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.

Godless: Part 4

Romans 1:28-32 “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”

I can’t imagine the pain Christ endured on the cross for my sin, let alone the entire world. When I read the scripture above, it’s like I’m looking out my front window at the world we live in, and Paul is describing it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Man has had the same sinful heart since Adam, and there is nothing we can do to change it, no matter how hard we try. No amount of self-help, therapy, or inward meditation will ever heal the brokenness. Nothing we can do.
But there is something He has done. As awful as the above scripture makes me feel, I rejoice in what Christ has done. Christ has made all of the above statements not apply to me or anyone who believes in His name. And through His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every day as we submit ourselves to Him, He molds us more and more to His likeness. Christ is patient with us and wishes none of us to perish, but all of us to be saved. Why? Because He loves us.
Some of us who call ourselves Christian would read the above scripture and think of the world with judgement. With a smugness we would say the people of this world deserve what’s coming to them. I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood and all the westerns he starred in. One of my favorite quotes of his was from the movie The Unforgiven. He’s waiting under a tree to collect a bounty on some men he and his partner just killed. The young man who is with him is struggling with what they have done. Trying to comfort himself he says “Well, I guess that he had it coming” to which Clint replies “We all have it coming kid”.
We all have it coming. There’s not one of us that hasn’t fit the above scripture at one point in our life or who wouldn’t slip back into our sinfulness without the power of Christ living in us. What we should feel when we read the above scripture is pity. We should feel pity and our hearts should be broken. As broken as the world that surrounds us.
The focus of this devotion series is to bring attention to one thing. This world is broken and there is no fixing it. There is no saving this country, or the world for that matter. The world will keep going through this cycle of sin until the day the Lord returns to put an end to it all. The only hope the people of this world have is in the Gospel and it’s power to redeem those who don’t deserve redeeming. This world may be godless, but thankfully we serve a God who love’s it anyway. So much so that He sent his only Son, that whosoever shall believe in His name, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
I’m just a weak man and I’m not sure how He’s going to do it, but would you join me today and pray this prayer. “Lord Jesus, use me as you may. Use me to show the world your mercy, your love and your glory. Use me to show a godless world, that a godless man such as myself could call on your Holy name and become a child of God. Amen.”

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?”

Invitation to greater grace

Philippians 1:12-13 (NASB) “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else”

The question I want you to ask yourself today is, “What circumstances in my life are turning out for the greater progress of the gospel?” So many of us pray for God’s will for our life or for Jesus to use us greatly to further His kingdom, but we become very discouraged when the circumstances in our life don’t line up to what we think that answered prayer should look like.

You may live in a neighborhood that’s not that great, surrounded by neighbors that you feel you have nothing in common with. You may have a job where you’re the only Christian and you feel isolated, maybe even mocked for your faith. You may have a family member who’s constantly challenging and questioning you because of your walk with Jesus. It may feel like God’s abandoned you. The truth is, God is setting up your life, to do work a work in and through your life, greater than you could ever imagine.

When Paul set out on his mission, I’m sure he did not picture his ministry taking place in a Roman prison chained to a guard. He may have pictured it taking place in a town square, preaching to eager listeners, welcomed into homes for a meal and a cozy place to lay his head. And I’m sure those situations happened a lot in Paul’s life and that was very good. But when Paul was thrown into prison, when he was brought before the courts, when he was chained to the praetorian guard, that’s when Paul experienced Christ the greatest.

Because Paul kept preaching the gospel, even from prison, he gave other Christians great boldness to take their faith to the next level. You may not realized it, but other Christians that surround your life see what you’re going through. When they see you being faithful during tough times, it encourages them.

Because Paul was chained to a praetorian guard, he was able to share the gospel with men who he wouldn’t have had a chance to otherwise. Their may be somebody God is putting in your life that He want’s to reach through you. It may seem impossible, but we serve a God who makes all things possible.

Because Paul was brought before the courts, the gospel was made known through out the Roman Empire. You may be in a place where you feel like a sheep thrown to a pack of wolves, but never forget the great Shepherd is with you always. You’re not an isolated Christian, but Christ’s light for a very dark place.

Because of the grace of Jesus Christ, a situation that looked very dire, turned out for the greater glory of God. It’s during these tough times that we not only experience and know God in a greater way, but it’s also where he uses us in a greater way. It’s also where we experience the greatest grace. So here’s my final question for you. What grace is Christ inviting you to participate in today to show His glory in and through your life?

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.