Remembering Grace (or, Remembering That I’m a Sinner)
Mark 2:17 [Jesus] said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
For much of my life, I knew I was a sinner – in my head. But at heart, I felt like a good person. I wasn’t a rebellious person, and I wasn’t hard for people to get along with. As a people-pleaser, I focused a lot on gaining the approval of others and, somehow, of God.
And I thought I had achieved that approval, both from God and from others. In my extreme pride, I thought I had arrived at a place where God would be pleased with me. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been more mistaken in my life.
I was fourteen years old at the time. I had just started reading my Bible for myself, and I was delighted to see God at work in my life. God pointed out several specific areas in my life where I was living in direct disobedience both to Him and to my parents. He also pointed out areas where I was living for only myself.
I remember days and nights of crying, of confession. I remember pouring my heart out to God – and to my parents. God used this season to strip away my pride and my self-confidence. I knew that the only way I could have victory over my sin was to humble myself before God every day, every hour, sometimes minute to minute.
Healing and growth quickly followed that time of confession. My relationships with God, with my family, and with other believers blossomed into something beautiful and precious. I loved God’s Word, God’s people, God’s fellowship in my life.
And gradually, time passed. Gradually, I grew older. I graduated high school. I went to college. I worked at camp each summer. I experienced growth, more at some times than at others. I graduated college. And now all of a sudden, I’m in my first year of grad school.
But something isn’t right.
Somehow – somehow – I forgot the lesson of grace that God taught me at fourteen.
I was a sinner then, desperately in need of God. And I still am. I needed God’s grace every day. And I still do. I needed to humble myself before God. And I still need to.
Over the last eight years, God’s grace – grace which had seemed so precious to me, so important when I was fourteen – over time it became normal again. Over time it became ordinary. Over time, I didn’t feel like I really needed it anymore.
Jesus said that He came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance. And He still calls me to repentance. Even though I’ve already accepted His grace in salvation, repenting from my sins, He still calls me to repentance from my self-righteousness, my self-sufficiency, my self-confidence.
Jesus didn’t save me and then leave me to go back to any of my sins. He didn’t save me and then leave me to take care of myself. I was so desperately sick, in need of the great Physician. And I need Him more now than perhaps I ever did. I still need Him to be part of my life because, by myself, I am still sick. I am only ever completely whole when I am completely relying on Christ.
God’s grace never took a break from me, even when I thought I was taking a break from it.
God’s grace pursued me when I was a young teenager, learning to seek God and forsake sin for the first time in my life, and God’s grace still pursues me today, teaching me that I never have – and never will – grow out of my need to seek God and forsake sin.
I will always need God. I will always need grace.
I will always need the hand of the great Physician in my life.