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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

The Greatness of Grace

October 10th, 2017

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. 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)

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” – these words teach us that when God saves us He does not do so in a half-hearted manner. He does not take us to heaven to shame us for eternity about what lousy sinners we are. He covers us with the righteousness of Christ so that our sinful past is completely obliterated, and He adopts us into His family so that we reconciled to Him, and He transforms us into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ, so that we are different in our character.

His grace super abounds over our sin.

Yesterday we examined the issue of God’s anger toward sinful humanity. But in Christ Jesus His anger is turned away and now we are objects of His favor and blessing. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT).

I was in a Bible study several years ago where one of the men there kept hammering on this matter of our sinfulness. It was clear that he really thought that we ought to go around shaming people about how bad they were. He was so insistent on this issue that he went too far in this area. I finally said that the way he was describing God and God’s grace is that when we get to heaven God will say, “You lousy sinner, I should have sent you to hell, but for some reason I have decided not to, so welcome to heaven. I hope you have a terrible eternity thinking all the time about how you don’t deserve any of this.”

If that is what God says to repentant sinners, then heaven will be a terrible experience. But the Bible teaches us otherwise, that God assures us of His love and of our acceptance in Christ. Though we have failed, He lifts us up in love and assures us of His faithfulness. We are now overwhelmed with how greatly He has forgiven us and restored us to Himself.

Calvin described this teaching like this: “that while sin is overflowing, [grace] pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” The impact is that we are completely assured of God’s love and acceptance. Even the pain of shame is removed and all tears are wiped from our eyes, even tears of shame (Rev. 21:4). Calvin added that Christ is “sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed.”

Grace is not only the receiving of forgiveness, but also the receiving of the assurance of forgiveness. Grace is more than just not being punished. It is the “super-abounding” entrance into an entirely different frame of mind – one in which we love God and are confident of His love for us. There is the basis for new sense of self-respect, one that is divinely bestowed. If God loves us so greatly, then, on that basis alone, we should respect ourselves. His redemption is all encompassing, saving us that we might know Him, that He might reveal His character in us and through us, and that we might be filled with joy and peace.

Is it easy to love God’ asks an old author. ‘It is easy,’ he replies, ‘to those who do it.’ … [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible. (C.S. Lewis)

I heard a Christian author and speaker once say that what he thought the human heart truly longs for is Someone to whom we can be truly grateful. This is the miracle of God’s super-abounding grace.

This is why, by the way, the down-playing of our sinfulness is so dangerous to our spiritual health, in that it tries to resolve our feelings on this issue of forgiveness merely through human logic, and not through the power of God. But those who rejoice in their salvation, who are confident in their acceptance in Christ, possess this assurance through the divine power of God, and not through faulty human logic.

In fact, I am convinced that there is no logic that can explain God’s choice to redeem us. He has chosen to do so for His own purposes, out of His own heart of love, and true love always defies logic.

Doctrinal Studies ,

We Are Ambassadors for Christ

August 16th, 2017

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV

How clearly and brilliantly Paul lays out this case, that his mission, and our mission as Christians, is not for our defense, nor really for our cause. It is rather for Christ, for His cause and His glory. We are His ambassadors, not our own.

The background of this passage was the situation in the church of Corinth that was divided due to petty ego issues of the leaders. Some felt that their positions in the church where given to them so that they may exalt themselves and elevate their own reputations among people. They desperately needed God’s perspective on this matter, that they were to be, and we are to be, ambassadors for Christ, conveying His matchless love for people.

It is not about us. It is all about Him.

There is immeasurable potential for the individual in Christ. Since God has made Christ to be sin, even though He had committed no sin, neither did He know sin in His heart, now every person who believes, who is enlightened by the gospel and converted by the Spirit, becomes the very righteousness of God. As we read in Romans, in the gospel a righteousness is revealed that comes to us by faith and by faith alone. It is “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17).

So in denying our rights and taking up the cause of Christ, we have enhanced our status by immeasurable bounds. If we represented ourselves, we would have our own small little world, our own narrow self interests, our own reputation, or our family and friends to promote and protect. It would all inherently be about us and not about anything else – certainly not for the cause of or for the glory of Christ.

But neither would it be for the salvation of the sinner. Our goal would simply be to get people under our control for whatever benefits we think we could derive from them. And we would do that by trying to convince them that we could help them also in some manner. Not to say that we humans cannot help one another, for certainly we can, and some manner of helps can even be life-saving in nature.

But the whole gospel enterprise would then slide off into mere humanism or politics or public policies or psychologies – not eternal salvation, not God’s incredible grace to us through Christ, not the righteousness of Christ bestowed to the guilty sinner on the basis of grace, not conversion of heart and soul by the Holy Spirit, and not a joined-in and shared united mission as God’s ambassadors.

By being identified as “ambassadors” we have not lowered our rank at all, rather it is an incredible elevation for those who live and serve in this spirit. It is a privileged and exalted position to be an ambassador for the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, for the Savior of the whole world! Albert Barnes observed:

An ambassador is a minister of the highest rank, employed by one prince or state at the court of another, to manage the concerns of his own prince or state, and representing the dignity and power of his sovereign.— Webster. He is sent to do what the sovereign would himself do were he present. They are sent to make known the will of the sovereign, and to negotiate matters of commerce, of war, or of peace, and in general everything affecting the interests of the sovereign among the people to whom they are sent. At all times, and in all countries, an ambassador is a sacred character, and his person is regarded as inviolable, he is bound implicitly to obey the instructions of his sovereign, and as far as possible to do only what the sovereign would do were he, himself present.

When we have put aside our self-interests and taken up the message and cause of Christ – and I do not believe we can take up His cause until we have laid down our own – then we have been elevated to the highest position imaginable. And we are armed with the greatest message imaginable – forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, sonship, eternal life, and a new and eternal spiritual existence.

Sometimes, as it is in political alliances in this world, as Christ’s ambassadors we are sent to negotiate and proclaim the peace and salvation offered through Him to guilty sinners, and perhaps these sinners have sinned against us. Imagine a political ambassador sent to negotiate the end of a war or the establishment of peace, and he himself had lost his son in that war. His personal feelings would be of no account or no matter for consideration. He would represent the government that sent him and negotiate the terms that they dictated. That is the way it is for us as well.

So our feelings, our emotions, our fears, our concerns, our personal experiences – none of these are matters of eternal importance. We are privileged to receive and to share the bountiful grace of God in Christ toward all people – and we are responsible to do it as well. But in putting aside our personal feelings, and taking up the position of ambassadors for Christ, we also experience inner spiritual blessings that are immeasurable. We receive the peace of God that transcends all human understanding, the joy of the Lord, the joining into the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus, and the elation of seeing the salvation achieved through Christ being received by human beings.

As Christ said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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