When we live by religion, or works-based righteousness, we are never sure when God is pleased with our behavior. We are never certain that we are loved. How do you know when you've been good enough if His acceptance of us is based on our behavior?
The motivating fuels to keep climbing the high mountain are fear, shame, and guilt. This toxic soup produces a spiritual Ebola virus that slowly and painfully kills us. Sadly, religion produces both pride and despair. Pride says, "Look what I've done to earn God's acceptance, love, and blessings." Despair says, "I'm tired of trying to live up to God's standard. I give up! I can't keep the rules."
Pride produces spiritually arrogant people who look down on others who haven't climbed the stairway to heaven as high as they have. Judgmental attitudes and condemnation accompany them the way a nose accompanies a face. Pride also produces people who hide their sins from God and others. When you live a performance-based life, you enter into a false "spiritual identity protection program." The religious person has an image to protect because he wrongly believes that God accepts, loves, and blesses him based on his behavior. If your behavior does not live up to the standard, then God and people will reject you.
Some of the deepest, darkest sin issues I have counseled people through have been with longtime churchgoers. When you don't realize that Jesus is the basis of acceptance before God, you hide or protect your image through deception. If you come clean with your issues, the jig is up and you’re found out as not being perfect. The gospel of grace informs us that Jesus went to the cross fully knowing our issues and imperfections. And on the cross He died for all of our sins – the past ones, the present ones, and the future ones.
I no longer have to hide my sins, because God the Father's acceptance and love for me is based solely and completely on Jesus. I'm in Him. And the more I realize this gospel truth, the less I sin and the more I grow up as a follower of Christ.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve hid when they sinned. Their nakedness was symbolic of their sin being exposed. Immediately after sinning, they covered themselves with fig leaves. This is a symbol of religion. Religion says, "You have sinned! You had better go and cover yourself up so you can be accepted by God." Grace says, "You can't cover up your sin no matter how hard you try. But God, who is good, will cover, forgive, and forget your sin for you as a gift." Check out Genesis 3:21: "And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife" (NLT).
In the garden, religion and grace presented themselves early in human history. Adam chose religion: "I will cover my sin myself." God chose grace: "Children, I will cover your sin as a gift."
This picture of God sacrificing an animal and clothing Adam and Eve with the hide made from that sacrificed animal was a precursor to what Jesus would do for all humanity. Think about Galatians 3:27: "You were baptized into a union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself" (GNT, emphasis added).
Religion says, "Clothe yourself." Grace says, "God will clothe you with His precious Son, Jesus." Religion says, "Hide your sin." Grace says, "God hides us in His Son." "Your real life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3 NLT). If you are a follower of Jesus, your acceptance, God's love for you, and every spiritual blessing you receive are totally, unequivocally, and solely because you are clothed in Jesus.
It's time for us to wake up to grace and the limitless life that awaits.
Derwin Gray appears this Tuesday on LIFE TODAY. Adapted from Limitless Life by Derwin Gray. Copyright ©2013 by Derwin L. Gray. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com. All rights reserved.