The Grace of Discipleship

Something I have come to know more profoundly with time is just how gracious our God is. The longer I live, the more I realize that “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8) Moses first declares this. The psalmists repeat his words. And so will I.

As disciples of Jesus, we have the incredible privilege of being transformed into who God has created us to be – to be like Jesus. Just like the Hebrew people, I do not always behave perfectly. I have ways of speaking and acting that don’t reflect the kingdom of God. In many cases I walk in ignorance to these things until the Holy Spirit reveals it to me.

God is both gracious to expose where we have not discovered a life of freedom and gracious to forgive our many sins as He draws near to us in love. In this grace we may know the freedom of living life with him.

One of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, describes this kind of grace as costly.

“It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

I have found, the older you get, the more aware of your ignorance you become. It is good we have a God who is so gracious in our ignorance. But as we are brought into new revelation, we must embrace the life and goodness offered to us. We cannot stay in sin once we are aware of it. When our sin is exposed, repentance must be our response. This is only possible because our God is so gracious to forgive us our sins and restore us to righteousness.

Repentance is a word that, for many, carries baggage. For others it is a foreign word. Repentance translated actually means to turn, or return. It is the act of turning away from sin and turning towards what is good. It is choosing to walk away from the sin that marked our lives and turn towards living with the new life God has given us.

Grace is what allows us to repent. It exposes what we need to turn from and gives us the ability to see and walk towards what is good and holy. It is by his grace that he makes us clean, calls us sons and daughters, and invites us to live new lives of freedom with him.

It is interesting that the moment our sin is exposed, we often feel shame. This isn’t the moment God becomes aware of the sin. He knew well before we became aware of it. In this moment, however,God is graciously offering us freedom. To grab hold of this gift, we must let go of what we held onto before. This feels costly but is so good because we can find freedom in the pure, good things God has in store for us. He does not get angry with us because of what he sees. Instead, he waits until a moment of grace where he can show us where we have not yet turned our lives fully over to him.

The way God deals with us is amazing! He extends grace in the areas we don’t think we deserve it. In the areas we try to hide, God wants to take away the sin and the shame. Psalm 103:12 goes on to say, “He has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West.” Only God can do this. We can hide from what we have done, but when we turn from our sin, and confess it to God, we are truly free. And free to go sin no more. This is the gracious and compassionate God we serve. Instead of us hiding the spreading disease, he cleans out the infected area, leaving no remnants of disease.

Discipleship hinges on this grace. As disciples we are daily made more and more into the image of the one we follow. The grace of God allows us and pushes us to be more like Jesus as we walk through our daily life in the presence of God.

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