Sunday, December 16, 2007

Improving on Graciousness

I find that blogging is one outlet that helps me analyze puzzles and come to conclusions. When telling my daughter so, she said she does so too. This is one of those blogs for me; I'm trying to become better equipped against the challenges that today's sermon provided.
Today at church the sermon was about God's grace to us; then in the second service, during which we have prayer time and discuss the book, Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy, we read the chapter that covered God's grace to us. One very sweet man acknowledged a time, humorous in retrospect, that he found his patience tried, struggled against the impulse to take revenge (that was the funny part), and learned another picture of God's grace in the process...and all the while I was thinking how creative we are in thinking up ungracious responses. I said so; even while I said it, I could feel a deep blush rising up from my neck to my face as I recalled in my mind many instances lately where I had been so creative.
That very creativity is sneaky and entangles me in my unguarded moments. Because the scenario is new every time, at times trivial and at times monumental, and because my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), I can easily trick myself into thinking that ungraciousness is the right response. In fact, it can take another person to point those things out to me, so strongly deceived I can be. Sometimes the magnitude of it, though it is sin all the time, can be so lacking, so trivial, that it must be for God dealing with me as with a two-year-old. If I were able to have it all pointed out, if I could write a book on it and review all the different ways I had allowed myself to be ungracious, had tricked myself into thinking I was right when in fact I was wrong, I think reviewing it would hardly help me; I would still be challenged by such new and different scenarios so frequently and justify my evil responses stunningly. This is where my cleverness is most excellent and needs stunting.
How do I train myself against such a tendency? I hate to think how long I've been a Christian, and how I still need to ponder, analyze, and review the right means to avoid falling into this trap, become more armed and clever against my own sinfulness. How do I become more gracious in responding to others?
The opportunity to share God's grace is certainly often bound up in a spiritual battle. This battle can make or break my Christian testimony in how I live out my faith toward unbelievers that surround me, so it is vital that I learn how to be more gracious. Ephesians 6 is the first thing that comes to my mind--to put on the full armor of God, praying for God's help before the specific need arises, before the battle begins, and to remember that I do not wage war as the world does, but that my weapons are the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and prayer. Also 1 Corinthians 10:13, about avoiding temptation--that God will provide a way out--is another, but I have to realize it's temptation I'm facing (even the temptation to rely on my own strength) and be quick-witted enough to pray for God's help in order to apply it. I find that occasions where I am least gracious are those that happen quickly and least prayerfully. Those times when I "rush in where angels fear to tread" are doubtless my most unguarded occasions. I need to remind myself of where I would be without God's grace to me, without His salvation, if I were still stuck in the wretched bondage to sin--then I could look at others through His eyes, see their incapacity and have mercy. In these things I need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)--not forgetting that I was not saved because of my own righteousness, but by God's grace.
Since these weapons that God has provided have the power to demolish strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4), I am foolish not to use them; I cannot win a spiritual battle without them, and will waste too many opportunities to share His gospel of peace.

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