Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Riding home one evening from dinner, the radio was playing softly in the background. I heard a song that I really liked begin to play. Turning it up, I told my husband to listen when my girls shouted from the backseat. “Turn it up, mom. It’s the Collard Greens song.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Why do you call it the Collard Greens Song?” I couldn’t help but ask. They responded in unison, “Because that’s what he says.” We turned up the music to listen more intently for the words they insisted were in the song. Well, the song is called “Call It Grace” by Unspoken. The chorus is “Some call it foolish and impossible but for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle. It’s nothing less than scandalous this love that took our place. Just call it what it is…call it grace. In their defense, I absolutely can hear “collard greens” when they sing “call it grace.”
In the South, collard greens are a delicacy especially when someone knows how to prepare them properly. My mom used to buy huge bundles of them for holiday meals or special occasions. Preparing these massive plants for consumption is a chore. She would rinse the bundles in the sink and dump them in the washing machine. After a good rinse cycle, she would begin to cut away the rough stems holding the leaves together while a huge pot of water and salt was placed on the stove began to boil. Working diligently until every leaf was separated, she would put them in the pot with a ham hock, bacon grease or pork fat. As they began to boil, the house smelled awful. How something so tasty could smell so terrible is beyond me. My husband doesn’t like them and will not allow me to cook them in the house so my mother-in-law often prepares them for us. You might say to us southern folks a steaming pot of collard greens might be considered a masterpiece considering all the work that goes into their preparation for presentation.
God’s Grace allows us to become God’s Masterpiece. The process of grace is messy as God takes there terrible mess that sin has made of our life carefully working to remove it and replace it with His Grace and Power. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are saved by His Grace. It sounds so easy who would think it so difficult. However, it is difficult for many to receive God’s Grace as it is given and give it as is indicated in God’s Word. Why? We just don’t understand what it is and how it works. We might as well think like my girls who used to sing…”call it what it is…collard greens.”
Let’s start with the facts. Just the most primary basics of our new life in Christ. Salvation is not a reward therefore no matter what we did before receiving it or what we do once it is discovered impact its potential and outcome in our life. You cannot make salvation or work it out – it is a miracle of God presented to us for our acceptance or rejection. Nothing more or less. We cannot (or should not) boast about who or what we are in Jesus Christ because we are not the one’s responsible for the complete and total transformation that we are presently undergoing. Everything that is good in us is a direct result of Christ coming to live in us. Even self-control is produced by His Spirit. Grace is the promise, potential and power of God that creates the masterpiece that He predestined us to be. He is the Potter and we are the clay.
Jeremiah 18:11-6 (NLT)
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.
Romans 9:21-23 (NLT)
When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
Grace is that thing which is eagerly accepted yet reluctantly given. It costs the giver something that the recipient is unable or unwilling to pay. Why? I don’t think everyone understands the magnitude and complexity of the grace that is given to us by God through Jesus Christ. Essentially, grace takes us from the trash and puts us into God’s Hand again. At first, our hearts are hard. Necks have become stiff and set in our own ways. By we are washed by the Word of God, and get a little softer. We are moistened by the Holy Spirit, who works in us and through us, to create a movable and shapeable form. Obedience begins to mold us into the more acceptable way which is beginning to manifest in waves of grace making its way throughout our life and things are getting better so that little thing called pride rises up within us telling us “look at what an awesome job you are doing.” Uh-oh. Boasting turns from what God is doing in us to what we are doing for God. Can you hear the inherent danger? The signals are coming off.
Now when people come to church immersed in their sin – they don’t look like us – the don’t smell like us – they don’t do the right things – they don’t know the words to the songs – they don’t act like we do – they don’t talk like we do – they are not one of us. His mercy is new every morning – and thankfully so. These presumptions made about others were once made about us. Relationships turned religious always make us look down. Our relationship to Jesus will not allow it because in His Grace all I can do is look up to Him because there is nothing worthy enough that I can do, say or be for Him. Jesus is everything to me. Those people who I am judging, talking about or looking down upon are me in the beginning I just don’t remember what Jesus did or truly understand this thing called grace.
I Corinthians 15:10 (NLT)
But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
Many people are crying out to God and pleading for revival. Hmmm… do we really know what we are asking for? The things of God are delivered by faith through the Grace of God. Grace is a continual flow or it becomes a stagnant pond. The very second that we determine something else is unworthy of God’s Grace. It stops. It doesn’t matter how hard I work, how much I serve, how anointed by God that “I” think I am, if I am not ever aware of His Grace and my responsibility to be gracious, it stops working in me completely.
What is the truth about God’s Grace? Sin has accomplished two things in my life – sin has produced inevitable eternal death and it has stripped me of God’s Glorious Standard of Living. (Romans 3:23-24) Grace fixed me. Faith in God through Jesus Christ by accepting and applying His Grace to my life allows me to have hope of eternal life AND to live according to God’s Goodness right here and right now. Grace is not an exclusive right but inclusive relationship. We are part of the Body of Christ now. There are no rogues. Rogues are labeled rebellious. Grace gives us the freedom to part ways with sin completely along with all its consequences and become part of something far greater and more powerful – His Kingdom. The Law condemned us and created religion to keep itself alive. I am bound to Jesus Christ in a covenant relationship by His Grace alone. Grace is the life changing message to be sent around the world. (Colossians 1:6) It will never make it until we know what it is and learn how to circulate it.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I was talking to one of my kids yesterday about grace. The more I shared the concept of grace with him concerning others the more I came to recognize how it works in our life. We cannot fathom grace in our strength but identify it in our weakness. When we are feel complete or whole, it is not something sought after or required but in our utter brokenness and total weakness that we desire it more and more. The Power of Christ is not sought after in what I can do but when I am absolutely convinced that I can do nothing that I find it. The process of transformation is much like the plight of the collard greens. Cut down in their splendor and beauty in the field. Rising up from a seed, enduring all seasons, and feeling as though it made it only to be cut down. In the kitchen of a chef, washed, cut, broken and prepared to be unceremoniously dumped into a pot boiling water cooking over fires of refinement. The heat unbearable the leaves become soft and soak in the flavors present all around them until finally ready. They are placed in a lovely bowl and presented to those who are hungry. Doesn’t grace work the same way?
God prepares us to be offered to the world. Not hard and unpalatable, but as living sacrifices who give off a flavor of grace to all that come searching. If I am not softened in the Hands of God until I am fit for His Service, there will be no revival. If I do not learn what grace really is, there will be no message to offer the world. I must understand grace. I must apply it practically and impartially in my life.
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Coming to the Throne of God asking for revival, I am humbled that what I need to get ready is more grace. He is a Gracious God. We must be His Gracious People. To be gracious means to be pleasantly kind and benevolent. It is to be merciful and compassionate. Jesus understands our weakness and when offered to Him can apply His Grace. We must learn to properly apply grace in our life as well. We must not treat the Grace of God as meaningless. (Galatians 2:20-21) Without God’s Amazing Grace our life is over. We have nothing. It will not end well for us no matter how good we think we are or how hard we try. The boldness that I have is my faith in the Grace of God given in the life of Jesus Christ. To put my confidence in anything or anyone else especially me implies that I have put another god in the place of the One, True Living God.
I Peter 1:13-17 (NLT)
So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s Obedient Children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents”.
There is no sin in the Kingdom of God only grace. There is no hurt, pain, trial or trouble. Just immeasurable love and grace flowing down from the Father through His Son. As we work to build the Kingdom, we must be every mindful of the commodity on which His Kingdom operates. It is fully activated by grace. Unlimited grace. Forgiving grace. Applicable grace. Everything we do or so in this world should reflect God’s Grace, Love and Mercy which leaves no room for pride, separation or fear outside of complete reverence for the Grace given to us at such a huge price. Today as I get ready to head to church, I am reminded that over the years I have learned a lot about grace but today I am challenged to know more grace and be more gracious than ever before. God’s Grace working in me is the only hope I have that does not lead to disappointment but everlasting life. Grace is God’s Standard of Living that makes me prosperous and successful in this world and effective in sharing the Good News. Some call it foolish and impossible. But for my heart it is a miracle. This is the Love that took our place. So call it what it is – call it grace. I will never listen to the song “Call it Grace” without thinking about collard greens. I also won’t hear it again without thinking just a little bit more about this scandalous and precious gift given for me to give to others. Thank you Jesus for amazing grace!
Titus 3:7-8 (NLT)
Because of His Grace He made us right in His Sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial to everyone.