Grace Beats Regret

I am struck by a phrase in this verse:  that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

It doesn’t say “might be” or “hopefully will be.”  It says that God chose us, before we were ever born, so that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  And why we were chosen to be holy and blameless? To the praise of the glory of His grace.  In other words, God chose us, to make us holy and blameless, so that we would bring attention to [praise] the glory [splendor, magnificence, excellence] of His grace [that unmerited gift, whereby we receive the love and mercy and favor of God rather than His wrath against our sin].

Reading this on the surface, you might assume that if you are not “holy and blameless” then we must not be chosen.  Well, that can’t be true – because none of us are holy and blameless.  Romans 3:23 is clear: For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

Our holiness, our blamelessness – our righteousness – is not of our own doing.  It is an inheritance, a gift, bestowed freely on us in Christ.  In Christ, our sinful state is exchanged for Christ’s righteousness.  This is the essence of the cross.

This idea of being holy and blameless is curious, considering the one who wrote these words.  Paul – by his own admission, was the “foremost of sinners.”  Yet he understood the power of grace … a power that takes a dirty, unworthy sinner who is guilty of the worst, and make him an example that would bring attention to the glory of God!

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.  Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found n Christ Jesus.  It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.  1 Timothy 1:12-16

Paul’s words, these Spirit-inspired truths, bring healing, encouragement and hope for all of us who live with regrets.  We are all guilty of sin.  We all have things in our past [maybe even yesterday!] that cause us heartache – because we love the Savior who redeemed us and we regret that our flesh won the day.

So how do we live?  How do we go forward, proclaiming ourselves to be people who love and serve the Most High God, with the blot of our past sins weighing us down?

We believe what God says … about us, about our sin, and about His own work on the cross.

God says we ARE holy and blameless. The Greek tense of this phrase would be holy and blameless is present tense.  It is a state of being.  The word is einai, and means “to exist, to be, to happen.”  It’s not a “maybe…if we behave ourselves.”  It’s not a “one day when we get to heaven.”  God looks at us through the blood of Christ, and sees us as holy and blameless right now.  (2 Corinthians 5:21 – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.)

God says we are justified (counted as not guilty). Here’s the truth: we sin, so we are guilty, and a penalty must be paid for our sin.  And that penalty HAS been paid – Jesus paid it, and gave us the gift of being justified (no longer held accountable for the sin).  (Romans 3:24,26 – Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. … so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.)

God chose to call us to Himself, knowing ahead of time every sin we would commit. Here’s where our human logic can’t understand the grace of God.  God chose to create us, knowing we would do things that would offend Him, bring Him shame, and grieve His heart.  Not only did He know those things, He already had the plan in place to cover our sin and make us righteous so that we could enjoy Him forever.  J.D. Greear, in his book, The Gospel says it this way (and I’m paraphrasing): Nothing I’ve done in the past can make Him love me less and nothing I can do in the future will make Him love me more.  (Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Ephesians 1:4 – Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.)

There are many more truths about the cross, and redemption, and the powerful grace and love of God that I could list, but I want to leave you with one more thought.  If you’re like me, you don’t really question the love of God.  We accept it by faith, and trust that in Christ, He has brought us into His family, and we will spend eternity with Him.

But sometimes the accuser (our enemy, Satan) will bring back to our thoughts the things we’ve done and whisper how unworthy we are.  He reminds us of our failures.  I believe Paul struggled with these thoughts.  Who was he to be proclaiming the kingdom of God, with his past?

I think this is what he was referring to in his letter to Timothy, a young pastor.  Timothy was serving during a time when the church was under persecution.  He faced physical and spiritual battles every day.  He was leading a group of people who were easily caught up in false doctrine (see 1 Timothy).  Paul himself, was at the end of his life.  He knew the influence he had was coming to an end.  And even after all the years of serving God faithfully, I believe the enemy still reminded him of his unworthiness.

What was his answer?

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality through the gospel for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.  For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:7-12)

What had Paul entrusted to God, that he was confident God was able to guard?  I believe it was the weight of his sinful past.  Every time the enemy confronted him, to attempt to discourage him from proclaiming the gospel, Paul would remind Satan that all of that had been laid down at the foot of the cross.  When he repented of the sin, it rolled off of him, and onto the cross.  And Paul was believing God was faithful enough to take care of it.   He stood in the grace and power of the gospel.

I love Paul’s words – God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Yes, we were sinners – but now saved by grace, and we stand as saints before the God who made this possible.

So how do we live with regrets?

We proclaim boldly who HE is, and what HE has done.

We come confidently to the throne of grace, finding mercy to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)

We walk humbly, gratefully, in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).

If you belong to Christ, remember you are holy and blameless.  Rejoice in it.  Walk in it.  And live your life to the praise of the glory of God.

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