An Overview of Growing Up Christian – Part 3

As church kids, we can tend to view ourselves as being pretty good and not having sinned much—at least no really awful sins. Although we would never say it aloud, we are tempted to think God got a pretty good person when he chose us to be part of his kingdom. We tend to erroneously see ourselves as having little sin and as having been forgiven of little sin. This way of thinking leads to a second danger church kids face: a lack of appreciation for the saving and forgiving grace of God.

In Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges defines grace as, “God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.” That is us—you and me, guilty sinners who deserve God’s judgment. But do we really believe that we are guilty and deserve judgment? Our appreciation for the grace of God is directly proportional to our understanding of this simple fact.

Our amazement of our Savior depends primarily upon our understanding of the huge separation between us and God and the great work he accomplished on the cross to bridge this great divide. A key to passionately loving God is in knowing that we have been forgiven of many sins.

Ephesians 2:3-5 says, “…we were by nature objects of wrath. But God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Through Christ, we went from objects of God’s wrath to objects of his love; from death to life; and from eternity in hell to eternity in heaven.

This is not a new message to us church kids; if we have heard it once, we may have heard it a thousand times. The problem arises when we don’t truly believe we need to be saved from very many sins and, therefore, don’t really think we need the gospel. We church kids are dead in our transgressions and are daily forgiven much, even though we aren’t always mindful of it.

Amazement of God flows from a heart that deeply loves God. Jesus spoke about this love in Luke 7:36-50. As Jesus ate with some Pharisees, a sinful woman came into the room. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed Jesus with perfume. The Pharisees stared in shock. They couldn’t believe Jesus would allow this sinful woman to be near him—let alone do these things to him.

Jesus responded by telling a simple and powerful story followed by a probing question.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them loved him more?” (Luke 7:41-42)

The Pharisees correctly answered that the one with the larger debt would love the moneylender more. Jesus then explained that the sinful woman demonstrated such lavish love for him because she realized how much she had been forgiven. Those who realize they have been forgiven much, love much, and those who think they have been forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).

Jesus told this story to challenge the perspective of the Pharisees and to commend the love demonstrated by the woman. At the same moment, he rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees and held up the woman as an example of whole-hearted devotion. Jesus’ words apply just as much today as they did two thousand years ago, and they contain a valuable lesson for those of us who have grown up in Christian homes.

Jesus clearly connects our appreciation of the forgiveness of God with our love for him. When we realize Christ died on the cross for each of our sins, we will love him much. When we understand Jesus experienced the wrath of God in our place, we will love him much. When we realize we have been credited with the righteousness of Christ when nothing in us is worthy, we will love him much. And when we consider God will accept us into heaven for eternity because of this finished work of Jesus Christ, we will love him much.

Jesus also connects our lack of understanding of the forgiveness of God with loving him little. If we fail to see the depth of our sinfulness or we do not think we have much to be forgiven, we will love him little.

Are you amazed at the forgiving and saving grace of God in your life? If you are, don’t ever become dull to it. Christ’s work on the cross is truly amazing. If you are not, seek today to understand your huge debt before a holy God and cultivate a heart that stands amazed.

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