Posted by: pastortomvabeach | February 14, 2012

Thought for the Week February 19, 2012

This week we want to examine grace and what that means to us as Christians. I don’t think it is unusual for believers to understand grace as God’s unmerited kindness toward sinners which is demonstrated by Jesus in His death as our substitute to pay our penalty. For most Christians, we learn early on that we are saved from condemnation and brought into relationship with God “by grace through faith” which is what is stated in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Much is taught regarding the extent of God’s goodness in providing salvation, which is right and necessary. We understand that our good works, religious practice, and ability to turn from sin have nothing to do with getting saved. Paul says we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) and that it is “not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). I think we get this aspect of grace because it has been so well covered and widely taught. “Grace” means “favor” or “gift” and salvation is God’s free gift.

But is that all grace is? Does God’s grace come to us in salvation, make our way into His kingdom, provide forgiveness and eternal life, and then stop? This, I think, is where Christians can get stuck. They have had so much teaching about grace as the doorway into following Christ that they miss the ongoing and powerful aspect of God’s grace in every day life.

Let’s check some other facets of this marvelous truth of grace. How does grace affect our “Christian” lives once we are saved? Many of us have at one time or another operated under the assumption that Jesus saved me, gave me eternal life, took my punishment, and now I have to do everything I can to become what He wants me to be. I must try to live up to some standard of goodness and get victory over the flesh. The problem comes when we try to live in victory. We may get some wins in some areas but much of the time we can’t seem to get there. We try, try, try and fail; get up; and try, try, try and fail again. We think there’s something wrong with us and try harder. We haven’t caught the full truth of grace.

The Christian life is not about “trying” but about “trusting”. We would never tell someone to “try” to become a Christian. We know you become a Christian by “trusting” in Jesus. The same thing applies to living like Christ. We don’t get there by “trying” but by “trusting” that God’s grace is given to us in every situation in life so we can live as He wants.

Look at Philippians 2:12. If you took that verse by itself what conclusion might you get about living as a Christian? Would you think that this is going to be tough? I’ll have to really put my nose to the grindstone to get this “salvation” thing right. What happens when you put it in context and read verse 13? Can you see how that verse demonstrates God’s grace? If not, compare it to I Corinthians 15:9-10. Paul says there that he doesn’t deserve to be called an apostle because of his dreadful background, then says it’s only by God’s grace that he’s made it to where he is. Again, if we stop with the first phrase, we might say, right he got saved by grace.

But Paul goes farther. He says he worked harder that all the apostles, reminiscent of the admonition to “work our your salvation” in Philippians. Then comes the shocker, but it wasn’t me that worked, it was God’s grace that was with me! This supports Philippians 2:13 to show it’s not about our work or effort but it’s about God working with and in us to accomplish His purposes. Our sole responsibility is to trust Him and let Him work through us!

Christianity can be very frustrating if we relegate grace to the entryway and then attempt to live out our faith by the law, whether it be trying to follow all the “laws” in Scripture or crafting our own set of “laws” that we follow to prove we are Christians. The bottom line is that you and I can’t save ourselves by our own effort, neither can we live as Christians by our own effort. We need Jesus for both and God has arranged it to operate by grace all the way.

Grace is God’s operational power available to us “in Christ”. This week would you read Ephesians chapter 1-3 and note all of the gifts God gives us “in Christ” or “in Him”, etc.? The key is to stay “in Him”. Jesus said in John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. What does Jesus say that we can do on our own? What does He say we can do if God will just give us strength? Can you that God doesn’t want us to do anything on our own or even on our own with a little help from Him? Either of those is me doing it. He wants us fully dependent on Him all the time. It’s by His grace we will bear much fruit as we abide in Him and He abides in us.

Let’s stop there and digest some of this. What would it do for your everyday walking around as a Christian if you got a working grasp of God’s grace working in you to “will and to do His good pleasure”? Would it end some frustration and wheel spinning? Can Jesus do what you are not able to do? What have you been “trying” lately to live for Him that isn’t working? Pick one area of life this week and “trust” Him to be strong. That’s Grace! Just a thought.

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