The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” – these words teach us that when God saves us He does not do so in a half-hearted manner. He does not take us to heaven to shame us for eternity about what lousy sinners we are. He covers us with the righteousness of Christ so that our sinful past is completely obliterated, and He adopts us into His family so that we reconciled to Him, and He transforms us into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ, so that we are different in our character.

His grace super abounds over our sin.

Yesterday we examined the issue of God’s anger toward sinful humanity. But in Christ Jesus His anger is turned away and now we are objects of His favor and blessing. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT).

I was in a Bible study several years ago where one of the men there kept hammering on this matter of our sinfulness. It was clear that he really thought that we ought to go around shaming people about how bad they were. He was so insistent on this issue that he went too far in this area. I finally said that the way he was describing God and God’s grace is that when we get to heaven God will say, “You lousy sinner, I should have sent you to hell, but for some reason I have decided not to, so welcome to heaven. I hope you have a terrible eternity thinking all the time about how you don’t deserve any of this.”

If that is what God says to repentant sinners, then heaven will be a terrible experience. But the Bible teaches us otherwise, that God assures us of His love and of our acceptance in Christ. Though we have failed, He lifts us up in love and assures us of His faithfulness. We are now overwhelmed with how greatly He has forgiven us and restored us to Himself.

Calvin described this teaching like this: “that while sin is overflowing, [grace] pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” The impact is that we are completely assured of God’s love and acceptance. Even the pain of shame is removed and all tears are wiped from our eyes, even tears of shame (Rev. 21:4). Calvin added that Christ is “sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed.”

Grace is not only the receiving of forgiveness, but also the receiving of the assurance of forgiveness. Grace is more than just not being punished. It is the “super-abounding” entrance into an entirely different frame of mind – one in which we love God and are confident of His love for us. There is the basis for new sense of self-respect, one that is divinely bestowed. If God loves us so greatly, then, on that basis alone, we should respect ourselves. His redemption is all encompassing, saving us that we might know Him, that He might reveal His character in us and through us, and that we might be filled with joy and peace.

Is it easy to love God’ asks an old author. ‘It is easy,’ he replies, ‘to those who do it.’ … [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible. (C.S. Lewis)

I heard a Christian author and speaker once say that what he thought the human heart truly longs for is Someone to whom we can be truly grateful. This is the miracle of God’s super-abounding grace.

This is why, by the way, the down-playing of our sinfulness is so dangerous to our spiritual health, in that it tries to resolve our feelings on this issue of forgiveness merely through human logic, and not through the power of God. But those who rejoice in their salvation, who are confident in their acceptance in Christ, possess this assurance through the divine power of God, and not through faulty human logic.

In fact, I am convinced that there is no logic that can explain God’s choice to redeem us. He has chosen to do so for His own purposes, out of His own heart of love, and true love always defies logic.

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