God’s grace isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card

Everybody screws up. It’s just part of life. And when you screw up, you should do what you can to make amends. You should pay what you owe. You should take responsibility for your actions, and often that means facing up to the consequences of your choice.

Maybe you have to pay a fine or fee. Maybe you have to do community service. Maybe it’s something like losing privileges at work or even at home. Either way, it takes a good deal of humility to accept punishment or correction after you’ve done something wrong. It’s a lot easier to play the role of a victim, but if you choose that route, you’ll never learn what you need to learn.

Either way, don’t be surprised when consequences come your way after you make a choice. Good or bad, every action causes a reaction, but unlike physics, consequences are rarely equal or opposite of your original choice. If you make a bad choice, you’ll always face bad consequences, and usually they’ll be on a much larger scale.

So what about grace? If we’re saved and we follow Jesus, doesn’t that mean we’re in the clear? Doesn’t that mean we don’t have to face the consequences for our actions?

3BBC051F8BToday’s verses are Romans 6:14-16.

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 

Christ-followers, we get this whole grace vs. consequences concept all turned around somehow. When Christ saved us from our sins, He freed us from our eternal death sentence in hell. That’s grace. That’s 100% right. If you trust that the price for your soul is paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross alone, you’re saved. Absolutely.

But what happens if you take something that doesn’t belong to you? What happens if you lie or cheat or gossip? Do you think you’ll get away with it? Or when you get caught (because you will get caught), do you think people will just let it go? Do you actually think you won’t have to face some kind of consequence for the bad choices you make?

Because of God’s grace, we won’t face hell if we belong to Christ. But if we choose to sin, we will have to face the results of our choices. Like sowing and reaping. Cause and effect. Action and reaction. It’s a natural law.

We blunder through life making foolish decisions without asking God what’s right. We run over people. We run into people. We hurt others without thinking. We selfishly chase our own ambitions and ignore God’s warnings. We do it our way because our way is easier, faster, more fun. And we end up doing things God says we shouldn’t do. And then we’re shocked when God expects us to take responsibility. We accuse Him of abandonment. We shake our fist at heaven and demand to know why He’s treating us this way.

Friends, God’s grace isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card. We still have a responsibility to live a life that honors Christ. And, no, there’s nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love, but God loves us enough to not let us act in ways that will ultimately lead to our own destruction.

But God is so good. Even in the midst of our own messes, God is still with us. He’ll step in and give us strength to face our consequences. He’ll give us wisdom when we need it, patience when we need it, peace when we ask for it. But that’s not grace. That’s mercy.

Are you facing consequences today because you made a wrong choice? Or because someone in your life made a wrong choice? Don’t be a victim. Maybe you are innocent in all of it, but take the opportunity to get humble before God anyway. Accept responsibility. Own up to it. And ask God to help you face the consequences of your actions with faith.

He has never turned anyone away who came to Him truly seeking. He won’t stop now.

Your world won’t end when God says no

Think back to the time when you were a child. Do you remember a time when you wanted something? Not just wanted. Desperately needed it. Were convinced your life would end without it. Maybe it was a new doll. Maybe it was a specific pair of tennis shoes. Maybe it was a second helping of Cheerios.

And your authority figure, be it mom or dad or grandparent, said the word every child hates: No.

Oh, the despair! The inhumanity! Mom won’t buy me the new Magic Potty Baby! Life as I know it is over!

You’d think that’s what a kid believes if you’ve ever seen a kid react to the word No. As grownups, we look at that and laugh. Admit it. When a kid pitches a fit over something silly, it’s funny–at least it is to me.

No, I don’t make a habit of walking around laughing at crying children. I’m uncompassionate, but even I’m not that bad. It’s funny because it’s not a big deal. It’s not anything worth getting upset about, but the kid sees it as the end of the world.

Ever wonder if that’s how God feels about us sometimes?

tantrum-729-620x349Today’s verses are Job 42:2-5.

“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.”

Job 42 is the last chapter of one of the most difficult books of the Bible for me. It’s a difficult book because basically the conclusion is that God is God and we aren’t–and God has the right to do whatever He wants whenever He wants. He is God. He is justified. He is the only One worthy.

I believe that, but, boy, when you like getting your own way, it’s hard to swallow some days. But in those moments where you don’t get your way, think about a parent and a child.

In a normal, healthy relationship, a parent doesn’t withhold good things from a child out of malice. Parents like to make their children happy. Parents like to give their children things that please them. But is everything that pleases a child good for them?

Children love candy, but they shouldn’t have candy all the time. It’s not good for them. Maybe candy makes them happy, but too much of it will make them sick. It’s not a difficult concept for an adult to grasp, but it might be too much for a child. All the kid needs to understand is that mommy or daddy said no, and it’s for the best.

We wonder why children can’t be okay with that, but are we okay when God’s response is the same?

We all want what we want. You want that job. You want that girlfriend or boyfriend. You want that car. God says no, and we have a meltdown.

I had that experience this week. God obviously intended me to go to jury duty, but I didn’t want to. I had other plans this week, and if I didn’t make them happen, it was going to slow everything else down. In my mind, it was potentially catastrophic.

Oh, and I can get huffy with the best of them. Why me, God? There are hundreds of other people in Reno County who could do this? Why does it have to be me?

Grownup temper tantrum. Right there. Didn’t do me any good, and I went to jury duty and learned some things that I needed to know anyway. God knew that would happen. He knew it was best for me, even if I thought it was a waste of time.

Let’s take it a step further. God says you should save sex for marriage. God says abortion is wrong. God says homosexuality is wrong. And what do we do? That’s right. We adults have grownup temper tantrums and storm off.

If God won’t give us our way, we’ll go someplace where we can do what we want. That’s our thinking, isn’t it? But don’t you see the similarities between that type of behavior and a child denied a second helping of Cheerios before dinner?

We all need to come to the same place Job was at–me especially. We need to wrap our brains around the fact that God is God, and He doesn’t need our permission or approval to act or to delay. And just because He leads us into an uncomfortable or inconvenience circumstance doesn’t mean He’s left us behind. And it doesn’t mean He’s not in control either.

You’re not a child anymore. You don’t want to be treated like a child, so stop acting like one. When life doesn’t go your way, don’t throw a temper tantrum. Face it head on, believing that God knows best (He does, by the way), and one day you’ll understand.

Think about it this way. That thing God’s telling you that you can’t have? Maybe you think it’s the end of your world, but God knows it isn’t.