Falling From Grace
What does it mean to have the grace of God upon your life? Grace means unmerited or undeserved favor. In other words, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor because it is freely given by Him. So, if we can’t do anything to earn God’s grace, is it possible to lose or fall short of it? Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (KJV)
Notice the verse says, “looking diligently” which means to be on guard or watch carefully. It’s something the writer is warning us about, something we need to watch out for. Here are a few things that can cause us to fall short of God’s grace or favor.
Rejecting the one through whom grace is bestowed. In our society we have many prominent people claiming that although Jesus was a good teacher, there are many paths to God. Oprah Winfrey has been very vocal on this issue. If we agree that Jesus was a good teacher, it would stand to reason that we would also agree that He taught the truth.
Jesus said that no one can come to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). Salvation comes by no other name but His (Acts 4:12). God’s favor is bestowed upon our lives through His grace and that alone (2 Corinthians 8:9).
If we claim to be a Christian, and we don’t believe this foundational principle, we make Jesus out to be a liar and a fraud (1 John 5:10). Christians can’t have it both ways. If you reject Jesus and His teachings you are not a Christian.
Depending on works rather than grace. The Bible makes it clear that we are either saved by works or grace (Romans 11:6). It’s one or the other. Paul said that if we are “seeking to be justified by the law or works then we are severed from Christ and fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).” The blessings of God apply to this as well.
When referring to the Galatians receiving the Holy Spirit, Paul asked if they “received Him by the hearing of faith or by the works of the law, having begun in the Spirit were they now being perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3 and 2:21)?” So, if we desire God’s favor in our lives, we must receive it by faith knowing that we cannot do anything to be worthy of it except to trust in Jesus.
Refusing to exercise faith (Hebrews 3:7-17 and 10:26). As we read both of these passages, and the entire context surrounding them, we see clearly that they are talking about faith. In Chapter three Israel refused to trust God, and the result was fear dominating their lives instead of faith. Throughout the bible faith had to be exercised to received anything from God; whether salvation or a promise of blessing. The word preached has to be mixed with faith to profit the hearers (Hebrews 4:2).
Wrong believing concerning who Jesus is (1 John 2:18-23). There is only one real Jesus who was very God incarnate (Mathew 1:23; John 1:1,14; John 8:58-9 and Exodus 3:14; John 5:18; John 10:3-33; Hebrews 1:8). There is a false Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:3-5) and a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We must know who He really is.
Spiritual unfaithfulness (Hebrews 12:15-17). There are three areas in which we can be spiritually unfaithful:
- We are more concerned with satisfying our flesh than the spirit. The context here refers to Esau who traded his birth right for some stew. He was more concerned with immediate gratification of the flesh than his spiritual birthright. We must set our affection on things above (heavenly or spiritual) and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2).
- Idolatry. Idolatry can also be a major form of unfaithfulness (1 John 5:21). God wants to be number one in our lives (Matthew 6:33). We have to live in the flesh, and God allows us to enjoy things in this life, but He wants to be first in the midst of it all.
- Faith verses flesh (Romans 9:9-13). As we read the passage in Romans, and the story in Genesis, we see that Esau and Jacob are in stark contrast. Jacob was a mamma’s boy and Esau was favored by their father. Esau was a man of the world and as such tried to please his father by the things he did. Jacob was, by definition of his name, a deceiver. As I read Genesis, Jacob did a lot more wrong than Esau. Jacob however, was a child of promise. There is an element of unfaithfulness in attempting to please God in the flesh. We can never please God in the flesh (Romans 8:8). Faith is the only way to please Him (Hebrews 10:38; 11:6).
Giving up in the midst of the race (Hebrews 12:1-3). The only way the devil can defeat us is by causing us to give up. If we don’t give up, God will see us through to a successful conclusion (Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24). No matter how hard it gets or how bad you mess up don’t quit!
The devil will tell you things like, “If God cares for you He wouldn’t be letting these things happen to you” or “How can you think you are saved (a Christian) when you did that or continue doing that?” The devil is a liar. Stand on the fact that God loves you and you are saved by your faith in Jesus. It really doesn’t matter what you have done or what is happening in your life.
Failure to yield to God’s discipline in our lives (Hebrews 12:4-10). God loves us just like our earthly father, but much more so and in the purest of ways. We discipline our children for their good because we want to see them blessed, prosperous and successful. God does the same. He wants to see us blessed beyond measure (Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:17; Hebrews 9:11).
Whenever I discipline my kids I always make sure they understand what they are being disciplined for. If you are going through a rough time, you may be thinking that God is disciplining you and He may be. If it is Him, you can be sure He will let you know what you are doing wrong so you can correct it. He won’t leave you in the dark.
Ingratitude (Hebrews 12:28). Complaining and not being thankful can definitely hinder the favor and blessings of God upon our lives. That is why praise is so important (Psalms 22:3; Psalm 100; Psalm 146:1-2; Acts 13:1-3). What is the opposite of gratitude? Complaining. Paul said, we are to “do everything without complaining or arguing (Philippians 2:14).” For most of us it’s easy to complain. I have struggled with this most of my life. We need to learn to replace negativity with thanksgiving and praise (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Refusing to listen to God (Hebrews 12:25a). We must constantly be listening for God’s voice. He is always speaking; we must simply tune in. He speaks to us so we can walk in the light of His favor and be blessed. When He speaks to us, whether it’s through His Word or the Spirit, we must be willing to exercise faith and do what He is telling us to do. Otherwise, what He’s saying will not benefit us at all (John 7:17; Matthew 25:29).
Bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is a poison that can not only destroy your life, but it can also affect the lives of those around you. It could be something that someone did to you and it torments you until it becomes a root of bitterness. It can also be life in general. There are times when we are simply bitter at life, which keeps us from experiencing the grace and favor of God.
The last few years I’ve experienced a lot of reversals in life. Without realizing it I think bitterness took root in my heart. I wasn’t bitter at anyone in particular but more at life itself. When we are bitter we will often respond, act, or say things we normally wouldn’t. Make no mistake about it, bitterness is a poison that will destroy us and effect those around us as well (Ephesians 4:31-2). We must resist and reject it (James 4:7).
Another version of this article was published on Associated Content as part of a sermon outline series. For the series version with reader’s comments click here.