Sunday, August 9, 2009

Superabundant Grace

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Grace is not our native language. In our development from infancy onward, it's clear that we are neither graceful nor gracious at birth. Our first attempts at moving our ungainly, head-heavy bodies from one place to another are clumsy and peppered with tumbles and crash landings--no, we are NOT naturally graceful. When my daughter was little, I saw in her pediatrician's office a poster listing the "Toddler Rules of Possession":

1. If I like it, it's mine.
2. If it's in my hand, it's mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
5. If it's mine, it must NEVER appear to be yours in anyway.
6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.
8. If I saw it first, it's mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it's broken, it's yours.
I laughed out loud that day and that list still pops into my head frequently--it's amazing how often even adults revert to their innner toddler.  In addition to being hilarious, these "rules" are entirely recognizable traits which also illustrate my point that grace is not natural to the human heart.  We are born in a state that says, "Get mine, get more, get it right now!"  We are NOT naturally gracious.

Maybe our unfamiliarity with grace, gracefulness, and graciousness explains why we are so dull-witted and skeptical about trusting the truth of God's grace.  While we are created in His image, we often act as though He is created in our image. We fall into projecting our nature onto Him, thus diminishing Him to a really big, powerful human with a stingy, snotty attitude that looks like the one that is too often in the mirror.

Oh, that we would see Him clearly!

One of the most anguish-producing, gut-wrenching, life-emptying lies the enemy tells, is that we have to work to please God.  This lie constantly questions whether grace is really free and perpetually needles us with the feeling that God probably isn't pleased with us . . . after all, He knows us, doesn't He?  So how could He be pleased when we're so flawed and prone to imperfection?

God indeed knows our flaws and imperfections, He knows how and why we're broken. Way back at the beginning of our deadly dance with sin, God's Creator-Father's heart was broken and on the ultimate supernatural scale He went into superhero mode and put His rescue plan in motion!!
"But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!"
Overflowing, abounding grace. Grace we couldn't earn. WE. DON'T. TRUST. THAT. In earth's economy, nothing is free. We are conditioned to know that anything that is offered for free, probably comes with strings attached, and we are trained to ask, "What's the catch?" The catch is only this, that we believe Him when He says that placing our personal faith in His one and only Son is all He needs to be pleased with us. If we are "in Christ" there is absolutely not one thing we can do to make God more pleased with us than He is by our faith. Every sin we've ever committed, past, present and future, is already under the blood of His Son, never to be brought up again! Our sin was replaced by Christ's righteousness. He is not holding our fleshly, in-time imperfections against us any more than a physician holds his patient's symptoms against them. Instead, like the Rescuer He is, He implemented a way to deal with our sin disease and its symptoms by drowning them in His grace.

"But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:20-21 NIV
No matter how many sins and imperfections we have, God's grace increases, constantly bubbling over like this fountain to overflow them--our sin cannot overcome God's grace!

This brings up an obvious question:


"
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6:1-2 NIV

No, we cannot go on sinning, just because there is a remedy, and we DO have a call to be holy that compels us to obedience and service (remember The Beauty of Balance?). BUT, we must not respond to this call because we think He will be mad at us if we fail--that is a false motivation and will lead us to a begrudging and unhealthy and frightened view of who God is. Instead we have to TRUST that like a line from an old Ray Hildebrand song says, "His grace isn't cheap, but it's free." When we really settle down in that truth and TRUST HIM, we can respond to His call out of a deeply grateful heart. When we are grateful to the One who held back nothing to come to our rescue, we will freely obey Him because we LOVE HIM! We don't work in order to please Him, we obey and serve because it delights Him!

Who doesn't want to do what delights someone they love? How could we not love Someone who poured out limitless quantities of His own blood to overflowingly exceed our sin? How could we not love Someone who enables us to live in the glorious knowledge that God is permanently pleased with us. How could we do anything other than look for ways to show Him how much we love Him and how thankful we are for His superabundant grace?!


Grace is not our native language, but thankfully, it is the only language He speaks! Trust Him!

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