On Saturday, while putting away my old blood pressure monitor, after letting a relative use it, I thought back to the days when I had high blood pressure and was on high blood pressure medication.
When I was first diagnosed with the illness and put on a low dose of meds, I was devastated; however, I wasn’t motivated enough to change my eating and exercise (well, non-exercise) habits. I did cut back on some things, but the main things I loved (like fast food), I did not. My mentality was, I’d eat whatever I wanted and take my medication on top of it… surely that would help to keep my blood pressure regulated. Yep, I’d intentionally cut myself (i.e., eat wrongly), and quickly throw a band-aid (medication) over it to cover it up.
Well, needless to say, things didn’t work out quite like I’d planned; many days I found myself really sick in bed, or sitting in an emergency room. I thought I could dodge the doctor’s orders (to eat better, exercise, and lose weight), do things my own way, and still get great results. But that wasn’t so.
While looking back over these things last Saturday, and remembering my immature actions at that time, I was reminded of how many in the church attempt to use God’s grace in the same way I did my medication: as a band-aid.
In the Bible, God reveals to us how we, His children, are to live. In Ephesians 5:1, we are told to imitate God. In Galatians 5, we are told to walk by the Spirit, not gratifying fleshly desires (verse 16). In 1 Corinthians 6, God tells us to flee sexual immorality (verse 18). In Ephesians 5:3-6, we are admonished against covetousness, foolish talk, and impurity. In 2 Corinthians 6:17, we are called to separate ourselves from the world… Yet, in spite of what God tells us (over and over), we disobey, we follow our own leading, we walk our own paths… giving ourselves a little “grace” to mess up. Then, when trouble besets us, heavily, we wonder, “What’s wrong?”
What’s wrong is, grace was never meant to be a band-aid for our sin. It was never meant to act as a covering for our deliberate disobedience to God. However, this is a common misconception (an inexcusable misconception) among many in the church. If we were reading our Bibles as we should be, though, we’d know and understand what grace really is, which is shown to us in Titus 2:11-12. There, Paul tells us, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright lives in the present age.”
So, through our reading, we learn that God’s grace enables us to live godly lives. It doesn’t motivate us to live flesh-controlled lives, in accordance with the ways of the world, using it as a cover-up for sin.
Now, understand, this isn’t saying that we’ll never sin, and that we’ll never need God’s grace for our sin. We know that being born-again believers doesn’t mean that we’re sinless, as we’re not yet made perfect. And for those who claim perfection now, 1 John 1:8 says that they deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. However, we, now born again and walking according to the Spirit, won’t sin deliberately as we did before our submission to Christ. When we do sin, however, we can confidently draw near to God’s throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Sisters, we should never give ourselves “too much grace,” as I’ve heard it said from some, and we also should not give ourselves “too little grace,” either. God’s great love, mercy, and grace are not to be taken for granted, and they should also not be shrunken back from when He so freely wants to lavish them on us following our mishaps (and our confession and repentance). Everything God has done, He’s done for an undeserving, obstinate, stiff-necked people. And therefore, instead of running around trying to find ways to wiggle around His truths and commandments, we should be running to His throne of grace in thanks, with gratitude-filled hearts, and with minds to serve and glorify Him only, for the rest of our days.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:12-14 (ESV)