Religion Without Grace is Poisonous

Two men both sinned, in very similar ways, with a very similar effect. You might say even oddly similar. Except for the rest of their stories could not be more different. Why?

Because one of them completely missed out on the grace of God.

The Poison of Bitterness

God gives us a critical warning in Hebrews 12:15,

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The word translated “misses” could also be translated as “fails to receive” or “fails to obtain” or “fails to experience.”

Not long ago, I wrote a book called Grace Is Greater. My purpose in writing it, my prayer, was that it would help people experience the grace of God.

The warning, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” is followed by a warning of the consequence. When grace is missed, a bitter root begins to grow. In Hebrew culture, any poisonous plant would be called a “bitter” plant.

The author of Hebrews uses “bitter root” as a metaphor to make it clear that when grace gets missed, things become toxic.

  • Religion without grace is poisonous.
  • A relationship without grace is poisonous.
  • A church without grace is poisonous.
  • A heart without grace is poisonous.

When grace gets missed, the poison of bitterness, anger, guilt, and shame will become too much to keep buried and will eventually destroy a soul.

Grace is Greater Banner for Church and Bible Study Resources by Kyle Idleman and City on a Hill Studio

Regrets, Remorse, and Repentance

Grace has the power to redeem all of your regrets.

The night before Jesus was crucified he was betrayed by Judas. Judas might have been able to prevent what happened to Jesus, but he didn’t. Instead, driven by self-interest, he sold Jesus out.

The night before Jesus was crucified, he was also betrayed by Peter. Peter might have been able to prevent what happened to Jesus, but he didn’t. Instead, driven by self-interest, he sold Jesus out.

Judas and Peter both sinned against Jesus and sold him out. They both had deep regrets and were filled with remorse. But that’s when their stories diverge. They each dealt with their remorse in very different ways.

Judas tried to make things right, returning the 30 pieces of silver he had received for betraying Jesus. But, he realized he couldn’t undo what he had done. His remorse led him to shame. Shame led to bitterness and Judas eventually hung himself. Missing grace completely destroyed his soul.

Peter, like Judas, was also filled with regret, but his remorse led him to repentance. Repentance is a turning of one’s life. It’s a turning towards God and makes a person an open vessel that God can pour his grace into.

The Bible says it this way in 2 Corinthians 7:10,

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.”

Peter repented and grace came running.

Peter went back to his old life of fishing, but right in the middle of it, Jesus went to see him. He told Peter that he didn’t have to be held prisoner by his regrets. Jesus still had great plans for Peter’s life despite his mistakes. Grace has the power to redeem all of your regrets.

Cleaning out my Closet

One of the most amazing things about grace is that it doesn’t just save, it also transforms. Grace changes us in a way fear and guilt can’t.

I showed signs of change, but I was never really transformed. In my heart I was still a messy closet person.

When my wife and I were first married, she discovered a little secret that no one else knew. She discovered I have a messy closet. See, my wife is a very neat person. She likes an orderly and neat house. For years it drove her nuts that my closet was a disaster. Her objective was to change me into a person who keeps a clean closet.

First, she tried guilt. She reminded me of how much she was doing around the house. Did she really have to ask me to keep a clean closet? After enough guilt trips, I usually ended up cleaning out my closet. But, the change never lasted very long. Eventually, my closet became, once again, a mess.

My wife also tried fear and made many loving threats. If I wasn’t going to clean the closet or put my dirty clothes in the hamper, she wouldn’t wash my clothes (she underestimated the male species willingness to wear dirty clothes).

Still, after a while, I needed clean clothes that didn’t smell, so I would clean my closet. But my closet eventually became a disaster area, again.

This cycle went on for over a decade. I showed signs of change, but I was never really transformed. In my heart, I was still a messy closet person. Then my wife took a different approach. She started cleaning my closet for me. This was no small task. She even organized my closet to make things easier to put away.

She didn’t make a big deal of it. She wasn’t being a martyr and she didn’t try to make me feel guilty. She just decided that she loved me and cleaned out my closet for me. But something happened.

I started keeping my closet clean on my own. I never made a conscious decision to clean out my closet. I just found myself wanting it to be cleaner. It was my wife’s love and grace that led me to want to change.

The Power to Transform

Here’s the bottom line. Fear and guilt may cause you to go home and clean out your closet, but grace transforms.

That’s what Peter learned. On the beach that day, his life collided with the most powerful force in the universe, the unconditional love of God. God’s grace saved him but it did more than that. It transformed Peter’s heart.

Sin leads to remorse. But when remorse leads to repentance, God’s grace comes running. It will save and redeem us. We will be forever transformed.

Has your sin led you to remorse? Has your remorse led you to repentance? I’m not just talking about that one time years ago. I’m talking about your sin from a couple of hours ago, and the sin from a couple of days ago, too.

Don’t miss out on the grace of God. And, see to it that no one else misses grace either. Leave a comment and share your thoughts with me below.

Real Stories You Can Relate To

Grace is Greater Study BannerThe Grace is Greater Video Series uses real stories to lead you to an understanding of grace that is bigger than your mistakes, your disappointments, your desire for revenge, and your seemingly impossible situations. Through four incredible testimonies, Kyle Idleman will remind you that no sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform your heart and rewrite your story. Learn More Now!

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