Grace

Ironically, “Grace Greater Than All Our Sin” is playing on Spotify as I begin typing this post. Funny how that works.

I’ve been praying lately that God would keep me from just thinking about Him in the abstract.  That the doctrines of salvation and the knowledge of His grace wouldn’t just be something I “understand” in my head, but a very real reality that I rejoice in in my heart.  Theoretical grace doesn’t save anybody.  Understanding the sacrifice of Christ doesn’t mean it’s applied to my heart.  I’m a real sinner with real sins who needs a real Savior and real forgiveness.  Because before I’m a seminary student or a budding theologian, I’m a sinner saved by grace, and a sinner that must live every day trusting in the grace of God to sustain me and keep me in Him.

Do we even understand what grace is?  The downside to talking about it so much is that we lose it’s meaning and significance.  It’s the same thing with the word “saved,” which may be the topic of my next post.  We hear the preacher say “God is gracious,” and go, “Well, yeah, of course He is…duh.”  God, grant us the grace to not be callous to your truth.

Grace: undeserved favor.  Being accepted, declared right with God, forgiven and loved, not because you have done a single thing to deserve it, but because God is gracious enough to send Jesus in your place, and mine.  Even though we deserve nothing from God but wrath and condemnation, in Christ, we are given everything.

But before we get into God’s saving grace, it’s good to look at common grace:

  • You are alive if you’re reading this.  That means that God gave you a mom and a dad, and sovereignly brought you into this world.  He put air into your lungs and gave you a body that’s capable of doing wonderful things.  Being alive is a gift.
  • Love.  Not just His love, but the love of others.  I have a loving mother, grandparents, a dad who I’ve been able to reconnect with by the grace of God, and a whole host of other family members that love and support me.  I have a beautiful, wonderful girlfriend that I don’t deserve, and a group of friends who are truly a gift from God.  I haven’t done a single thing to deserve that.
  • Many of you live in America (or maybe another first-world country).  While the hashtag #firstworldproblems may be slightly humorous, it’s more sad and depressing.  While we complain that our water filter takes five minutes to clean, an eight year old in a third-world country struggles to walk the mile-long trek from her home to the town well, where she’ll have to hope that the water won’t make her and her family sick.  My goal in this is not to produce guilt, but to remind us how thankful we should be that God placed us where He did, and to be reminded that that’s for a reason: Help others.  If you are blessed, it is for the sake of others.  It’s not because you (or I) deserve it.
  • A job.  You may not like what you do, but if you have a job, God has shown grace to you.  And especially if you love what you do.  You’re getting paid to do something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid! That’s grace!

Any and every good thing we have in our lives is a result of grace.  You have earned nothing.  Even what you “earned” was gained because God was gracious enough to cause you to have life, to give you gifts and abilities, to allow you to hold a job.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t intelligent or capable, but that your intelligence and capability comes from God, as a gift.

And that’s just common grace.  Now we embark on the lifelong journey of attempting to see how much grace God has given us in His Son, Jesus.  We have:

  • Been forgiven.  Our sins don’t stand against us.  We are forgiven because God the Son chose to come and die on a cross and effectively take away every sin.  When we confess our sins to Him, trusting His cross for our forgiveness, we’re forgiven, and reconciled to God.  We see this when we first become a Christian, but we also experience His forgiveness every day (1 John 1:9).
  • Been declared righteous.  There’s no way I can be perfect on my own, but I know I am perfect in the eyes of God because Jesus is righteous.  Every believer’s confidence for being declared righteous before God is in the obedience of Jesus Christ.  So when we fall down in sin, we fall down clothed in the righteousness of Christ, so we can get back up, trust in His salvation, and keep following Him, not to earn righteousness and acceptance, but to walk it out, to be who we already are in Christ.
  • Been made alive and placed under the Lordship, authority and care of Jesus (1 Peter 2:25).  We were dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1).  But God graciously opened our eyes to see our depravity and our need for new life, to begin walking with the one true God.  He opened our eyes to Jesus and His work, so that we can declare Him to be Lord.  For whatever reason, we often see repentance as a door we have to pass through to “get grace.”  Is it not grace that God would, instead of condemning us for our sins and throwing us in hell, open our eyes to see that we’ve gone the wrong way, but that we can turn back and be made new?  Is it not grace that the King we have sinned against would, instead of telling us to swim to Him, would come take over our lives and reign as Lord?  Indeed, this is grace!
  • Been given the Holy Spirit.  God lives in you.  He has changed your heart, turning you against your sin, to say that God is God, and that we should trust Him and follow Him.  And He has taken up a home in your heart, and is changing you, day to day, even though we fall many times.  He convicts us of our sin and leads us back to Jesus our Savior.  When we don’t know what we should do, He gives us wisdom.  We cannot, must not, diminish the importance of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” but a “he.”  He is God.
  • Been adopted into the family of God.  Honestly, this is one of the more difficult truths for me to accept.  Because when I fail, it’s almost impossible to understand that God doesn’t treat me like an employee who has to be fined and/or fired.  Rather, He treats me as a son, who He disciplines out of love for me and hatred of my sin.  God, grant us the ability to see you as Father, for in Christ, we are your children.
  • Been given an inheritance that does not fail.  You know why you shouldn’t concern yourself with building up treasure here?  Because your treasure is in heaven.  Because the eternal inheritance you have in Christ is better.  You get to be with God, see Him, rest in Him, worship Him, and see His glory revealed, fully, for all eternity.  That’s better than anything this world can provide.
  • Been given eternal life.  Christians will not just live forever, but live forever with God.
  • Been brought into the body of Christ.  Looking around at the church body on Sunday morning and recognizing that this is now my family is one of the most beautiful thoughts I’ll ever have.  It is greater to be an orphan with no family who is a Christian than a non-believer that has an enormous family. 
  • God providing for us.  Why don’t we sin against God and go get what we need however we see fit?  Because we trust God to provide for us.  This is a weapon against sin, particularly greed, lust, anger, jealousy, selfishness and lying.  We trust God to provide our needs, from salvation to breakfast.

This is not an exhaustive list.  I can’t type forever, and by now your attention span is waning.  But I urge you, Christian brothers and sisters, to see all that we have been given, and repent, rejoice, rest and worship God every moment of every day.  If you’re not a Christian, I hope the idea of common grace is clear: that God has even shown grace to you who does not know Him.  I pray you know His saving grace, that you would put your faith in Jesus and start following Him.

Lord, may we never forget grace.  May we trust in you, and may you provide everything that we need.  Thank you for grace.  Amen.

God bless,

Neal E.

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