There is a great excerpt from my all-time most gifted book, The Ragamuffin Gospel where the author, Brennan Manning, discusses how grace causes us to change that I’d like to share with you.
“Getting honest with ourselves does not make us unacceptable to God. It does not distance us from God, but draws us to Him—as nothing else can—and opens us anew to the flow of grace. While Jesus calls each of us to a more perfect life, we cannot achieve it on our own. To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. It is only through grace that any of us could dare to hope that we could become more like Christ. The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”
Only in our full knowledge of our sinfulness and our need for God’s never-ending grace can we even begin to accept who we are in our natural state. Once we come to terms with who we are, only then can we begin to make changes to ourselves through fellowship with other Christians, prayer, God’s grace and, frankly, effort.
I do not for a second believe that God is tabulating the number of gold stars received or anything close to that. It would run exactly counter to the entire premise of grace. But we cannot change without exerting some form of effort.
Yes, our sins can be washed white as snow and we may have a permanent residence in heaven, but knowing God and accepting His grace should cause us to change – to exert the effort to stumble closer to Him. It matters not how winding or bumpy the road, just that we are inching closer.