How “rethinking grace” began

indexFor most of my Christian life when looking into a spiritual mirror I saw a reflection that looked something like this:

     “I am a descendent of Adam, a man of flesh.  At the very core I am sinful—“as a filthy rag,” selfish, unholy, fallen and above all, guilty! But, thank God, I am a saved sinner! And now that I am saved I must do my part. My responsibilities include confessing my sins, reading His word, praying, evangelizing, reaching out in love to others, and above all, living a life of obedience. I am to walk as He walked. It is my duty to make every possible effort to lead a holy life. “Be holy as I am Holy.” I am to listen to the Holy Spirit as He points out my sins and to quickly confess and get right with God. This is not pretense. If I want to be pleasing to God I must turn away from sin. Sin thwarts my fellowship with Him and shuts me off from His blessings. I know that He is with me and will help me. And even though the temptation to sin is very strong and sometimes overcomes me (after all I do have an old nature), I know that eventually, in “the sweet by and by,” I will be in His Presence and He will make everything right!”  

     Perhaps you can identify with my reflection. I know many can. But this may shock you. A letter written by James and recorded in the New Testament speaks of me. He wrote, “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (1:8). He says that I “must believe and not doubt.” The above reflection is filled with doubt (even lies) and especially double-mindedness.

     I was like the blind man that Jesus healed at Bethsaida. Jesus “took the blind man by the hand, and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’ Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:23-25) My eyes too were touched by the Master. I was also made to see. But unlike the blind man, I thought that I was seeing clearly after the first touch. The touch itself was fully adequate but my fleshly eyes were so used to not seeing, that unknown to me, the images seen were indistinct. While claiming to be a healed man of faith, inconsistencies in the way I was seeing things kept my faith confused. But then again, in my own defense, I had never “seen” before. I thought that my vision was 20/20. But in hindsight, I now understand that it was not. My focus was on man and his sin (primarily myself). He loomed large, like a tree without roots, wandering about. There is a significant lacking in spiritual acuity when we look into the face of man rather than into the face of Jesus. If you would have asked me though, I would have denied any such lacking. I would have said, “No, I am seeing clearly!” I would have adamantly insisted upon it. But deep inside, where others can not see, I knew something was wrong. This is where my journey began, a journey into rethinking and relearning the meaning of God’s wonderful grace.

~Intro. to my upcoming book “Rethinking Grace”

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Why Rethinking Grace?

     Why would I “rethink” grace? After all, the grace of God is all I need. That is true, but subtle thoughts that actually contradict the gospel of grace had creeped into my thinking, often unawares—thoughts that confused the logic of my faith. Even though I had tried to live my life well and to do that which was right and good, stress and sin had worn me down. I asked God for help, but I still came up short. Sometimes I just felt numb. Callouses began forming. Callousing and hardening are the clothing of unbelief. Sure, I still believed that Jesus died to save me from my sins, but I had prevented my faith from maturing by not following it to the point of embracing its ultimate conclusion—that the sin issue has been completely and forever resolved and that I have been made righteous! Let me be more precise. I, as a “new creation” in Christ, was not fully embracing the gospel of grace, which tells us over and over again, in many ways and with great clarity, that He has forgiven all of our sins; therefore, we are forgiven. He has removed all of our guilt; therefore, we are blameless. He has cleansed us of all filth, therefore; we are clean. He has put to death all of our sins in His body; therefore, we have no sin. He has given us His righteousness; therefore, we are righteous. He has sanctified us, therefore, we are holy. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). This is faith that sets us free! Any “yes, buts” added to the above statements (as in my scenerio), can be a warning of approaching unbelief—qualifying statements usually indicate a mixture of law with grace. And as was my experience, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal 5:9). Leaven was thwarting my believing. Future posts will expand on this and other implications of “rethinking” God’s grace.

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Man–the Object of God’s Grace

Grace is the pinnacle of God’s love, the fullness, the central theme that will be exhibited for timeless eternity to the praise of His glory (Eph 1:12).  Just as the object of our faith is Jesus, the object of His grace is us!  Let me say that again.  God’s grace is all about us! We, who were dead to God because of sin, when we believe, are resurrected with Christ—made alive forever, as a continuous trophy displayed throughout the coming ages demonstrating the richness of His grace. We, the altogether unattractive, sin laden, hell deserving, having no positive merits of our own, have been made perfect, holy, and declared to be without blame in His sight (Col 1:22). Our ugliness has been changed into beauty, our sins no longer stand against us, we have been given the eternal hope of heaven, and the merits that made Him holy have been transferred to us. Likewise, everything that characterized our darkness; our unattractiveness, our sinfulness and deficiencies were transferred to Christ and put to death on the cross. This is the gospel. We, through His shed blood, have become righteous!

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