Sorry for the delay

I’m having some technical difficulties…otherwise known as life getting in the way of this blog! Work has been hectic and my other commitments have eaten away at the time I reserve for writing. I hope to have a new article up this week. I apologize for the delay. But one good thing that has come from this delay. I have thought about a possible next series!

When Grace Looks Harsh

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God’s grace has many facets but is the same grace no matter which way we look at it.

When someone utters the word Grace, more often than not the mind wanders to a warm fuzzy feeling. We often think of grace in terms of warm feelings, allowing for differences, and other nice actions. Seldom do we associate a judgement with grace. But did you know that one of God’s most gracious acts was wrapped in a judgement?

Genesis 3 details how Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden. They were given free reign in the Garden. They were supposed to tend the Garden but I’m sure they enjoyed other things as well. I’m positive it was a beautiful life. Imagine living in a perfect world with a beautiful wife and daily walking with the perfect God. What an amazing life. To remain in this place all Adam and Eve had to do was obey. Simple obedience. Well, it isn’t so simple is it.

Adam and Eve sinned. The took and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was the only tree that God had told them not to partake. But they didn’t obey and they broke God’s command. The immediate effect of their sin was apparent – their eyes were opened to a world that went way beyond what they thought. Instead of being enlightened as the serpent said they would be, their minds were darkened by sin and shame. God found them and judged them all. After pronouncing His judgment on the serpent, Adam, and Eve, God continued

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 NASB

God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden – their home – for their sin as a gracious act. Now you may wonder how in the world can expulsion from the very presence of God, His perfect world can be viewed as an act of grace? Let’s take a look.

The key to this is that God wanted to prevent Adam and Eve  from eating from the tree of life and thus living forever. Now why would living forever be a bad thing? Isn’t eternal life a good thing?

Eternal life in Christ is a very good thing. We can be sure of our destination. But eternal life also includes life in eternal separation from God. That means forever being separated from being God’s friend – never being redeemed, always being condemned. That eternal life isn’t such a great thing for those who experience it. But it is the destiny of the unredeemed. And it is exactly what God was graciously preventing from happening to Adam and Eve.

If Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of life while in their sinful state, they would have never died, never been redeemed and never been reconciled. As the head of the human race, this means that their children (read us) would probably be in the same status: unredeemable. God’s grace said NO! to that proposition.

God expelled Adam and Eve in order to redeem them. He expelled them so they could not live forever in their sinful state. He expelled them so that He would draw them closer to Him. He expelled them because He loved them and desired them to spend etenity with Him. That is grace.

Amazing grace. Radical grace

When you think of God shedding His grace on you, remember that

When He disciplines you, He is beng gracious to you. He doesn’t want you to continue in unrighteous behaviours, but to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

When God takes through trials – whatever type they may be – know that He is acting graciously towards you so that you will grow in Him.

When you face hardships, whether those are of the financial type, health type, or some other type, know that God is acting graciously towards you.

 

God’s grace has many facets but is the same grace no matter which way we look at it. It is His grace that He extends to us. His unmerited favor that He grants to us. The fact that He extends it to us – a sinful, rebellious, self-absorbed people – is something truly amazing.

God’s grace IS radical.

 

The Look

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But what does grace look like? Would you or I recognize grace each time it happens?

In recent articles I have discussed what grace is and our need for grace. But what does grace look like? Would you or I recognize grace each time it happens? My first reaction was an unqualified *Yes*. But as I thought about this more my first reaction seemed to be incorrect. Sometimes grace doesn’t look like what we expect. For the next few articles we will be looking for grace in all the right places. I think you may be surprised by where we find grace.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him – Genesis 2:18-20 NASB

In Genesis 2 we see a more detailed view of creation as described in chapter 1. I want to focus on God and his created man. Notice a few things about this passage. First, notice that God acted graciously in finding a helper for him. He created all the beasts of the field and birds of the sky for his created man. All these creatures were made to help out man. However, not one of them was suitable for him. How can this be?

A big clue to this is the meaning of the word translated helper here. The Hebrew word here is the word kenegdo. The literal meaning of this word is according to the opposite to him. This puts a different spin on the term helper doesn’t it. The search was for a companion for the man but none of the animals brought to the man are suitable for him. Not one of them meets the need that the man has. So what does God do in response to this? Does He say “Oh well dude. Better get accustomed to being disappointed. Life will be hard, deal with it.” No, God showed his man grace.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”  – Genesis 2:21-23 NASB

God graciously provided exactly what Adam needed.

From the man God took a rib. God performed the first surgery in history as an act of grace. That’s pretty cool. Anyway, God took a rib and formed it into a suitable helper for the man. Remember that the term helper means one who corresponds to him. God is making someone who will complement and complete him. How gracious is that!

God chose to make a companion for him. God didn’t start from scratch either. God took from Adam’s side and fashioned it into a companion. The woman reflected Adam well. She was a perfect compliment to Adam. All that Adam needed in a companion, the woman had. God graciously provided exactly – EXACTLY – what Adam needed. How gracious is that!

God has been gracious to man throughout history. He makes provision for our needs and He does this out of His grace, not our desire. This is how grace looks. This is God’s grace to man. But it doesn’t end here. In the coming articles we explore other acts of God’s grace to give us a fuller picture of it. Some of the examples I’ll use may not seem too gracious but rest assured they are.

He makes provision for our needs and He does this out of His grace, not our desire. This is how grace looks.

Look for God’s grace in your life. You won’t have to look too far or too long to discover it. When you do discover it, thank God for it. His grace abounds in your life and  mine. Let’s rejoice in that grace! Let’s celebrate that grace! Let’s experience that grace, all to the glory of God.

The Need

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In my previous articles I have presented grace as a necessary attribute of God and an action of God towards us. In order to fully grasp grace – at least as fully grasp it as we can – we must first understand that we are sinners in dire need of grace.

Now what do I mean by “We are sinners”? Well, we are a rebellious people who desire their own way rather than God’s way. We are bent toward evil, not good. Every perception we have, every inclination, every thought is tainted and influenced, and, if we are honest, driven by the will to do our own evil bidding rather than what is right.

God, through the Apostle Paul, states that

There is none righteous, not even oneThere is none who understandsThere is none who seeks for GodAll have turned aside, together they have become uselessThere is none who does goodThere is not even oneTheir throat is an open graveWith their tongues they keep deceivingThe poison of asps is under their lipsWhose mouth is full of cursing and bitternessTheir feet are swift to shed bloodDestruction and misery are in their pathsAnd the path of peace they have not knownThere is no fear of God before their eyes. – Romans 3:10-18 NASB

Seems pretty clear to me. We are not righteous, we don’t understand, we don’t seek after God. We have turned from God and His ways, we steal, murder, curse and we don’t know peace, This is a pretty ugly picture of mankind, isn’t it! There is no room for pop psychology or warm fuzzy feelings for felt needs in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He paints a bleak picture of humanity. But wait, there’s more!

Just in case you were trying to figure a way of reading the previous passage without using the word sin, Paul takes care of that in just a few verses:

 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23 NASB

The word All means you and me. It means every Jew and gentile. If you are human, you are included in this. Oh boy, now I’ve done it. We are actually equal. We are equally corrupt, equally sinful (though the expression may be different), equally under judgment, and equally worthy of hell for eternity.

ALL of us humans are equally under the condemnation of God.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 NASB

Payday is coming, folks. Each of us will receive what is due. In Romans six Paul clearly and unequivocally states that death is the result of sin. The term death does not imply or mean cessation of existence. No, it simply means separation. Physical death is when the material and immaterial parts of a human are separated . When that occurs, the body ceases to function and the spirit or soul leaves.

Spiritual death occurs when we stand before God and are judged. Not one of our works – regardless of how good it may seem – is going to do anything to keep us from being separated from God for eternity. Once our soul leaves our body we cannot ever be reconciled to God, unless we experienced that reconciliation prior to that moment. We are most definitely in a pickle. All of us.

This is where grace enters into our lives. God offers His salvation by His grace. We must appropriate His grace through faith. Salvation – the freedom from sin and its consequences – is granted by God by His grace through faith

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and ]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8 NASB

God’s grace changes our trajectory in eternity.

Though we were destined for eternal separation from God because of our sin, when God invades our lives and grants His salvation by His grace through our faith, our destiny is changed., Forever.

No longer are we destined for eternal separation from God. No, we are now destined to an eternity in the very presence of God. God’s grace does that. God’s grace is THAT powerful.

Grace is

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God is gracious towards me and you.

In my last article I stressed that grace is who God is. God is grace. Of course that is just one of His coequal attributes, but it is the one we are focusing on at the moment. So does it end there? Simply say “God is grace” and that is all we need to know about Him and His radical grace? Not by a mile.

Who we are informs what we do. This is true of you and me. Our being – the true person we are – is always shown through our actions. If we are a kind person, our actions will show that. If we are cruel, then we will show we are cruel. We can cover ourselves for a while, but the true person always – ALWAYS – shows through the mask we try to wear. The same is true for God. Well, except He doesn’t try to hide who He is. But who He is always shows through to us, if we are willing to open our eyes and behold it.

 

Grace is, at its core, unmerited favor. It is something that is not earned or deserved.

It is something that actually cannot be earned and is not deserved. But it is given nonetheless. So imagine if you and I were grace. We not only possessed grace, but were actually grace. We would find someone to shed that grace on, wouldn’t we. The same is true for God. He doesn’t need to look far in order to find those who are in need of grace does he?

The world He created is full of rebellious, sinful people who continually look for their own good. This present generation is a sight to behold. We sin and like it. We rebel and want more of it. We are a stiff-necked people. Proud of our insubordination. Proud of our sin. Proud of our godless culture. We exclaim “We are wise!” and thus demonstrate or foolishness. We are a needy people who believe we have abundance. We are a sorry lot indeed.

We deserve to be punished. We deserve to be forgotten, wiped off the face of the earth. Yes we do. But you know what? We aren’t the first group of malcontents that God has endured. We aren’t the first groups of self-absorbed, self-righteous people He has wrestled. No, we aren’t the first. And we won’t be the last.

 

Grace Informs

God, being a God who is grace, acts according to His being. He will never contradict who He is. Back in Exodus, we see an event where  God acts upon His nature – acts according to His being. Let’s take a look at what is done and what we can glean from it.

Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your ownpossession.” Exodus 34:8-9 NASB

 

Moses, knowing who God is, is now asking God to act according to His being, not according to who the Israelites were. The first thing I notice is that Moses was quick to bow down in worship.The Hebrew word translated bow is qadad. It means to shrivel, bends one’s neck, stoop down in deference. Think of Moses on his knees, then bending even more so his face touches the ground. This is how he is before God. It is a position of humility.

While in this humble position of submission, he asks God basically a couple of things, with one predicated on the other. He first asks if [he] has found favor in God’s sight. That word for favor – chen – can mean grace.  Wow, Moses was looking for grace. The way Moses asks this is tantamount to asking that God grant grace to him. But this isn’t for Moses. And yet again we see the heart that made Moses such a great leader. His concern was for the people of Israel.

He then asks God to 1) go along with Israel; 2) forgive their sin; and 3) take them as His possession. In other words, Moses is asking God to act graciously towards the nation. I don’t think Moses was questioning whether God is the God of grace. No, I think Mose was counting on that.

Among the request for gracious action is the reason that graciousness is required: we are obstinate and sinful. Now there is some honesty! How we could use some of that today.

So what happened? Well, God acted according to who He is, not what Israel deserved.

He was – and is – gracious towards them.

I need to stress that none of God’s attributes operate in isolation from His other attributes. Also, non of His attributes is more important or more powerful than the others. This may sound strange and difficult to grasp, but it is true.

So God’s holiness does not operate independently of His love, righteousness, or grace. So too, His righteousness – which demands a payment for sin – does not operate independently of His love. Grace is sort of the bridge between these two. It kind of connects His love with His holiness. This is a very imperfect analogy but it is the best I can do. Somehow, these seemingly contradictory attributes work in perfect harmony. His grace allows Him to not to exact a payment from those who have wronged Him and sinned against Him.

He has expressed His grace is a number of ways. Think about the salvation you enjoy. It is by grace.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB

The fact that God came to us in the form of a man is an act of grace.

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB

It was His grace that took Him to the cross for sins committed by us. It was His grace that hung Him on that tree – that old rugged cross – for your sins and mine.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:9 NASB

There are many other ways God demonstrates His grace to us. Some of them are obvious. Others aren’t so obvious. But they all are demonstrations of who He is.  Take time this next week to look for His grace in your life. Take time to write those grace moments down. Reflect on them. I dare you to look for His grace in your life. If you do, you’ll find much more than you think is there.

God is gracious towards me and you.

God is Grace

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What do you think about when you hear the word grace? Well I can easily define it as unmerited favor. But is that what I think of first when I hear the word grace? No, and I doubt that is what you think of first. Perhaps you think of a hostess gliding around a packed party with a smile on her face, gleefully handing out food and drink. Maybe you think of a kind-hearted or courteous person. Then again you could think of someone with great diplomatic skills or one who seemingly endures many insults from others while never returning insults. The word grace could mean any of these things. But none of this things should be the first thing we think of when we think of grace.

Grace Is the Essence of God’s Being

The setting I want you to consider is Exodus 34. We are on Mt. Sinai – again. Moses is getting the tablets with the 10 Commandments replaced. He had shattered the original ones because of his anger towards Israel for worshipping a golden calf while he was getting the first set of tablets from God. Moses, following God’s orders, made a couple more tablets and quietly ascended Mt. Sinai to present himself to God so that God would write again His Law for Israel.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of theLord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “TheLord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; Exodus 34:5-6 NASB

So God is going to explain to Moses just who He is. Do you notice the second adjective God uses here? Yep, there it is: gracious. The root word in Hebrew means to bow down. The idea is to bow down to those below Him. This shows God’s willingness to reach with affection and care down to the poeple of Israel who do not deserve that affection or care. Israel could make no claim on God – they had just been sternly rebuked for worshippinga golden calf. They had demonstrated in no uncertain terms their depravity. And yet God, in revealing Himself to Moses, basically said “I stoop to them to show them kindness, affecton and care.” Wow. But is doesn’t end there.

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; Exodus 34:7a NASB

Take a look at how God illustrates HIs graciousness: He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. NOw God is granting these things to a people who have demonstrated time after time that they don’t deserve these things.

Before we go any farther, let me state unequivocally that God establishes the same attitude in the New Testament

 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himselfperfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 NASB

It is God who will sustain us after suffering, according to Peter. Now notice how Peter refers to God her: God os ALL grace. That means that God has an inexhasutible amount of grace from which to draw on. You see, grace isn’t something God has. It is who He is. This is the nature of God. (To be sure there are other attributes that God has that are equally important and equally present. We’ll discuss those another time)

God give great and wonderful gifts without strings attached. He gives them without us earning them or deserving them. When we stand before Him at the end of time to be judges, our salvatio is not an issue. No, our reward is the only thing at issue. Now think about this. The works we have done will be tested as with fire. The ones we performed with wrong motives or just within our own power will be burned up. Regardless of what others may have thought about the work, to God it is worthless if done in our own strength.

The works that survive the fire of His judgement are the ones that will las. These are the ones that we performed by the power of His Holy Spirit – God dwelling in us. Now here is the good stuff. God, Who empowers us to do good, and in fact is the only reason we can do good, rewards us for the good work He accomplishes through us. Now THAT is gracious!

Grace is a difficult concept for us to understand because it is so unlike the way we human beings operate.

We were placed on this earth for God’s glory, not our own. So when we fulfill that purpose He is pleased. This doesn’t mean that life will be easy for us. It doesn’t mean we will always have an abundance of material possessions. What it does mean is that as God works on me and you – as He purifies us, forgives, sanctifies, and makes us holy through the trials and tribulations of life, our attitude, our very being should glorify Him. We shouldn’t wait to be in a big house with fancy rooms to say God is good. We should not rejoice only when life is comfortable. In fact the best rejoicing we can do is when we have a lack – at least a perceived lack – in material things. When we do that, we give glory to God and put on disply His graciousness to us. For if He wasn’t gracious to us, we would have nothing.

 

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My family and I live in a 1200 square foot rancher style house. There are nine of us stuffed in there. Soon we will have another so there will be ten of us living in 1200 square feet. We eat, sleep, do schoolwork and (sometimes) have friends over. We live in close quarters, that is for sure. There are times I have to do some work at home but I don’t have a dedicated home office. So I work in my bedroom or in the living room. Our house is loud most of the time – that happens with nine people living in a small space. But we have no plans on moving. We have no plans to upsize our home. We would rather downsize our possessions. Why? Because God is good. All the time. And since He is good all the time, we would rather save the extra cost of doubling our house size by buying another home by being more efficient in our current one. If we can do that, then we will have extra money to spend on things that really matter rather than on things that just make us more comfortable.

When we mess us and sin, He is gracious not to cast us aside. He isn’t waiting to slap us down or make us feel downcast. No, He has said in 1 John that when we sin we need to confess it (agree we are sinners) and He is righteous and just and will forgive us and cleanse us. He does this not because of us. No, He does this because of Him. He is gracious to us. He gives us, the undeserving rebels we are, His love, compasson, and kindness.

So if we have a lack – be that lack is in space, stuff, or other more important things – we will always seek to glorify God where we are. Because where we are is a good – no, great – place to be. We are the recipients of God’s radical grace. Grace that stoops down to us and shows us love and compassion. Grace that forgives our sin, heals our bodies, mends our broken hearts. He doesn’t have to do these things, but He simply chooses to do these things.

That is the way He is.

 

God’s Radical Grace

 

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Have you ever thought about the nature of God’s grace? We don’t often do that but we should. We should contemplate what He has done for us. We should think about the effect it has on us. We should recognize the fruit it bears through us. But we don’t.

Grace has been described as amazing, wonderful, and matchless. But have you ever really thought about God’s grace? Most, sadly, have not. Many in the Church have figured out what grace is and is not. Usually this is done through consulting a lexicon. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. Well there ya go! Grace is simple and direct. Unmerited favor. Let’s move on to something more interesting.

Grace isn’t one of the sexy doctrines. If grace was a piece of art, it would be perceived as a simply line drawing. Simply black ink on a white sheet of paper. Nothing more, nothing less. We see this in the teaching of the church. We tend to teach about the exciting things – missions, tongues, etc. but rarely do we go deep on God’s grace. Why is grace found to be so boring?

One reason is we may think we have it all figured out. We define it, grasp it, and then move on. But in our hurry to declare ourselves wise regarding grace, we show ourselves fools for having missed out on one of the deepest, most beautiful doctrines and actions of God. When we define it simply without attending to the meaning of it, we see God’s grace as a simply a vehicle to get us from sin to righteousness. It is a black-and-white drawing of a map. That is all. Next, much more exciting doctrine is next.

Grace is not a punchline and it isn’t simple. Grace is not a shallow doctrine to be understood with simple phrases and trite sayings. Grace is not a simple drawing. No, God’s grace is a masterpiece. It is an oil painting, full of contrasts that seem incongruous until the Master’s intent is revealed in the totality of the painting.

Grace is full of wonder and awe. Grace touches every part of our being. It rules and reigns supreme in a life that has been touched by it. A person who has been touched – truly touched – by God’s grace is never again the same. A grace-touched person is like his  Master. The grace touched person is a one who simply is a certain way, defying the simple definitions

Grace affects every facet of life. It changes us and remakes us. Learning about God’s grace – more importantly living God’s grace – is a revolutionary thing. Being touched with God’s grace makes me and you different.

Grace is often misunderstood and misapplied. Confused with a license to sin, grace gets a bad rap. Grace is also abused when it is used to excuse bad behavior and fail to hold everyone accountable to God’s standards.

Grace is ignored by others, opting for rules and regulations where God’s grace has provided freedom. Yes, God’s grace is not simple…but is is simply beautiful!

Grace is vibrant. Grace is alive. Grace is the way we live and have been enabled to live. Grace is beautiful, freeing and restraining as well.

Grace is amazing, wonderful, and matchless. And God’s grace is…

 

Radical.

God’s radical grace saved a sinner such as I. God’s radical grace is something worth understanding. Understanding grace is worth the effort and the struggle.

To understand God’s radical grace – a tall order to be sure – is to get a peek into the very nature of God. Experiencing God’s radical grace is the starting point for each Christian. It is also a main ingredient in the portrait God is painting of each Christian’s life.

Are you willing to give trying to comprehend God’s radical grace? Are you willing to join me on a journey to understand and appreciate God’s radical grace? I hope so. But be warned. To begin this journey is to begin a journey on being radicalized. For no one who experiences and understand God’s radical grace ever returns the same person.

No one.