In 21st century America, we grow up in a culture that praises our every good. “You can do anything you set your mind to!” is a common motivational motif throughout our lives. We grow to believe that with enough hard work, a few solid opportunities, and time, anything is possible.
But how often do we stop to ponder where all of this “good” even comes from? If human beings are sinful at heart, how are non-Christians leading social justice campaigns and soup kitchens, and being leading philanthropists throughout the world?
The Gift of Common Grace
It is because of something called “common grace.”
Every time a human being — whether or not they’ve been redeemed — does good, it is because of the portion of goodness and grace that God gave to all of creation: common grace. This includes our creative talents and gifts, health, morality, and more. This world could have been a whole lot uglier if God let human beings have their way without any imprint of the Creator. But thankfully, His image still remains, albeit distortedly.
What would happen if we stopped expecting so much from ourselves? What if we saw every act of good coming from a human being as a miracle? What if we realized that the world should have been filled with murderers, thieves, liars, rapists, dictators, and yet is miraculously filled with an overall moral and “good” human race?
A New Way of Seeing
I think seeing humanity in this way would affect how we respond to sin, both in others and ourselves. For example if you were to hear the news about a man’s infidelity to his wife, instead of immediately thinking about the atrocity of that person’s evil, we might turn toward ourselves and think, “I am just as unfaithful to Jesus. Oh how we need a Savior!” And secondly when we find ourselves in sin, instead of disintegrating under the guilt and shame of being so “out of character,” or “not my usual self,” we might simply turn to His grace and remember that Jesus has already dealt with the consequence of sin.
Let me pause here for a moment and make one thing clear. I am not advocating for the line of thinking that justifies sinning as an inevitable part of life that should just be accepted. No. My point is that what often seems like failure in our eyes (“I’ve sinned yet again,”) is not the ultimate failure in God’s eyes.
The truth is this: I sin because I am a sinner. It’s not my acts of sin that make me a sinner. By being of the same flesh and blood as the line of the first Man and Woman, I was already a sinner — long before any crime was committed.
The Enemy wins not when I sin, but when I stop worshipping.
When I sin I am just doing what aligns with my fallen human nature. It grieves and disgusts both the Spirit and me, but there is a Lamb who became sin, for me to become life. Any more acts of sin only remind me of what I once was, and am still being sanctified from. When I find myself surrounded by my iniquity and sin, the natural response should be dropping to my knees in adoration and worship of the Son who triumphed over this very sin!
What the Enemy wants most is for my disgust over myself to drive me to hiding, away from Jesus, away from the Cross, away from the Father, like Adam and Eve did in the first garden. But the grace of God creates in us new hearts of righteousness that enable and help us to turn back to God, trusting that Jesus paid it all. And only in response to the Cross and by the power of the Spirit, can we live lives of freedom and holiness. God’s love and transformative work breed righteous living, not the other way around.
My hope and prayer is that we would become people who turn toward Jesus in times of weakness and sin, letting that moment be a reminder of how sweet the grace of God that cost His Son so much tastes to our parched and sinful hearts.