Monday, September 28, 2015

A Journey toward Grace

    Yep, I'm back to grace. If you've been around the blog much, you know that grace is a pretty keynote topic here. Tonight I thought I would give a brief outline of why this is such a freeing concept for me, and why I harp on it so often.

    If I were to describe myself tonight, I would describe myself as a Christ follower on a journey toward a greater and greater understanding and appreciation of the grace of God. The last two years of my life have made such an enormous impact on my faith and understanding of who I am in Christ that I cannot help but speak more and more on grace.

    See, two years ago, my life was a much more comfortable Christianity. I almost wrote "a much more comfortable faith", but that wouldn't be a true statement. In fact, my Christianity had very little of faith in it. My Christianity had just enough faith to embrace Jesus as Savior from my sins, but not as Lord of my life or my sufficiency.

    My sufficiency and security was found in formulas and answers: formulas of good conduct that promised God's favor and a higher standing with God and answers to all life's questions that fit God neatly and nicely in a nice, pretty box tied up with a bow of my own making in my human mind. God was neither the stern nosed judge of sin or the gentle Father compassionate with my brokenness.

    God was a concept that was too distant to understand, revealed only through trite phrases, formulas, and commands. Faith was simply a footnote, an enablement of my own human powers. Grace was the extra to top off my merit when it fell short of God's perfect standard. Grace was the whiteout for the occasional black spotch on my mostly white paper of life.

    But nothing prepared me for the answers I would find when I began pursuing Jesus, or in reality, when He began pursuing me. God was no longer just a concept, but a living, breathing, human reality, one both mysterious in power and human in compassion, a genuinely loving and caring Father. Faith suddenly became a radical concept, deeper than simply a grasp at salvation, but rather a call into the unknown.

    But the change that came in my grasp of grace was the deathblow to my carefully regimented religion. Grace wasn't the whiteout that covered my splotches; grace was God taking my black life and making Himself sin in order to give me His perfect purity. Grace was no longer an extra topoff to my tank of human merit; grace was literally my life.

    My life in Christ is due to grace, only grace. The reason I am a child of God is only through God's grace to me, undeserved and spurned. A raging grace from a wild God to so recklessly thrust purity into the hands of a sinner so impure and so undeserving. Truly, I say with Paul that "by the grace of God I am who I am."

    Through Christ, I am righteous who never did righteousness. I am pure who committed impurities. I am sinless who sinned. I am saved who threw myself off a cliff into sin against God. By all rules of ordinary human mercy, God should have spurned me long ago and left me to the devices of my free will to consign me to an eternity of hell.

    God broke the rules, the rules of ordinary human interaction by going above and beyond mercy. No, grace goes far beyond ordinary mercy. Grace is God revealing Himself, granting His righteousness to someone like me, to a defiant rebel. Grace is a wild God showing reckless love to His own murderers.

    And in this grace, the world comes alive. The world that before was so clearly black and white, safe-feeling in my bubble of self-righteousness, is now vividly colorful. The God of judgment takes shape into an incomprehensible and unexplainable mystery, but a beautiful mystery, one that pours out mercy after mercy to His children.

    I cannot understand it. Maybe one day when I look on Jesus, fall on my knees before Him, and cry out His holiness I will understand the greatness of who He is and the sacrifice He made. But I doubt it. I doubt I will ever understand the greatness of who He is and what He has done. I believe there is no explanation, certainly none to satisfy human requirements, for why He gives Himself so sacrificially and beautifully to His creation.

    Paul concludes Rom. 11 with a breathtaking statement about the majesty and splendor of God. In closing the most complete synopsis of the gospel recorded in the Bible through chapters 1-11, spanning from man's depravity to our new nature to our election in Christ, Paul chooses to end it by focusing on the inexplicable nature of God.

    "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid to him again? For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him by the glory forever. Amen."

    Who has given to God that makes God somehow our debtor, owing us salvation? Which of us has made a deal with Him that somehow makes us deserving of grace? The question doesn't even deserve an answer. He is so beyond us that His ways, His reasons are beyond our understanding.

    The scandal of the gospel is not that God would send anyone to hell; it is that He would choose to save any at all. The scandal of the gospel is that God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, died for rebels in defiance.

    Our journey toward grace is a journey that takes us further and further into the inexplicable. And that's okay. Because we serve an inexplicable God, the mystery of God is okay. God is not required to fit in the box of human comprehension and understanding.

    The further I go toward knowing Christ better the more I realize I cannot understand His ways. The more of His grace I experience, the more I begin to abandon attempts to understand it and to simply rejoice in the freedom it brings. "I'm no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God" as Jonathan David says so well in his song "No Longer Slaves".

    Children of God. Not only forgiven, but adopted. This is grace! This is an understanding that revolutionizes my life. My status is a child of God. Accepted. Redeemed. Loved. No matter what I've done or who I was, I am a child of God. No matter what I struggle with, I am a child of God. No matter where I go, I am a child of God. No matter what trials comes, I am a child of God. No matter what unforeseen tragedies occur in my life, I am a child of God. No matter where He leads, I am a child of God.

    My journey toward grace is still happening. I see my God in "vivid colors, warmth, and light" in place of the black and white God of judgment and love. In place of the understandable, I have been blessed by the mystery of a God I cannot understand or explain. In place of the commands and laws, I have been blessed with grace, with righteousness not my own.

    I pray my journey toward grace never ends. I feel as if my relationship with Christ is one that leads me deeper and deeper into a vast spreading field that is God's grace, and the more I know and find I don't know, the more and more grace I experience. And I pray the journey toward Christ and deeper into His grace never ends.

7 comments:

  1. "A raging grace from a wild God to so recklessly thrust purity into the hands of a sinner so impure and so undeserving." Love that sentence!
    Great post and writing on grace will never get old for me. I need the daily reminder of God's grace and having a first name that means grace or a middle name that is "Grace" is not enough to help me remember. I too have been more and more overwhelmed by the beauty of God's grace. His grace never ceases to capture my heart.
    So keep writing on grace. ;)

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    1. I think if I used three words to describe my life I would say Grace, Hope, and Joy. These are my life songs!

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    2. I plan to, Hannah! Thank you for the encouragement!

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  2. Wow. I applaud you loudly for this. A journey toward grace... This whole post was awesome, encouraging, and so true!

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    1. Thanks, Lauren! I'm glad you found it so!

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  3. Wow! This post, was really beautiful and encouraging. Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. Glad to hear it, Abby! Thank you for reading!

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