Tuesday, July 01, 2008

God's Grace

This morning I was thinking about grace in the kingdom of God. All of us believers are given it, but I think that the definition can be elusive, and it becomes a word we hear bandied around but we might not understand or have a very good handle on being able to identify. For years, I've heard the rather flippant definition, "Grace is God's riches at Christ's expense." Of course, that does give a clue, but I don't think it defines it; I don't think it gives a believer (at least a new one) a clear understanding of the grace that he has in Christ. Well, maybe it does, and maybe I just was slower than most--but in case I'm right about that, I want to explore the meaning of the word. If I were to define it, I would say something like this: Grace is the power and kindness God bestows on us as faulty humanity to live in Him and according to His will--not because we deserve it, not because we have done anything to earn it, but because God has chosen to exhibit it in our lives. It is His kindness, in that He accepts us with all our sins and flaws and inadequacies even though He cannot look upon sin with favor; in kindness in that He sent His Son to die to atone for those sins; in kindness in that He boosts us toward perfection so that we might be made fit for heaven. It is His power, because He enables us, who would be unable apart from Him, to do things according to His will, to do those things that He has set out for us from before the foundation of the world. His power in that we are capable of having the attitude of Christ Jesus--I know we are capable, because He commands it in His word, and because sometimes I feel it, when all human fleshly sense would, apart from Christ, reject that attitude.
--And even now, as a postscript, even just after I posted this blog entry, I thought--God's grace doesn't just benefit the believer, but the unbeliever too. God's grace falls on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). His grace enables each of us to take our next breath--a breath we don't deserve, because from birth we've been born into sin and rebellious against our loving Creator. God is gracious to the unbeliever, not in view of eternity until he comes to faith in Christ, but in allowing him to keep living and breathing and sinning, with the possibility that he will turn to Christ somewhere along that sequence of events. God shows His wonders to all humanity--the heavens declare the glories of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands (Ps 19:1). He is proving who He is, to anyone who will turn to Him. He promises that whoever seeks Him will find Him, when he seeks Him with all his heart (Jer 29:13). That is grace to the unbeliever.
If other Christians are anything like me, especially new Christians, they might wonder how grace looks when it is acting in the life of a believer. It does such a multitude of things, perhaps that is why at first we don't exactly get a solid, concise definition or picture of it. It is anything we are incapable of apart from God that He enables to happen in us through His Spirit: being kind when we are offended, being giving when we are impoverished, being joyful when we are afflicted, being forgiving to the cruel, being loving to the unloveable. It is being able to confess our sins to God so He can help us work through to learn obedience when obedience is beyond our human strength. Grace is also those things that have nothing specifically to do with what we do and feel and deserve. It is being forgiven of our sins. It is having open communication with God. It is knowing that we stand to gain eternity and will not lose it. It is the ability to understand the Scriptures in a way we couldn't before we knew Him. It is showing God's power and love off through fallen but saved humanity to a blind society of fallen humanity who are in desperate need to understand the goodness and kindness of God.
The funny thing about grace is that it shows in the believer while the believer is in obedience to God, in reliance on Him, and working through the power of His Holy Spirit. The minute we work in our own strength, our outworking becomes no more powerful than that of the unbeliever; it's like exercising without oxygen; it's like trying to run a flashlight without a battery. The connection is lost and the brilliance is lost. We are nothing without Him even once we're saved. Grace is any result of our connection to God. Yet, grace is also His kindness to keep us and protect us even while we are trying to work independently from Him. He protects us from Satan's power to overtake and possess us; He protects us from losing our salvation. He might not protect us from the logical consequences of our sin, but eternity will not be lost in the process.
And that is what I was thinking about grace today. I think it's right, but if you see error in it, I welcome your comments. I hope it helps and doesn't hinder. May God be gracious to you today, and may you see His grace in action in your life.

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