Today’s Grace

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This week, the reality and need for grace seems so evident to me. Here a couple of new thoughts:

Grace is offensive. To look at a sinner (us) and say “I love you just the way you are” is offensive. Even the offender, though they hope for love, truly expects and almost wants to be rejected, so that their sin seems properly judged and punished. But when we hear those words, “I love you anyway,” it offends us to the core. How is it possible that love could be offered when such grievances have taken place? Yet, this is exactly how God handles us. Day after day, even on our good days, we stumble and fall. We think the wrong things, we say too much, we say too little, or even worse, what we do or say is completely hypocritical or sinful. Yet God’s heart is for us.

Grace is fireproof. We can throw our two-year old tantrums and hold our breath and stomp our feet, completely being brats who want their own way, and yet God still loves. This does not mean he approves of our behavior. (Any parent can tell you this truth.) But this is where so many of us get it wrong. The act of loving someone does not invite our permission for them to treat us however they want. Grace from God does not mean he tears down all boundaries for our lives and says “have at it.” But grace instead suffers the violence of our behavior and our attitude and our sin. It is the lighthouse on the breakers in the midst of the storm, refusing to turn off it’s beacon to safety in the most dire of dangers. It provides a path back to safety, to freedom, if we will listen and obey.

Grace is deliverance. It is only in the realization that there is a love for me that’s willing to put up with all my *stuff* and stand in the midst of the fire for me that I find healing. The three Hebrew young men who faced the furnace of fire found that they were not alone in their distress. The very fire that was meant for their destruction was the instrument of their deliverance. Grace is like this for us. Complete and honest love in the face of all my sin enters my life like the fourth man in the furnace. If I can trust that this is true, if I can relinquish myself to this love and truly believe I am loved, my chains are melted away and I am freed. Grace makes it possible for me to live above sin, no longer bound by its control over me. Why? Sin is simply my trying to fill the holes of my life, searching for that true love and acceptance that I am missing. But when grace arrives, when I let grace take HIS place in my life, I find I no longer need these other things to fill the holes, for grace makes up the difference.

Grace is oxygen. I need oxygen to live, and so I also need grace to live. I need to know I have his favor, but I must remember that the essence of grace is found in the fact that it’s unearned. Nothing I’ve done has gained this love for me. So I have nothing to boast in myself. I have done nothing to produce this connection I have with God, outside of receiving it and cultivating it like every other relationship in my life. But I could do nothing to create it. I am dependent. I am impoverished without it. Paul said it best when he said, “it’s not by works…lest any man should boast.” No work of my hands could give me this favor in my life, so all I can do is return it to God in praise and live to please him and him alone.

Grace Defined?

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“The original Hebrew word here could be and should be rendered “grace”—“that I may show grace for Jonathan’s sake”…Grace is positive and unconditional acceptance in spite of the other person. Grace is a demonstration of love that is undeserved, unearned, and unrepayable.” (Chuck Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, page 279, LP)

I have to admit that even though I’m a Bible college graduate and have been a pastor for almost 20 years, grace for much of those years was a theological concept. It is one of those wonderful ideals we love to sing about, but do we truly understand what that word means? “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…I once was lost, but now I’m found…”

Grace has become for us this static moment in our walk with God. “The moment” everything began for us. It’s the moment we found God (as if he was the one lost). This is yesterday’s grace.

I have learned, and am continuing to learn, that this is not how it was intended to be. Grace is not just some fixed moment in time, but rather a flowing river that carries us along. We find ourselves sometimes drifting in His approval and favor, and other times, we experience his love like the rapids, quick and furious. Grace is his love toward us, never relenting, never forsaking, never letting go.

Grace is more than the beginning line in the race, but rather the companion with whom we run. If we do not understand this love, we will find ourselves searching for it in other things: food, sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, and much more. How can we begin to know this love? We have to begin by understanding who Grace is.

Am I alone in learning this lesson? Is this something only I am striving to know? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Shouldn’t We Have to DO Something?

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“How could God truly love me?  Why?  What would His motive be?  And if this is true that He wants to be good to me, why don’t I see it?  We feel that because we see Him bless other people that surely He is holding out on me.  I’m not good enough.  I’m damaged goods.  I can’t even walk right, so how could God be pleased with me, let alone really want to know me.

Does this sound familiar?  Even the greatest Christian ministers from time to time struggle with being accepted by God.  We question how God can truly love us with no strings attached.  Shouldn’t we have to do something?” (The Embrace of Grace, page 17)

Why is it so hard for us to understand that God’s love for us is free?  Even for people who love God and have known the Lord for much of their lives still struggle believing that He simply loves us.

Granted, there are things God calls for us to do to live according to his will and bring his pleasure, but this is not how we gain God’s love.  He has chosen to set his love upon us.

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

Who has told us that we must perform for God’s love?

Religion itself can be hard on our understanding of God’s love.  Strange isn’t it?  But the “rules” of religion can get in our way!  Somewhere we learn that to be spiritual means that we have to do this or that just right, that we must perform perfectly or we do not deserve God’s love.

However, it is out of this great understanding of God’s free gift of love that we can ever begin to follow his desires for our lives and live out his plan in the earth.  So the enemy delights in using this weapon against the people of God, paralyzing us, and keeping us from fulfilling God’s plan for our lives, from the beginning.  Why?  Because we don’t really believe He could love us just the way we are.

What do you think?  What lies have you believed that is keeping you from believing that His love is free?

The Beginning

I am starting a new blog centered around the message of my book, The Embrace of Grace.  I am hoping that we can create a dialogue among those who have read it, and even those who haven’t yet, but are interested in its message.  Every week or two, I will be posting a couple of different posts regarding a chapter or section of the book and inviting your comments.  Let’s create an environment that will help people find their identity in the embrace of Grace!

If you would like to buy the book, you can check it out here.

John

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