04 Jul The Grace of God (Part 2): Grace for Ill-Deserving Sinners
One of the first books of the Bible I really enjoyed reading as a new Christian was Proverbs. Yet, as I read it, the theme of pride kept appearing. God hates proud people. Proverbs 6:16–17 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him,” and at the top of the list is “haughty eyes.” Likewise, in Proverbs 8:13 God says, “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Worse still, I read that God humiliates proud people. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” Likewise, Proverbs 16:18 promises, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Growing up, most of us were repeatedly taught that pride was a good thing and not a bad thing. The better we felt we were, the better we would perform in life was the constant mantra. But, apparently, that was Satan’s plan and not God’s.
God created this world in a perfect state, and upon the creation of the man and woman God declared His entire creation “very good.”3 The Old Testament describes this intended state of perfect beauty in all things as “shalom.”4 Yet as we look at our lives and the world in which they are lived, it is readily apparent that something had gone terribly wrong.
The Bible calls this sin. Our sin includes both sins of omission, where we refuse to obey God or do good, and sins of commission, where we do what God has forbidden, which is evil. Our thoughts, words, deeds, and motives are also subject to sin.
The Bible tells the unvarnished truth—before meeting Christ we are totally depraved. Sin has corrupted our mind, so that we do not think God’s thoughts;5 sin has corrupted our will, so that we do not desire God’s desires;6 it has corrupted our emotions, so that we do not feel what God feels;7 it has corrupted our body, so that we do not experience the health that God originally intended for us;8 it has corrupted our relationships with God and people, so that we are separated by sin;9 and sin has corrupted our behavior, which includes pagan worship of created things rather than right worship of our Creator, God.10 To make matters worse, our sinful condition is thoroughly our own doing and in no way the fault of God. This is because God does not take any delight in sin,11 but hates and detests sin12 and hides His face from sinful people.13 Subsequently, all of our sin comes from the very core of our being, or what the Bible calls our “heart.”14
The consequences of our sin are, not surprisingly, put forth in the starkest of terms. As a sinner by nature, we are “evil continually”;15 impure;16 “full of evil and madness”;17 “wicked” and “estranged”;18 going our “own way”;19 “rebellious”;20 among those who have “loved the darkness”;21 a “slave to sin”;22 a child of the devil;23 unrighteous; not understanding; not seeking God; a “stiff-necked” resister of the Holy Spirit;24 turned aside, worthless, not doing good, having a “hard and impenitent heart”;25 without fear of God;26 “hostile to God”;27 spiritually foolish;28 spiritually dead and among the “children of wrath”;29 darkened; alienated; marked by ignorance and hardness of heart; “callous” and given up to perversion, greed, and impurity of every sort;30 among the “enemies of the cross of Christ”;31 “dead”;32 “defiled and unbelieving”;33 under the “power of the evil one”;34 “foolish, disobedient, led astray” and among the “slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”35
Only biblical Christianity can explain both the sin that is in me and the sin that surrounds me, despite all the time, money, and energy the world exerts to remedy it, from soldiers fighting wars on the front line and to counselors bandaging the weary wounded. Therefore, my sin is not the hardest aspect of Christian truth to believe. What I sometimes find hard to believe is that God responds to me with pure grace. I receive grace not despite being undeserving—as one who has not merited grace—but actually as one who is ill-deserving because I began as a sinful rebel at war with God. God would be gracious in doing good for strangers, but God goes even further and is gracious to His enemies.
What sin(s) in your life has God shown the most grace toward?