“The context of grace is weakness”
I heard this phrase in a random clip of a sermon a few weeks back and it’s recently come back to my mind. Mr Preacher was preaching at a well-known Pentecostal ministry in America . One of the criticisms people had levelled at the church was that it had become religious; prioritising tradition over an actual authentic service to God. In other words, so long as you looked the part in your shiny suit or modest dress Sunday morning, your Monday to Friday issues were tucked safely away since they weren’t on display.
The problem with this is obvious; those with overt sins risk being ostracised and condemned, whilst those who look the part often end up being given a platform. And so because you know you’re struggling you hide and put on a mask. This is by no means limited to one church, I think you will find it has been indicative of us all at one point or another. We’ve all chosen religious “devotion” over authenticity somewhere along the line.
When people think of religion today in a secular context, they probably think the following: bible-basher, judgemental churchgoer, homophobic, “holier than thou” amongst other names. However, within scripture, religion has a completely different meaning. Religion, the one that pleases God, is characterised by looking after the vulnerable especially when the world teaches to look after yourself first. Unfortunately, the vulnerable have often been hurt by the very people who ought to have been a place of refuge for them, and so what often materialises from these situations is a life out of control or life enshrouded by pretence.
the vulnerable have often been hurt by the very people who ought to have been a place of refuge for them
It’s no surprise then that people end up living so much lower than their created value and purpose. Instead of being restored they end up being rejected. What religious tradition often then does is dismisses one’s experience and gives you a prescriptive, dogmatic way to change or risk being castaway. Banished. Forgotten. So then the message of grace in this environment almost becomes so much more alien, almost a like a foreign language.
“having a form of Godliness but denying its power” 2 Timothy 3:5a
Often times the scripture is used to advocate for the preaching of the gospel with power and demonstration (i.e. miracles, signs and wonders). But God showed me that the power is not just to demonstrate Him, but to BE like Him in truth, because sometimes our godly acts are actually void of godliness; they’re performance driven rather than person driven whereas authentic godliness is based solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
sometimes our godly acts are actually void of godliness; they’re performance driven rather than person driven
If you read the previous verses in the chapter you would see the character traits of the people having a form of godliness e.g. unthankful, unloving, and proud. If you focus so much on the external (having the look of a good, godly person) then you will never have the power to actually be the good, godly person. And in doing so people will not want to know and ultimately surrender to the God you claim to represent – no matter your godly acts.
Let’s go back to the first statement made by Mr Preacher.
“The context for grace is weakness”
I have struggled extremely this year in ways many may know but in ways a lot of other people won’t know. My whole identity has been under constant assault from a variety of different weapons. Weapons of self-destruction. If the weapons of our warfare as believers are mighty for pulling down strongholds, then one of the enemy’s most successful tactics is to deploy our own weapons against us. Instead of using the Word to build myself up, I began to use it to tear me down. And the more I tried, the more I felt I failed.
one of the enemy’s most successful tactics is to deploy our own weapons against us
I realised that I had been religious. I had tried so hard to change. I’ve called people, opened up (very very slowly) and then given myself prescriptive lists to try and overcome things. None of it has worked. I thought I knew what grace meant. I could tell you what it meant in Greek and the scriptures it comes up in, but I was leaning on my own finite strength to get me out of a pit.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Corinthians 12:9
To us, weakness is not attractive. It never has been (perhaps it’s why most men try to portray themselves as strong – and why I’m still single haha), but the Holy Spirit has told me the opposite; weakness is attractive. It’s attractive to the power of God.
Let’s look at Jesus as our example.
Philippians 2 talks about the humility of Jesus. His obedience to the Father was a decision made based upon his mind governed by the thoughts of the Father concerning Him – that he was indeed the very expression of God. Many of us think that humility is trying not to think highly of ourselves but rather, it’s about thinking of ourselves less.
Jesus, the highest of all, thought highly of himself because the Father thought highly of Him and so no other opinion mattered – not even his own as a man. Humility is therefore submitting to God’s thoughts about us, causing us to think less of ourselves and more about how dependent we are on Him for everything.
Here’s some closing statements that might help you accept your weakness as an opportunity to draw nearer to God, take the mask off and expose your true self to Him:
1. God is not surprised.
Often times when I’ve been in cycles of sin (especially after “repenting” the night before) I’ve felt that God is shocked. That this one is too much for God. That God wasn’t expecting me to fail…again. This one simple truth has helped me – God is the Beginning and the End (Rev 21:6) and with Him there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). He knows you and me from the end and has plans to bring us there with Him for all eternity.
2. Grace is not surplus.
With the religious mind-set I had, I thought grace was only there to initially save me and then cover my excess sins, the times when I mess up etc. In other words, I could do things myself and grace would get me over the line. But grace, the extension of God’s mercy and loving-kindness, is an everyday necessity. As we humble ourselves we begin to see more and more of our need for God. Hebrews 4:16 reads: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. Our time of need is every moment of every single day.
3. God is not scared.
When you expose yourself to God He isn’t going to run away. Some of us have been vulnerable to people before and have been neglected because of it. We then, understandably, adopt this attitude with God. The truth is that He has been running towards you, even when you were far off, rebellious and religious. When we take off the mask, because of God’s love, you are “precious and honoured in His sight” (Isaiah 43:4).
If you want to change in whatever way, it does not come from a place of relying on your own strength – it comes from the grace of God. It also doesn’t come from a place of masking your feelings and struggles. Who are you trying to fool? God can’t give strength to a person who thinks they’re strong and God can’t give grace to a mannequin. Be you.
So if you are struggling in any particular place in your life, you’re not alone. There are a lot of us. But you’re at the perfect place to receive power from God to be the person He sees you to be. The person He values so much and has a specific plan and purpose for.