Have you ever felt like Patti Smith that “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”? Is there anything harder to accept than grace?
Grace is the idea that we are accepted by God just as we are when He comes to us. Grasping this is very, very important.
Let’s look at John 17:1-26,
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Notice the progression from glorification of the Son and the Father (through the son’s substitutionary death and resurrection)(vv.1-5) to the setting apart of the 11 disciples for the task ahead (vv.6-19) to the salvation and unity of all followers of Jesus (vv.20-26). It all begins with the grace of the cross.
If followers of Jesus don’t accept grace then there is no progression. We simply continue to live false, inauthentic lives of crushing legalism at best.
Even the Apostle Paul had difficulty in accepting this idea.
Paul was orignally named Saul and was zealous for enforcing the law in order to try and get God to bless Israel with material and military success. Attempts to manipulate or control God are the worst forms of “religion” and Saul was very religious.
This all changed on the Damascus Road when the risen King Jesus appeared to Saul and took him as His own despite his great sins against God.
We all have the same struggle. We like “religion.” We like control and we also have a hard time believing that God could accept us without us doing something.
We may hear “grace” preached and verbally affirm it but we don’t truly let it sink into our innermost being. As Fred Craddock once said, “The longest journey a person can take is the journey from the head to the heart and in between is the Damascus Road.”
May we all continually keep the cross before us so that we may accept that before the beginning of time God saw us and all the evil we would do and still loved us so much that he committed to bleeding for that love.
May we accept that we are accepted so that Jesus’ prayer may truly be answered in us.