I am so good at convincing myself that this is the last time.
This is the last time that I will engage in this sin. This is the last day I will skip my Quiet time (speaking of, I forgot this morning–I’m a sinner–and still have to do that today). This is the last time I will talk to someone like that. This is the last time I will avoid sharing the Gospel. This is the last time.
It’s an art that we learn from the time we are tiny. As toddlers, our parents tell us that we have to go home to go to bed. We yell out “this is the last time! I promise” and go down the slide even though they told us not to. We justify our missed curfew with “this is the last time. I will leave earlier next time, I promise.”
Eventually, we are telling God, this is the last time. I promise.
We blanket our confession with the promise of next time rather than fixing what is wrong this time. We do it and we do it again and we do it again.
I have a very gracious husband who is going to allow me to use him as an example. For those of you who follow this little project of mine, you know my story. For those of you who don’t, I would love for you to jump into the archives of me and read it. But my man. My man has a sweet, sweet testimony.
He grew up in the church. He knew what was acceptable in “Christendom.” He knew what to say. He knew about sin.
However, in his immaturity, he had a funny view of God’s grace. Though he would never have said this, he thought that since grace covered all, his sin did not matter much. It wouldn’t affect much in the long run.
So he sinned. He lived in sin. He enjoyed the sin. He sought the sin. He “trusted God’s grace” to cover him.
He had a lot of “this is the last time” moments.
The funny thing about my husband’s story is that I have the same one, and so do many of you. The details may be different, but this is how we justify sin. This is how we let our flesh take over our actions. This is how we silence the Spirit. This is not the grace we should be on our knees in worship for. This is how we cheapen God’s grace, how we reduce it to our “get out of hell free card” and not the means by which we commune with the Father.
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But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
(James 4:6-10 ESV)
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Grace when we don’t resist the devil.
I love the way this passage begins. He gives more grace. James is not only speaking out of knowledge; he is speaking out of experience.
If you are not familiar with James’ story, he is the brother of Jesus. Meaning he knew Jesus like none of the disciples knew Him. He grew up sleeping next to Him. He wondered why Jesus never seemed to mess up. He likely longed to be as well-versed in the scriptures so that the world might look away from his brother and to him. He probably hated the way that he got in trouble, but this brother, this brother that annoyed him, was not punished for His wrongdoing–did He even have one to punish? James didn’t buy it. He did not trust Jesus. He knew Him better than anyone. He knew that He didn’t sin, yet He didn’t want to believe in who He said He was.
James was human; therefore, he didn’t resist the devil and he was a sinner. Yet God, in only His mercy, allowed James to eventually see Jesus for who He was. It was after He came off the cross, was placed in the grave, and overcame it. James was given more grace than he could imagine–infinitely more than He deserved.
Listen. The Devil wants nothing more than for us to draw near to him. He wants us to be lured by the world. He wants us to love the temporary. To be more concerned with what we look like rather than who Jesus is. He wants us to walk away from grace. Or worse. To believe that if we prayed a mindless prayer at five years old, we have accepted abounding grace and can do whatever we want.
Paul says it best in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
My friends, we will fail at resisting the devil. We will fall into his traps. But for those of us who have given our lives over to Him, who have His Spirit living within our beings, we have been given the grace to put forth our effort. We can resist the devil. We will fail at times. There is grace to repent. To turn. To hate our sin. To resist going back.
He gives us grace to cleanse our hands, to purify our hearts, and to mourn sin.
The moment we entered the world–the moment we were conceived–we were affected by the throws of sin. Meaning, we are sinners. We have no power to resist it until Jesus. We cannot see it for what it is without His illumination.
Being born is having dirty hands.
Being alive is having an unpure heart.
Sinning without repentance is laughing in the face of transgression.
These things, these qualities are not things we take on when we mess up or live in a pattern of disobedience. They are the qualities we possess. They are the qualities that only Jesus’s blood can cover. This is the epitome of God’s grace:
Isaiah 59:2 reminds us, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
We were sinners beyond recovery. Our birth into sin made us irredeemable by our own means. It doesn’t matter how good or bad of a person we are. It doesn’t matter how much we serve or how many orphans we feed or windows we take in. Our sin separated us permanently from the love of God.
Grace is because Jesus did.
Jesus who had the purest of hands allowed dirty nails to be driven through them. Jesus whose heart is that of God let men stop it for their own satisfaction. He took our punishment. He cleansed His children.
He broke the barrier. He paid the price! And He gave us the only gift we can possibly need in this world: the ability to overcome it.
You see, His grace is His Holy Spirit.
I make this final point with tears in my eyes and a lump welling in my throat: Jesus’s grace is so much more than getting into heaven. It is the superhuman power to overcome our own flesh.
It is the ability to even try to cleanse our hands.
It is the possibility of having a heart that is anything close to pure.
It is looking at sin with such sorrow that turning from it is not a problem at all; it is a necessity.
It was the grace of the Holy Spirit that Austin’s “it’s the last time,” became THE last time. And sister, it is His grace that will pull you out of this pit of sin and let you look back on your last time.
I have chased after sin for most of my life. I have pursued it because of its promises. It promised to make me feel good. It promised to make me look good. It promised me a husband, popularity, success, you name it.
God’s initial grace saved me. It is what makes God look upon me and see His Son despite my dirty flesh. But God’s continued grace allows me to mourn when I sin now. It allows me to hate the sinful flesh that coats the Holy Spirit living within my being.
Jesus, guys. Jesus.
That’s always where I end up at the end of these things. I pray that never changes. He is the beginning and end of everything.
Know this, beloved. Jesus is where grace comes from. It pours out of Him, not because we are good, but because He is better. We lost the privilege of being called good when we sinned. He gives the ability to fight for that back.
So this is my rant about grace.
Grace is my hope. It is my passion. It has taken these dirty rags hung them on a bloody cross. When God looks down on me, when He looks down on my husband, he knows our past. He knows that we have a habit of “this is the last time.”
But He sees His Son instead.
If you don’t know Jesus, there is grace. If you are caught in the stronghold of sin, there is grace. You cannot take it for yourself, no. We were saved by grace alone through faith alone that no one may boast. But we can allow Him to pour it out onto us. We can fall onto our faces and praise Him that this grace is even an option. We can tell the world about this grace.
Let’s all rant about grace. Let’s shout it from the rooftops. Let’s not forget that there is Grace! More grace! He is abounding in grace. He is steadfast in grace. He is unmoving in grace. It is endless because of His blood.
Beloved, let’s not take His grace for granted. Let’s not cheapen it with our sin. Let’s cleanse our hands because we can. Let’s purify our hearts because it’s an option. Let’s fall into Him because He fell down on us. Grace, my friends. More grace.