If there is one thing in the Christian life that has held me back from fully accomplishing the so-called victorious life that I am supposed to accomplish, it would have to be holiness. I could never fully meet the standards that were set before me by my church. I never tithed. I read my Bible maybe twice a week. I tried to pray only as often as I could. I wore track pants when I should have worn dress pants. I had no problem wearing my hat inside church.

I questioned everything at the pulpit, and always checked up everything that they were saying, when I guess they wanted me to just accept everything they said. I refused to mold myself to church tradition, and so I was labeled a rebel. As I journeyed on in my walk, I came more and more to the realization that I would NEVER meet the church’s standards; I would never be the Christian that they called me to be.

I grew up in a Christian household, but I never had that many rules. My parents, for the most part, left my decisions up to me and trusted that their influence as parents would lead me into making the right ones. I learned the power of grace over rules long before I understood what God meant by His gift of grace. I was taught to live by grace in my daily life, so when my church tried to get me to live by rules, I didn’t transition too smoothly. The problem with a lot of churches is that they preach till they’re blue in the face that we need to live by grace, yet at the same time they try to persuade and convince you to follow hundreds of manmade rules and traditions.

God says we live under grace, and that we no longer live by the law (Romans 6:14). To a lot of people, taking a glimpse at that would push them to believe that you can do whatever you want, and it won’t matter, because the more you mess up, the more grace increases (Romans 5:20). But don’t cop-out using that as an excuse.

Grace is not an excuse; it’s a persuasion. Since I learned to live by grace with my parents, I easily caught on to living by grace with God. Though I was a crappy church kid, when I grew up, things changed. When I understood the gracious nature of my parents and the people around me, my attitude changed. When I was old enough to make decisions that would affect my life, I was led by grace. I made my decisions not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Grace is amazing (hence our most famous hymn). Grace is something that we neither deserve, nor should expect. When we learn and begin to grow in an understanding of the kind of sacrifice that was made so we can live under this grace, it will not come as a surprise to us that we are no longer living under laws and rules, but just living in grace. When you live by grace, you live beyond rules. This is why Paul says to grow in grace. He knows that the more you grow in and understand grace, the higher quality of life you will live.

When you try to live by the law of the Old Testament, or even under any law in the New Testament, you will break it. Living by the law says, “Do not commit adultery.” Jesus takes it further when He says, “If you even look at a woman with lust, you have already committed adultery in your heart.” The law says, “Do not murder.” But Jesus says, “If you hate your brother, you have already committed murder.” Do you see the point here? Grace isn’t harder to live by; it frees you from the impossibility of keeping the law perfectly. When you live by rules, you want to break them, and you will never stop breaking rules. If you live by grace, you desire to live so far beyond the rules that even if you slip, you still haven’t lost the love of God.

Since my parents taught me to understand grace at an early age, and because my relationship with them was based on grace, I have a realistic and natural grasp of what God’s grace is all about. Mind you, I will never fully grasp it. If my parents had put hundreds of rules and standards up for me to live by, I would have fallen short of their love every day. Since they allowed me to live by grace, I make them proud because they see beyond the rules that they set for me. When you live by grace with God, it’s not a matter of making yourself obey His commands to the letter; it’s simply living with the promise that you can’t—and it’s all right.