Grace has always been a difficult thing to grasp. Even before Jesus walked the earth, followers of God were very stubborn and flat out idiotic as to the depths of God’s grace and what it really meant. As we touched on last week, they started to believe that God would grant His grace to the people who upheld His law – the people who basically did the good deeds that God commanded them to.
In our modern day society, we have a general belief going around that if you do good things to others, good things will happen to you. It’s what is taught in the phrase “What goes around comes around,” or even in the simple term, “karma.” Many people believe that no matter how miserable their lives are now, if they continue to do good to others, then whatever future life they may have will be blessed. Essentially, you reap what you sow.
To a certain extent it’s true. Whatever we decide to do with our lives, there are always consequences. If I don’t show up to work, I won’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, I won’t be able to pay rent. If I can’t pay rent, I’ll end up on the streets. All of a sudden it seems like a good idea to show up to work.
What then is grace? It is the act of being given something we do not deserve – reaping something that we did not sow. Why is it important for today’s message? In the second half of Galatians 2, we see a confrontation between Peter and Paul about this very issue: Either sticking to the traditions of old that were very works-driven or to embrace the grace of God for all its ridiculousness.
Peter wanted to stick with the traditions of old, especially when his Jewish friends arrived, even though he understood full well what the grace of God is. This is not at all the first time Peter failed to act according to God’s teaching through Jesus. We see several moments of him running and stumbling through this new life in Christ.
In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus is telling His disciples what He’s about to go through. Peter, being the ever brash guy that he is, boldly tells Jesus, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” How does Jesus respond? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And yet again in Mark 14:29, Peter says He will never fall away from Jesus. But what happens in verses 66-72? Peter denies that he even knew Jesus 3 different times. And even in the story of Jesus walking on water, Peter fails to fully trust in Jesus. He steps out on the water for a while, but quickly begins to sink because he’s looking at the waves and wind and it’s scaring him.
What I have always found interesting about Peter’s story, though, is that no matter what, he’s still following Jesus. Like I said, he tripped and slipped throughout his entire life as a Christian. But the most important part is that he kept on going.
He didn’t quit. He didn’t give up.
What allowed him to keep going? Even though he fell countless times, what compelled him to get back up? It’s exactly what Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” As Paul says repeatedly earlier on (and later in the letter), Christ was only made able to live in and through each of us because of God’s limitless grace. We didn’t do anything to earn God’s favor; He just gave it to us.
My point this week is simple: Keep going – especially when you fall. Why should you keep going? Because one of the most prominent figures in early Christianity was one of Christ’s biggest failures. Time after time after time, Peter dropped the ball. And yet Jesus named Him, “The Rock,” which is what “Peter” means in Greek.
In your walk with Christ, you are going to fail, repeatedly. But such failure is not permanent because all our failures were put to death on the cross of Christ. Whatever power guilt and shame used to have has been rendered powerless by the blood of Christ. This life of faith is not a sprint – not even a competition we must beat everyone else at. It’s a race of endurance. We win because Christ gives us the grace and strength to continue on through our failures.
“Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,” – Proverbs 24:16