Grace Upon Grace

January 25, 2023

Grace Upon Grace

“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
John 1:16

It was too early in the morning and we were way too close to each other for her to be screaming that way. As she yelled at players and referees and coaches, it made me wonder what her 10 year old child was thinking as he played basketball in that little gym. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to care as she continued to hurl insults and unsolicited commentary about the youth basketball game that was being played in front of us. As the parents and grandparents of the kids on the court crowded together on those tiny bleacher seats, it was all but impossible to ignore her and just focus on watching our kids have fun playing a game.

It wasn’t even halftime before my resentment started to grow, thinking to myself, “she is ruining everyone’s experience”. Resentment inevitably grew into bitterness, “I just wanted to watch my son play basketball without having to deal with this kind of thing”. Finally, bitterness grew into anger, “the nerve of this lady, thinking it’s all about her without a care for the rest of us!” It was all I could do to hold back from turning around and giving her a piece of my mind.

It was about at that point that I started to catch myself or maybe that God’s Spirit quickened my conscience, I don’t know. But thankfully, I resisted that temptation.

Continuing to resist wouldn’t be easy though. By the second half of the game, I had cooled my anger and was working through the bitterness and resentment that was churning in my spirit as she continued with even more fervor. At one point, she even physically got out of the stands to go yell at the scores table about 2 points that they had misallocated. I mean, are you kidding me?!

By the time the final buzzer sounded to end the game, I sprung off of those bleachers, grateful to be free of the tyranny of “that lady” and her behavior. As I did, I thought to myself, “man, I am glad I am not like her” as I basked in the pride of taming my own tongue.

Pesky Hidden Sin

Later that same day, I was at home watching another basketball game, this time on the TV in my living room, featuring college basketball players representing my alma mater against a rival school. As I became more and more emotionally invested in the game, it wasn’t long before—you guessed it—I was yelling at the little digital referees and players and coaches displayed on that screen.

It wasn’t until after the game was over that I settled down enough to realize how similar my behavior was to the behavior that had so angered me earlier in the day. Of course, my first reaction was to rationalize it though, “My behavior wasn’t public, it was in the privacy of my own home…I was yelling at a TV screen, not actual people…At least I didn’t use profanity, my yelling was ‘clean’…”

Once I was quiet enough to listen to God, I was reminded again of a perpetual lesson that I am continuing to learn. Sin hides itself deep in our hearts and just when we think we’ve found it and dealt with it, it comes out of hiding. It might not seem like my behavior during a basketball game on TV was all that sinful. After all, who hasn’t gotten a little too excited watching their favorite sports team? However, this isn’t about rating our sin and one thing I can say with confidence is that my behavior wasn’t Christlike and it wasn’t pleasing to God, so my behavior needed correction.

Another word for this kind of correction in Scripture is repentance. Repentance itself refers to a change based upon recognizing and agreeing with God about a sinful or wrong behavior and then turning away from that sin and turning towards God to walk in a different kind of nature that is pleasing to God.

Repentance is a Gift

Repentance is an intimidating word for most people. It often conjures up in our minds images of God’s anger towards us as we melt away under the weight of our shame and contrition. In this view, it is little more than a form of spiritual punishment that we have to endure so that God will be happy with us again.

At the same time, it seems that the biblical view of repentance is very different from a mere form of spiritual punishment. Here is where the gospel of Jesus makes all the difference. When Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross many things changed for us spiritually. One of those things is that true repentance for a Christian is a gift and treasure. For those of us who are in Christ, we have experienced grace that has saved us from the penalty of our sin and we also experience ongoing grace that saves us from the power of sin in our lives. Repentance is the gateway to that kind of grace worked out in our lives and just like our salvation, repentance is a gift of God’s grace through Jesus. This is grace upon grace.

Here’s a simple example of how this works in our everyday lives,

When we sin in word, in deed, in heart attitude, conviction often comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to help us recognize that sin for what it is, that it is something that is not Christlike, not pleasing to God, something that has caused pain or brokenness around us. We then have a choice once conviction comes. We can agree with God’s Spirit that what we have done is sin and we can confess it as sin. Or, we can chose to ignore the conviction and rationalize our sin, justify our sin, minimize our sin, etc.

If we chose to ignore the sin, it will typically get worse and like a cancerous tumor, it will likely grow until it becomes a habit and then from a habit it can become a full-blown character issue. However, if we confess our sin, which in effect, means to agree with God about it, then we are on our way to finding repentance as a gift of God’s grace. If confession is the beginning of the change, it is repentance that ushers in transformation to our lives, since repentance is the act putting off sin and putting on the righteousness of Jesus.

The Privilege of Repentance

The Apostle Paul writes this to the Ephesians, which I think is an apt description of the act of repentance on our part,

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22–24

Seen in its proper light, repentance is a gracious privilege of God, won for us by Jesus which allows us take off the old self and to put on the new self, characterized by the righteousness of Christ. In Christ, we have the life-giving and freedom-producing privilege of repentance. So that as I repent,

I *get to* take off my resentment and put on Christ’s compassion.

I *get to* take off my bitterness and put on Christ’s joy.

I *get to* take off my anger and put on Christ’s peace.

I *get to* take off my pride and put on Christ’s humility.

I *get to* take off my hatred and put on Christ’s love.

I *get to* take off my sin and put on Christ’s righteousness.

One of the major characteristics of sin is its ability to be deceptive and to hide itself. To hide itself in our pride, in our justifications, in our vanity, in our self-deception. I am thankful for God’s grace in revealing my sin to me on a daily basis and giving me the privilege of exchanging the bondage of my sinful behavior for the freedom of Christ’s righteousness.

We should always remember that as God’s children, our Father doesn’t show us our sin so that he can beat us down in guilt and shame. He shows us our sin out of his kindness (Romans 2:4) so that we can receive repentance as a gift and privilege of Christ’s saving work. So, confess and repent with every chance you get and by God’s gracious work, you’ll experience deeper fellowship with the triune God and see the fruit of an eternally transformed life.