Tag Archives: grace

By the grace of God

Romans 3:23-24  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Some ask how a loving God could allow anyone to go to hell.  Could this be the wrong question though?  A better question is how a just God could allow any of us to go to heaven.  Even at our best, we still fail to live up to God’s standard for “good”.  Our very best attempts at righteousness are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  This is true of every one of us.  The question then is not how God can send some of us to hell but how He can allow even one of us to enter into fellowship with Him.

Two words come to mind: love and grace.  God is all-knowing.  It was not a surprise to Him that man would fall short of the plan.  But even in spite of this, God created a way.  Through His Son we can know Him.  By His grace we have been delivered.  Only someone who is full of love could even conceive of forgiving His enemies and allowing them a place that only friends deserve.

God does not send people to hell, we’re all headed there on our own from birth.  Our loving God provides a way out, a way to Him.  We can never earn this.  It’s by grace alone.

 

Falling from grace

Galatians 5:1-6 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

What does it mean to “fall from grace”?  We have this impression in our minds that when someone commits a serious sin or gets found out for some secret sin, that all of a sudden grace is gone and the person is left to the wolves, unable to be saved.  But when that person is already saved, when that person has already been forgiven for every sin they’ll ever commit…how can they “fall from grace?”  This is contradictory to the gospel.

I was reading a book earlier today called Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I highly recommend reading it), and one part in particular struck me.  It struck me because I had never thought of things in the terms of the author, but they were no less true.  He pointed out the passage I’ve quoted up above and caused the reader to look at the part where Paul tells the Galatians that some have fallen from grace.  Notice he doesn’t say that they fell from grace because of some heinous sin.  He says they fell from grace because they accepted legalism as a way to salvation.  Legalism is the enemy of grace.  It is literally the WORST enemy of grace.

For those of us who have been redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, those of us who have saved by grace through faith, we have been set free.  That freedom means we’re not under legalism anymore.  We’re not under the yolk of slavery that legalism brings.  We’re free to obey the law, not oppressed by it.  So when we fail and miss a step, either intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t mean that Jesus’ grace doesn’t still cover us.  His grace is sufficient for all our sins, for all time.  No sin can separate us from Him once we’ve already been justified and found not guilty.  He already paid the price for our sin, so we can’t just fall away from His grace because we did something wrong.  No, we can only fall from grace in one way.  If we don’t trust in Him alone for that justification.

When we begin to think that it’s Jesus plus some other act or ritual that gets us to God, we’re not accepting grace, we’re trying to win God’s favor through our actions.  That’s just not the way things work.  He forgives us in one way and it’s through Jesus.  When Christ died, the holy, sinless Son of God took on the sin of the whole world and bore the punishment for us all.  In exchange, when we believe in Him for our salvation, we gain His righteousness, the perfect standing before God that only someone who has lived a perfect life can every receive.  Because He already won the victory, we don’t have to worry about losing His grace.

God’s grace is powerful.  It’s so powerful that once we’ve received it, we’re set free in a way that nothing else could achieve.  His grace is enough.  We don’t have to add to it.  We’re not only saved by His grace, He continually works on us through His grace (sanctification) and ultimately brings us to Himself through grace.  We can depend on that, we don’t need to depend on ourselves to earn standing with God.

Grace turns lives upside down

1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace

Grace isn’t often a word that’s used in popular society today. When we say grace, we might be talking about a ballerina and how she has the ability to dance with great finesse. That’s not what grace means in the Bible, though. It’s simply being given what we don’t deserve. We receive God’s grace when He forgives us, even though we don’t deserve it.  We show grace to others when we treat them in a way other than what’s expected.

In our world, grace is always a surprise. We are hardwired for reciprocity and punishment; revenge is an utterly instinctual mode of thinking and living. So when someone withholds judgment, especially when it is deserved, we are astonished.

We’re mixed up. We think that showing people grace means they’re going to take advantage of us. And I could admit that probably would be the case if everyone was going around demonstrating grace to everyone who did wrong. But the fact of the matter is that almost no one truly demonstrates grace in our society. When everything is about an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, grace is radical and it turns people upside down.

What if instead of trying to get back at people, we just showed them God’s love? The world would be flipped on its head. People don’t expect grace.

“BUT,” you say, “You don’t know what people have done to wrong me!!”  I understand. We’ve all seen our share of hurt from other people. But no one has done anything to you that’s beyond what you’re capable of doing to another person. Maybe you wouldn’t do the specific thing they did to hurt you, but you’re quite capable of doing something of the same severity to them or someone else. How often have you sinned against God and how much have you been forgiven?

We are all recipients of God’s grace. How can we not take that gift and pass it along? Just try it and see the power of grace.

We owe it to each other to forgive

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

If I asked you why Jesus had to die on the cross you would likely mention forgiveness. It’s true, the only way we can obtain God’s forgiveness is through a relationships with Jesus Christ. He paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future. But still we hold on to grudges against the people that have caused us harm.

How can we accept the forgiveness offered to us for every single bad things we’ve ever done and will ever do without being willing to show the same grace to people who do us wrong? Haven’t we done worse to God and yet been granted a pardon?

How arrogant we are when we hold onto the grace of God for ourselves and don’t pass it along to others. May we have eyes to see how wrong it is for us to do such a thing, how much it goes against God’s will for us. Who do you need to forgive right now? Have they really done something so much worse to you than you have done to the Creator who not only forgives you but does so through the sacrifice of His own Son? We owe it to each other to forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us.

God’s people watch their mouths

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

One of the most powerful parts of the human body is really not that big. The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). We can make someone’s day or we can ruin their day. We can glorify God or we can bring disgrace to Him with the way we speak.

It’s God’s intention that His people would speak life to others, but especially to other believers. The message we send the world with the way we treat others is loud and long-lasting. If we treat each other badly, it doesn’t communicate grace to a world so desperately in need of it. In contrast, when we encourage and build up others, everyone around us can see the grace of God working out in our lives.

Encouraging words are beneficial to the whole body of God in the same way that ugly words hurt the whole body. Our words can either be the poison that leads to a slow death or the medicine that brings healing. If we’re after unity in the family of God, we have to choose our words wisely. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us.

May we all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

Grace is a great gift

Ephesians 4:7-8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

Of all the gifts given to us as children of God, there’s nothing more incredible than the gift of God himself. He extended to us, in the form of Jesus Christ, a relationship with Him. Nothing we could ask for could be as great as this.

Grace has been offered, though not all will reach out and receive it. But for those who do, the experience of reconciliation with God, of His mercy by not pouring out His wrath on us (which we deserved), and His grace that led Jesus to the cross in our place, cannot be matched by any other thing in this world.

If you’re the recipient of God’s grace, you know peace. You know what love really is, you have felt the release from bondage that once held you. You know how it feels to live under no condemnation and no more slavery to sin. If you’ve known God’s grace, you know eternal life and you know you’ll never die.

This wonderful gift came with a price. Jesus Christ willingly laid down His own life on that cross in your place and mine so that we might know the grace of God. According to His gift of His own life was God’s grace measured out. The abundance of grace shows the abundance of love that led Jesus to the cross. What an amazing gift.

Grace to the least of all the saints

Ephesians 3:7-13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

We’ve all been given a ministry and the Lord has equipped us specifically for the role He’s given us. What’s your ministry? If you’re not sure, take an inventory of your circumstances, talents, abilities, resources, and even what burdens you.

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church with his own specific burden. No one else quite cared the way Paul did about certain people or certain issues they faced. He had his own ministry that was no one else’s. You and I also have to live out our own calling, not one that belongs to someone else.

Just when you may object to the idea that you are a minister of any sort, look at Paul as an example. He not only calls himself the least of all the saints, but if you know anything about his history, you know he’s not exactly who one might have expected to be used in such a huge way to see people converted for Christ. If Paul’s the least of all the saints, the chief of sinners in his own eyes, how can you be any worse? You’ve received no less grace than Paul. Isn’t it time you had “boldness and access with confidence through [y]our faith in him?”

Romans: No condemnation in Christ

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 Every single one of us has sinned.  We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection.  We’re tainted from birth.  That’s the truth.  If it were the end of the truth, it would be a very sad existence that we lead.  But, thankfully, there’s more to it.

Yes, we’re sinful.  Yes, we’re unable to live up to a holy God’s standards and we’re headed toward death and destruction as a result.  But there’s a hero to this story.  There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us.  We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.

But why do so many of us still live like we’re under that condemnation?  Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, piling on tons of guilt that isn’t ours to bear.  Worse yet, some of us do so in the name of God, thinking it’s actually Him that’s given us this sentence to be carried out.  But the Bible is clear, there is no more condemnation for us if we’re in Christ.  We’re free from that bondage.  If we’re living under self-imposed condemnation, it’s time to let it go and exchange it for the joy God wants us to have in Him.

Who is to condemn us?  If it’s not from God and He’s the all-powerful, eternal Creator and Ruler of all things, then who can possibly do this to us and be in the right?  No one.  Trust in the Lord and freedom is yours.  Condemnation is a thing of the past.  Live like it.

My Faith is Fleeting

My faith is fleeting, and my heart feels weak…

The struggles a Disciple can face go beyond the questions of society, they go beyond the challenges that arise in the adherence to the Word of God, stretching beyond temptation and sin. They can reach beyond to the darker places of the soul where fear, and worry, hurt and sorrow dwell in the shadows of who we are. They can reach beyond to touch us so that in those deeper moments we look and we see a poor reflection of ourselves, until we look through the mirror darkly amidst the imperfections that dwell within us. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In those times, it just seems as if faith isn’t enough for us, or if it might once have been it isn’t now as it quickly flees from us in  those struggles we face.

Last week we talked about the fact that it isn’t wrong for a Christian to feel depressed despite the gifts that the Lord has given. Whatever others may say, there are going to be moments in our life when we just can’t seem to make a joyful noise, being glad even as we know that we live in the day that the Lord has made. Yet what about those times when it’s not others who say our faith isn’t enough because we have slipped to the depth of those pits of depression? What about those times when we look at ourselves and we hear the whispering voice in the back of our mind telling us that it just isn’t enough?

Regardless of what anyone else might say or do, this is the hardest to deal with. With others we can, if we find the strength, dismiss it, knowing they don’t know what it is we are going through or even that they don’t know what they are talking about. Yet when the voice comes from ourselves, it’s harder because it is coming from a place where we know we are lacking, from someone who knows us so deeply.

During these times what we need to remember is that these thoughts, they come from a place of darkness in us, not a place of strength. In Daniel’s song of praise to the Lord, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:22) Here we are reminded by the words of the Prophet that though darkness may threaten to envelop us, God remains in the light and He shines that light to reveal knowledge, hope and wisdom even in our deepest challenges, when depression threatens to swallow us whole.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, faith, your faith is enough and it doesn’t run in the face of challenge. Perhaps it may seem like it, but that is the deception of the Great Deceiver himself, who seeks to outwit us and cause our fall (2 Corinthians 2:11) just as he had so many generations before when he moved to rob us of Paradise. Yes, he comes like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (Romans 5:8), but he also comes as a whispering voice in our struggles and our depression, telling us the most evil thoughts, playing off the weakness and the self-doubt that comes from it. He does it because, where perhaps playing off of the vanity and the arrogance of some may work, in these times moving amidst the pain and the sorrow, pushing a little more, knowing how close one is to the edge, is all that he needs to ensure that they plunge to the depth of their despair, wondering why and how God could forsake them when they needed Him, if He was even there to begin with to hear their prayers.

Consider the argument, for a moment, of Satan before the throne of the Lord, looking upon His servant Job. Though his schemes did not work on the Man of Uz, perhaps a great deal of that came from the fact that he was only a spectator to Job’s  suffering, believing that as all of Job’s comfort, security and hope were taken from him,  the seeds of doubt would plant themselves. He has since mastered his craft and practiced for countless millennia and generations upon humanity, learning that the seed needed to be planted for it to take root. This is the game he now plays with God’s disciples as he weaves his dark cloak around them.

God does not abandon us, nor does He fail us or forsake us in our hour of need. (Joshua 1:5) For as distant as He may seem, He is always there on the other side of the veil that has been placed over our eyes, even as it seems to cover our sight to leave us wondering where He is. In those moments, though it feels as if our faith is weak, it takes greater strength than most know to believe that He is there, not only being certain of the things we do not see but hope on (Hebrews 11:1) but relying on it with every portion of our soul, finding the test to our spirit is nothing more than a challenge to the grace that has captured our heart.

In these moments, faith, dear brothers and sisters, is not gone, it has not fled from you. Yes, you are weary from your challenge, and your adversity, but your strength remains. The deceptions that can be woven around you in your moments of weakness are nothing more than just that. Like any good deception they perhaps feel so real, so palpable. Still they are there for no other purpose but to rob you of the peace and the hope you have. Ultimately what you need to remember is you are the one God choose through the power of His Spirit to bestow the gifts of His grace upon, the one He has showered the love that comes from His faith upon. That does not just slip away during the hardships you face. It is a living, breathing part of you. You just need to hold those promises a little tighter, seeking Him and those He has sent into your life to help you, and you will see the light that He has promised to you cutting through the darkness.

Your faith is never fleeting, however weak your heart may feel, dear Disciple. Be strong in the power of the Lord, and if you can’t find that strength, then let Him show it to you through the love and the compassion of His heart and your brethren as it reminds you how precious you are to Him.

Sola Gratia

Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Some ask how a loving God could allow anyone to go to hell.  Perhaps this is the wrong question though.  A better question is how a just God could allow any of us to go to heaven.  Even at our best, we still fail to live up to God’s standard for “good”.  Our very best attempts at righteousness are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  This is true of every one of us.  The question then is not how God can send some of us to hell but how He can allow even one of us to enter into fellowship with Him.

Two words come to mind: love and grace.  God is all-knowing.  It was not a surprise to Him that man would fall short of the plan.  But even in spite of this, God created a way.  Through His Son we can know Him.  By His grace we have been delivered.  Only someone who is full of love could even conceive of forgiving His enemies and allowing them a place that only friends deserve.

God does not send people to hell, we’re all headed there on our own from birth.  Our loving God provides a way out, a way to Him.  We can never earn this.  It’s by grace alone.