Updated: Apr 17, 2020
There was a time in my life when I really wanted to be good with the YoYo. It was probably about 6th or 7th grade, and there was a period of a few months when all the “cool kids” would spend any spare time between classes and during recess mastering their repertoire of YoYo tricks. This was probably just before the “Hacky Sack” phase and just after the “Tech Deck” revolution. (Sorry, I skipped the Beylades in my adolescent experience) I never put the time into becoming a true YoYo master, but I was still able to dial in a few of the classics such as walk the dog and around the world, and may have even done the elusive tick tock a few times. After a few months, we all moved on to something else and my YoYo was relegated to an obscure drawer where it became little more than a wad of tangled, knotted string.
While it didn’t take long for the toy version of the YoYo to become a thing of the past, sadly there was another YoYo experience that was much more difficult to grow out of. For many of us, the Christian experience is just one series of oscillations between the exhilaration of the MOUNTAIN TOP and the feelings of wretchedness we encounter in THE VALLEYS. There are times when we feel close to God. We feel connected. Then we make a MISTAKE. Maybe it has to do with DISHONESTY and a lack of integrity. Perhaps a FAILURE with SEX and PORNOGRAPHY. Or maybe we HURT a friend when some of the things we’ve said get back to them. Then there’s always ADDICTION. Regardless of what our offense was, the result is the same. Down we plummet into a spiritual valley filled with DARKNESS, GUILT, and SHAME. Here we languish until WE are able to PAINFULLY CLAW our way out, only to repeat the process when temptation arises.
Can you relate? Have you made promises to God that you just can’t keep? Do you struggle with addiction? Are you stuck in the YoYo experience?
Paul did. He spends much of Romans discussing this war against what he calls “the law of sin and death”. Romans 7:15-20 references this with Paul admitting in verse 19, ”For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” He struggled with the ability to control sin in his life. He was familiar with recurring failure, just like the rest of us. The YoYo experience. Yet, just a few verses later, Paul boldly proclaims, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” How do we make sense of this contradiction? How do we become the “NEW CREATION” that he references in 2 Corinthians 5:17?
The answer to the question is related to an ongoing struggle with Paganism. Self-justification, or the need to make a bargain with God, is one of the underlying foundations of every pagan religion. The theologian J.I. Packer states that this concept is “…the faith that has animated pagan religion ever since there was such a thing-namely, the belief that we can repair our own relationship with God by putting God in a position where he cannot say no to us.” We want to earn it. Sure, the grace of God makes forgiveness of my sins possible, but what is my part?
Think about this concept presented by Phillip Yancy in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.
You can’t earn it. Let me say it one more time for all the people in the back. YOU CAN’T EARN IT! There is nothing you can DO to EARN God’s grace. Paul says in Ephesians 2, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Now, here is another hot take that is even more mind blowing. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO UN-EARN GOD’S GRACE. Does that make you uncomfortable? It does me. See, it is only fair that I do my part. But God is not fair when it comes to grace. The bible calls us to “believe in Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and part of this belief is accepting the grace that God is offering you. Accepting the idea that there is nothing you can do to earn His favor. Your salvation is a free gift. So the question is, do you believe, or are you stuck in an exhausting spiritual YoYo experience?
Check back next week for part deux of my grace rant where I’ll look into that whole business about grace and works. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Check out the questions below and sound off. See you next week.
In what ways are you able to relate to the Yo-Yo experience of highs and lows with the Christian Life? Do you feel like you spend more time in the “highs” or the “lows”? Do you ever feel like aren’t good enough to be saved? How does grace work if we sin on purpose? Is it really true that there is nothing you can do to un-earn God’s grace?
What are some of the ways you find yourself trying to earn God’s favor? When the bible says that you must “believe” in Jesus to be saved, what do you think it means?