A few years ago, I was sitting in church the Sunday after Christmas. It had been a busy couple of weeks full of presents, friends and family, and way too much sugar.
I was ready to hear a traditional “New Year, New You” kind of sermon. A message about reviving my prayer life, increasing my Bible study time, and being more generous in the coming year. I desperately needed motivation to be self-controlled, hard working, and a little less impulsive. I wanted to be a better Christian, and I thought surely that’s what God wanted for me too.
However, the sermon that day wasn’t about any of those things. It was a sermon about the Gospel.
It was about Jesus being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying on the cross for my sins, and rising again on the third day.
The preacher talked about how we are no longer slaves to sin, but are free to live out the righteousness of God with the promise of eternal life. But mostly it was a sermon about grace, grace and more grace.
And I’m sorry to say that sitting in the pew that day, I wasn’t too impressed.
I thought the Gospel was just the first step. It was good news for unbelievers, but after 15 years in the Christian life, I was ready for something more.
Sometimes as Christians it’s easy to view our sanctification as a ladder we have to climb. Each new year we start with a list of things we are going to improve. We make commitments, resolutions, and even pick words we want to focus on like “intentional” and “restoree”.
We do this because deep down we know we aren’t everything we are supposed to be. Even after we are born again, we know that we fall short of the glory of God. We see the need for improvement in our lives, and we make commitments to do better and be more like Jesus.
However, the problem with climbing the Christian ladder is that with every step we are getting farther and farther away from the Gospel.
I know because I’ve tried to climb that ladder before. I found myself working so hard to please God that I became bitter and defiant. I would reach for the next rung only to find myself struggling to hang on.
I had been saved by the grace of God, but I was working for my sanctification. Every year I would embrace the new beginning, and I would vow to try harder, do more, and be better all on my own merit. But no matter how “good” I was, it was never good enough for God.
Then one day I slipped. My heart was broken and my strength was gone. I cried out to God, “I can’t do all that you require of me!”
I fell off the ladder and landed in a pool of grace. I plunged into the water and realized for the first time that I was truly free, and I was surrounded by the Gospel.
I am not enough, and I will never be enough.
Jesus is everything and the only thing.
Every spiritual blessing I have in Christ is unmerited and undeserved.
I began to study the scriptures and I found the gospel on every page.
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
“Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” Ephesians 1:7
“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11
I began to see how it was the Gospel that brought sanctification, regeneration, and a new heart and mind in Christ. It was God who would bring to completion the good work he started in me.
I didn’t have to do anything. With Jesus death on the cross, it was already done.
I just have to live in that grace. No more ladders of self-improvement. No more striving to be better. I get up every morning and jump into swimming pool filled with grace.
I remind myself of the Gospel, of my own salvation. When I was baptized, I put to death the sins of the flesh, and I was made alive in Christ. My life is His. I don’t have to improve myself. I just have to let Christ live through me.
It seems so simple, and yet, I am more loving and more patient. I am wiser and more self-controlled. When I live out of grace, I am less judgmental and more forgiving. I am quick to admit my short-comings, but I don’t live in guilt because I’ve been covered by grace.
I hunger for the Word of God, and as it renews my mind, my heart changes also. I desire to do good works, not because I have to, but because it brings me that much closer to Jesus.
And as I approach the new year, I can think of only one resolution, one goal that is worth pursuing. I want more of the Gospel. More Jesus. More grace.
And less of everything else.
My prayer is that everyday this year I will come to know more fully and more completely how good God is, and how much he has done for me.
Will you jump off the ladder and join me?
It’s a new year and a new you, but the same beautiful life-giving gospel of grace
Katherine is a full-time wife and mom who blogs between loads of laundry and dirty dishes. She and her husband Evan have been blessed with three small children and lots of dirty diapers! She enjoys a good card game, cooking real food, and homemade ice cream (with dark chocolate!). You can find Katherine at Proverbs and Pacifiers where she writes about parenting, marriage, babies and most importantly, the Gospel.