Tag Archives: grace

Grace Prevails

There is a song out by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Wins.”
The words are powerful, the concept beautiful, here are the lyrics from part of the song:
“For the Prodigal son
Grace Wins
For the Woman at the well
Grace Wins
For the blind men and the beggar
Grace Wins
For always and forever
Grace Wins
For the lost out on the street
Grace Wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace Wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace Wins
For the world that is lost
Grace Wins
There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But i’m living proof
Grace wins every time”

As a person who writes and speaks, i am keenly aware of how important it is to define the words we use.

Traditional definition of GRACE – the free and unmerited favor of God.

Dallas Willard – “GRACE is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace is not just about forgiveness — if we had never sinned we would still need grace! GRACE is God acting in our life to do what we cannot do on our own. Grace is what we live by, and the human system won’t work without it.”
When God chose to act on our behalf, in the person of Jesus, He did what we could not do. That grace existed because of the very nature of our God, [who He is] and it shapes our relationship with God. We can not have a relationship with God apart from the GRACE of God in Jesus.
GRACE is God’s action in our lives. GRACE is not a once and done, rather it is a consistent living into. Relationships are constantly changing, either growing together or growing apart. God’s grace/action in our lives is designed to draw us closer in our relationship with God. When we refuse to accept this grace/action and choose our own will/way, we grow apart-the relationship suffers. This growing apart does not lessen God’s grace/action/love for us, God is not like us, God is not fickle. GRACE wins every time.
Why is this so important? Why spend five paragraphs defining GRACE? Because I believe that the lack of living into God’s action/grace/relationship is the single largest reason the light that disciples are supposed to shine in the world has dimmed.
The Christian church has become a people who love their position/opinion/beliefs/politics more than we love other people and more than we love Jesus. We are so convinced that our position is right that we love that supposed “rightness” more than we love the person who has a different position. When this happens, we have missed the point of God’s action/GRACE in our lives. To do this is to miss the mark that Jesus has called us to as disciples.

Think about Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector. Two people that couldn’t have been more politically/socially/economically different. For Simon the Zealot, he loved a free Israel so much that he was willing to kill Romans to accomplish that freedom. For Matthew the Tax collector, he loved money so much he was willing to be branded a traitor and nationally despised. And Jesus called them both to be His disciples. Can you just imagine Simon sitting at the camp fire as Matthew joins the group for the first time, and Jesus says, “Hey, Matthew, I think there is an open seat next to Simon.”
Plug what ever opposing “stances” you want into the equation. The result is the same. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Homosexual vs. Not. It doesn’t matter. Both sides love their position more than they love the people on the other side. This is where God’s GRACE/action in our lives comes to play. Simon and Matthew loved their positions, and had given their lives over to their cause/ideology. Yet, having encountered God’s GRACE in Jesus, both chose not to love their position, but to let go and to love Jesus more. GRACE wins every time. Their encounter of God’s grace in the person of Jesus led them to love him more than they loved their position. And because they loved Him more than their position, they were willing to obey when Jesus commanded them to love each other!

Grace cannot be experienced apart from a relationship. When we choose to define people by their stance, rather than a person whom Jesus loves, we miss the point of the Gospel. Many churches are going the legislation route. Legislation will not bring about healing, only relationships built on the person of Jesus can do that. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…. see Galatians 3:26-29. A disciple of Jesus will always choose to build a relationship with another person because of the relationship the disciple has with Jesus. The encounter of GRACE/God’s action in their lives compels the disciple to seek the relationship with the other person not in spite of their ‘stance’ but because of who Jesus is.
This is the problem that the broader church faces: people want to love their position or their building or their theological stance more than they love their neighbor. We fail to love others because we fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This dims our light/witness to the world. Our light is hidden under the basket/bushel of our position. The church has learned the lesson of the world all too well, that people are disposable. It’s OK to write off your brother; it’s OK to dismiss someone, if they don’t agree with your perspective/stance.
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am all for Biblical authority, I am all for conservative values. But, above all, I am for Jesus. And Jesus commands me to build relationships with other people out of my love for Him based upon His love for me. I need God’s grace to do this. In the end, GRACE wins every time.

Running From? Or Running Toward?

We have so much in common with Jonah.
We want justice for our enemies. We want grace for our sins.
We want to take the easy route, ignoring the difficult path of repentance.
We ignore God’s instructions/directions/commands/laws/teaching, and then we are upset when we reap the difficult harvest of bad decisions.

As I was reading the book of the Prophet Jonah today, I was struck by two verses. The first was Jonah 1:3 – “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”
What kind of God does Jonah have? Based upon his actions, Jonah’s God is one who can be avoided, who is not everywhere and has limits. None of this is true for the God we see in The Bible. But are we any different? Too many times we believe the lies of the enemy that we can not be loved, that what we have done is not forgivable, that God is angry and best be avoided. I would offer that if a theologian had sat down with Jonah prior to his escape from the call of God, Jonah would have affirmed that God was all the omni’s [Omniscience, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.] But just like Jonah, our actions often speak volumes about what we really believe deep down inside. Our thinking can agree with the “proper answers” but our actions belay a different belief system. We abandon what we are told in Genesis 1:26, that we are “made in the image of God,” and instead we remake God according to our ideas so that God fits in our box.

That leads me to the second verse that leaped off the page. In chapter two we have Jonah saved/held captive in the belly of the fish. We find him driven to prayer. This is a pretty normal reaction. In Jonah 2:8, we come to this verse, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Wow! How true this verse is. This verse could not be more true of our world today. We cling to what the market is doing. We agonize over what the election might bring. We chase after the latest and greatest tech [that may catch fire in our pants, i.e.: Samsung Galaxy Note 7]. We model our lives after what someone famous is doing. We mimic our societal norms. All the while, we are “forfeiting the grace that could be ours.”

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah 2:8

God loves us. It’s a fact. He proved it in the life of Jesus. Jesus loves us. He proved it in His willingness to die for us. What sports star/team, famous person, rich person is willing to die for you? Yet we idolize them, devour their tweets, and buy the products they hock. What 401K plan, stock option, bank account can really provide the grace that we need to forgive our selves, forgive others, and live a life free of mental burden? What new CEO, business practice, worldly exercise, advertising campaign, or cunning insight is really going to bring about the heart change that you and I need?

At the heart of all discipleship is following, running toward whom we are following. It is time we stop running from God and forfeiting His grace. It is time to run toward God, and be blessed by His love. I am reminded of the old hymn with the stanza, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.” Let us stop running from God’s call on our lives. Let us stop trying to model God after our thoughts, and instead change our thoughts to match God. Let us stop running to the useless things of this world, so that we would not forfeit the amazing grace that God wants for us to enjoy.