Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

It's all about Grace

I would like to define three terms, Justice, mercy and grace, which I believe will help to understand God's character, as well as how we should respond to such. Maybe this is basic, however I feel that it is important to reflect on basic truths of the faith again if we are to live our lives filled with the Joy that the Lord has for us.

We sin. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. Death means eternal separation from God. Because in our natural state we are sinners, justice would be eternal separation from God in a place of perpetual torment. The Bible calls this place hell. Justice would allow none of God's benefits. No comfort, no life in this world. Only pain, suffering and separation from God. This is justice. None of us really want justice, it would mean that we pass eternity suffering without so much as the next breath of comfort.

Mercy is a little different in that it would remove the punishment. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve, mentioned above. It would have been mercy for the Lord to just stop our existence at death like the animals so that we would not have to pay our own sin debt. That would be mercy. When a person appears before a secular judge and they are guilty as sin, and caught red-handed. They sometimes present themselves as ignorant of the law, not being of sound mind such as insane, or as having acted in self defense so as to receive mercy from that judge. Their goal is not to win a settlement because they know there is no way this will happen but rather to just not have to pay the price, of their crime, or maybe pay a less price than is just for their crime. Remember, our crime is sin, and the sentience has already been established, torment.

The longer that I work with people, the more I am convinced that it's all about grace. I am sure that many of you have heard that old time favorite acrostic: God's Riches at Christ's expense. However, I am not sure that the acrostic really does the definition justice. It is a great acrostic, but we quickly miss the impact of God's riches. So often, we think of the promise that we will be in heaven when we die, and we will not go to hell. I would suggest that grace is much more than that. Grace is all the good that we get which we do not deserve. Grace does not start with our death.

Grace started when God chose to teach Adam to offer sacrifice for sin, and has been given to every one who has ever had blood flow through their veins. In our case, He demonstrated his grace at our birth, when we took the first breath. God loved us. God, who had formed us in the womb and marked our days and knew our thoughts before we thought them, and words before we spoke them. He has graced us with our childhood, memories, caregivers, and lots of stuff. He has graced us with friends, a sharp mind so as to learn English, Spanish and several different variations of both. He has graced us with a good job, with lots of benefits and supervision. He has graced us with excellent health care, dental care and insurance to cover our stuff. He has graced me with two wonderful boys who love Him, and us. He has graced us with influence as Americans, and a culture that has taught us to take responsibility for our actions. We have so much.

God has graced us with the privilege of being called by His name, and being joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Our working with Him in His harvest is a grace gift. As members of the body of Christ, we have been graced with prophets, evangelists, musicians, administrators, those who serve, those who show mercy, those who have a gift for languages and those who encourage us and others to keep on keeping on. We even have been graced with gifts ourselves to give to the church where we serve.

For some of us, we are graced with the privilege of seeing lots of people come to the father as a result of our ministry. What grace. What a gift from the Father.

For others, we are graced with the privilege of suffering for the cause of Christ, knowing that one day we will receive a reward. The key is to remember the grace of our Lord.

As we walk in His grace, we produce fruit. I am not talking about disciples necessarily, but rather Gal 5: fruit. This is the test. This is our destiny to produce love, joy peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws forbidding these things, and there are no substitutes for them. If we have these attributes in our life, and are producing this fruit, it really doesn't matter what else happens, because we recognize the grace of our Lord is much more than just reigning with Him after our death.

BTW: we will reign with Him as soon as the test -this life -is over to the level of our faithfulness here. Be careful. Remember the parable that Jesus told found in Matthew 20: 1-16. He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out 6 o'clock AM, 9 o'clock in the morning, around noon, then again 3PM and 5PM to hire laborers for his vineyard. 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

His reign will have no end! The best is yet to come, and it will likely not fit our current standard of fairness. But be glad that we are under grace, and not mercy or worse, law!!

Comments:
Donnie,

What a great post. I have a few missionaries that I pray for on a regular [not daily] basis and you, Lori, and the kids have been added to that list. Blessings

Paul Burleson
 
Thank you Paul. May God bless you and your ministry.
 
As we walk in His grace, we produce fruit. I am not talking about disciples necessarily, but rather Gal 5: fruit...

Good thought Donnie. Thanks for sharing, it was helpful and uplifting to me this morning.
 
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