Last week, I talked a little about some of the struggles I have felt in leading VCF in light of my own inability to practice grace in the light of the gospel and the need to continually remind myself of my identity in Christ. What we have found in the first four chapters of Romans is our complete dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ, not any of my own efforts.
It’s easy to grasp the idea of grace when it comes to salvation, but then revert to legalism for sanctification. What are some of the subtle signs that you see that we’re reverting to legalism?
The litmus test I’ve always used on whether or not you really grasp grace is what you do when you blow it. If you blow it and you run from the Lord to try to clean yourself up and then come back when you feel worthy, you don’t understand grace or what God has done for you in Christ. But if you blow it and you run to him, that’s an evidence of grace.
Ed Welch says in his book: Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection, “Everybody thinks sanctification looks like strength. Really what it looks like is weakness.” I would add, sometimes it looks like failure.
Sanctification looks like darkness and difficulty and pain and suffering. Show me someone who blows it and runs to the Lord and cries and snots and lays that before the Lord, pleads forgiveness, rests in it and gets up and continues to walk, and I’ll show you someone who understands grace.
You show me someone who blows it, pulls way back for a season until they can either forget about what they’ve done or at least get some kind of control around it, and I’ll show you somebody who doesn’t understand grace. They are their own functional savior—I can clean myself up. I totally get it, and often this is true of me.
That’s why it’s so important when we mess up, we commit to each other not to hide it; and to create environments where people feel safe to be real, vulnerable, transparent and authentic.
Easier said than done, right? But I have found first, I have to model it. I’ve found my weaknesses actually encourage and help people often more than my strengths do. So to stand up and say, “I memorized the Gospel of John” will motivate some people to go, “Oh, I need to do that.” But for a lot of other people, it will be demoralizing.
But if I say, “I really struggle with this,” then people go, “Oh, he struggles with it. Me too!” And so I want to be honest about my own weaknesses. That’s why I feel so strongly that VCF be a church who extends a helping hand physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually. We’re here to help you. Because our understanding is that sanctification looks like weakness, we can practice grace because of the grace God gives us.