By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand. (1 Peter 5:12)
God is the ‘God of all Grace’ (1 Peter 5:10), but how hard it is for us to believe that the Lord is gracious. Our natural feelings may be expressed by the servants’ statement ‘I know that thou art an austere [or hard] man’ (Luke 19:21). We need to understand the Grace of God.
Some think that grace implies God’s passing over sin. That is completely wrong – God cannot tolerate sin. If I could, after sinning, patch up my ways and mend myself in order to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The Lord is gracious because I am a sinner: my state is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace can meet my need.
The moment I understand that I am a sinful man or woman, and that the Lord knew the full extent and how hateful my sin was to Him, and that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin, not that my sin is greater than God. The Lord, who laid down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life. His dealings with me are on the principle of grace. How strengthening it is to know, at this very moment, that Jesus is feeling and exercising the same love towards me as He had when on the cross.
For instance, I have a bad temper that I cannot control. I bring it to Jesus as my Friend: virtue goes out of Him and meets my need. My own effort will never be sufficient. Real strength is in the sense of the Lord’s being gracious. The natural man in us will never believe that Christ is the only source of strength and blessing. If my soul is out of communion, I think, ‘I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ’. But He is gracious: the way is to return to Him at once, just as I am, and then humble myself before Him. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If I own myself to be just what I am, I shall find that He shows me nothing but grace. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of myself, as in not thinking of myself at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about.
Faith never thinks about what is in me myself: it looks to Jesus to give rest to my soul. Faith receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed, and what God’s thoughts are about Jesus. As I am occupied with Him,I will be prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around. This will be my strength against the sin and corruption of my own heart too. As I am alone in communion with God, I am able to measure everything according to His grace. Nothing, not even the state of the Church, will shake me. I am entitled to forget myself; I am entitled to forget my sins; I am NOT entitled to forget Jesus.
The moment I get away from the presence of God, I rest on my own thoughts, which can never reach up to those of God about me. If I attempt to know God’s grace outside of His presence, I shall only turn grace into licentiousness.
What God is towards us is LOVE. Our joy and peace are not dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us: this is grace. All the sin and evil that is in us has been put away through Jesus. A single sin is more horrible to God than all the sins in the world are to us. Yet, despite what we are, God is pleased to be towards us in LOVE.
In Romans 7 we find a person, though quickened, whose reasoning centres in himself. It is all “I,” “I,” “I.” He stops short of grace, the simple fact that GOD IS LOVE. I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God’s love. I say, ‘I am unhappy because I am not like what I want to be’. Instead I should be thinking of what God is, rather than what I am. All this looking at myself is really pride, not admitting that I am good for nothing. Till I see this I will never look away from myself to God.
Faith looks towards God, who has revealed Himself in grace. Grace relates to what GOD is, not to what I am, except that the greatness of my sins magnifies grace of God. At the same time, grace brings my soul into communion with God, knowing God and loving Him. Knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification.
We have thought quite long enough about ourselves. Let us now think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good, not evil, long before we even existed, and had any thoughts of own at all. May we see what God’s thoughts of grace about us are, and echo the words of faith in Romans 8:31, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’
Adapted by Sosthenes from J N Darby’s tract of the same name. Similar to, perhaps extracted from, ‘Why do I groan?‘ Collected Writings volume 12 – Evangelical 1, page 186.