Yesterday I talked about grace. The challenge is to believe it. There’s something Jesus said: “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” (John 6:28-29 NIV)
This never made any sense to me. How can ‘believing’ be ‘work’? And how can it be the work God would want us to do? For someone who thought she needed to DO things in order to be ‘good enough’, this was completely counter to my thinking. I had heard all sorts of other messages in church, like praying and reading your Bible and being ‘good’. Believing…that wasn’t on the list (I’m guessing belief was assumed).
But I think I’m beginning to understand what Jesus was talking about. Living the life God desires for us is so much more about what we believe than what we do. What we believe drives our actions. Living that abundant life is hindered when we don’t believe Jesus and we believe things that are not true.
What did Jesus tell us? That God had come to “be with” (i.e., have connection with) his people, with all people (Matthew 1:23). He told us to turn from our darkness (and shame) and come to the Light/God (repent) (John 8:12, Mark 1:15, Luke 1:78-79). He told us that God loves us…so much so that He was sending Jesus to make a way for us to have connection/relationship with Him again (John 3:16). Paul tells us: “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17, NLT [emphasis mine]). He also says: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT [empahsis mine]).
Now this is tricky, because there are lots of people who think they believe. The question is: what are they believing? If what they believe means they experience fear and condemnation (or shame) on a fairly consistent basis then I would suggest they take another look at what they’re believing. There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18) and God is love (1 John 4:8) so fear and shame wouldn’t be what I expect to see from someone who believes Jesus and believes His message of grace.
Believing and accepting grace is not necessarily an easy thing. Shame blinds us to grace. When we are bound by shame, we feel unworthy to come to God, we hide, and we stay bound up in blindness and unhealthy ways of being. This is where fear and condemnation have a field day. We stay hidden and shrink from vulnerability, which makes is difficult for us to understand or experience grace. I know this was true of my life.
For me, my journey towards grace involved taking baby steps of trust with people who I felt truly accepted me. With that slow increase in trust, I was able to ‘hear’ the True things they were saying. I experienced love and belonging. My beliefs started to shift – away from the lies in my head towards the Truth of the message of grace. With each ‘shift’, it became easier to embrace grace (even if it was the tiniest part of grace). And each time I received healing and love through this process, it became that little bit easier to trust and embrace more of grace.
This is where liberation and life happens. When we are able to believe and receive God’s grace, we stop being afraid and we stop hiding. We understand our identity is secure in the love and acceptance of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We can come to Him in our brokenness and He heals us and sets us free. We can be vulnerable. And this process is grounded in what we believe. All the doing in the world (to make ourselves better) will not achieve this. It’s also a life-long process. We will all experience shame throughout our lives. Believing Jesus means while we may have bouts in the darkness, we don’t have to stay there permanently. We can live in His love and light.