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It is easy to assume that people have already heard about God's grace through the churches. But on closer inspection, it appears that the churches themselves do not believe the gospel they preach.

The facts are fairly simple: Nobody is perfect, and we all find it easier to be bad than to be good. Even our 'goodness' usually leads to pride, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. God really wants us to be good; but he sees that we cannot change in our own strength.

So, to impress on us the seriousness of sin and the depths of his love, he sent his Son, Jesus, to live a life of perfect love, then to suffer a cruel death. His death became the payment for all sins of the world: past, present, and future!

God still wants us to be good, but he wants us to act out of love and not out of fear. You have been forgiven for all the wrongs you ever have or ever will commit. That is how much God loves you.

This grace is freely given to everyone... regardless of religious affiliation or level of sinfulness. The only thing that limits it is your willingness to believe it.

But be careful that you are not confusing belief in God with belief in a loophole. The grace of God is for those who really want to do what is right, but who realise that they fall far short of this. When you really believe that God is so loving, you will respond in love and obedience. (See Smile, God Loves You!)

The reason we say the churches do not believe this, is because they continue to restrict God's grace.

They say it is only given to people who perform some religious ritual, or who subscribe to the correct theology. The ritual may be circumcision, baptism, or saying a prescribed prayer. And the theology ultimately includes wilful disobedience to Jesus.

And that's only the start. They put new disciplines and taboos onto people... rules that have little or nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus... health rules, rules about church attendance, etc. etc.

We too say that God expects to see a change in the way we live when we realise that he loves us. But the change should be a natural response to his love (not a desperate attempt to prove our righteousness), and it should be in accordance with God's requirements and not the requirements of a religion.

Don't let religious people make you feel condemned; just believe that you have been put right with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus. The more you believe it, the more you will just naturally want to know more about Jesus, and to obey him. It will change your life. The more you believe that God loves you, the more you will believe that the disciplines of Christ's teachings are good news too.

You don't have to say a prayer, join a church, or even call yourself a Christian to earn God's forgiveness. It's a simple fact that you just have to believe to receive.

If you like, you can say 'Thank you' to God for this new freedom. But even that isn't necessary. Amazing, isn't it!

(See also The Grace Myth in "Mess of Myths", and The Ultimate Source.)

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