Although we labor to make ourselves presentable to God, it is His love that makes us acceptable (see yesterday). And yet, acceptable by His love, we are still sinners.
This is a bit of a tricky theology to get into. There are certain tribes of Christianity that center on this idea of sinners, that constantly remind their faithful that they are forever sinners, condemned, and that only by grace have they been saved. When you listen to persons of this tribe talk, they are constantly denigrating themselves, always in some form telling you how unworthy they are, always focusing all of the attention on their fallen shorts, then tacking on a few lines about God's grace and love.
And I don't really advocate that. I can't. If God has seen fit to forgive us, isn't it high time we forgive ourselves? If God has declared that we are redeemed, shouldn't we talk about that redemption? If God looks at us, knowing we are sinners, and sees something so much more, should we continue to live believing so much less?
Yet on the other side of this coin, there are tribes of Christianity who seem to forget that we are sinners at all. God loves you, they say, no matter what. It doesn't matter what you do; it matters Who you know. They focus on verses like John 3:16, which says that God so loved the world, and if God so loved the world, then you should never forget that you are so loved. One of the hallmarks of interacting with persons of these tribes is that when you're troubled by your own sin, your fallenness, something that's not going quite right in your life or something you didn't get quite right, they are quick to push aside your convicted feelings and remind you that God so loves you.
Neither can I really advocate this. How can you ever begin to fathom the unfathomable love of a Savior if you don't know that you need one? Yes, God loves you, but He didn't come down here just because He loves you; He came down here to save you. And if you must be saved, the question is - from what? From being unloved? Hardly. From being rejected? Nope. From life being hard? Not even that. You must be saved from your own turning away, so God has given you something to turn toward. And that something is Him. A spectacle on the Cross that turns your eyes back and keeps them there.
This is a difficult theology to balance, precisely because we cannot fall to either extreme. To do so is to settle for cheap grace.
And grace, if you haven't noticed, is anything but cheap.
I wish I had better answers, that I could articulate how we're supposed to maintain this balance. Or how we're supposed to find it at all.
The first group likes to say, incessantly, that it was our sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. Which is true. The second group insists that it wasn't nails that held Jesus to the Cross, but His love for us. Which is also true. But perhaps what is most true lies in the tension in the middle, pulling on both theologies:
That it was our sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross, but His love for us that kept Him there.
And in this, there is no insistence, there is no incessance. There is simple grace.
Maybe that's it.