say no to the world in order to say yes to God. If this is true in earthly relationships where a husband chooses his wife to the exclusion of all other women, why should it be any different for our relationship with God?
The grace of God teaches us to look for the blessed hope of God’s coming. Yes, it is certain that our heart may condemn us. Don’t follow your heart. Lead it to the One who is greater.