By Grace…

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By grace I am saved through faith…the order of redemption is important. How many times is faith emphasized outside of God’s Grace and when it fails to move the mountain, make the way or summon dry bones and dead dreams to life – there is discouragement, disappointment and even doubt? Grace is difficult for mankind as it defies pride and calls for crucifixion. Pride prefers faith demonstrated by works and the façade of perfection. The Gift of God called Grace is essential as it is our escort through the door marked faith. Without grace this door is locked and cannot be opened. When our daughter married her true love, he waited at the altar on the frigid November day. The music played as all the groom’s men and bridesmaids filtered in and took their place. The music changed and everyone stood up as she made her way to the aisle covered in rose petals. Her father had her arm and they smiled as she made her way to the future. Turning to face our soon-to-be son-in-law, he was weeping openly at the sight of his bride. Overtaken by emotion, he held his face in his hands with tears literally running through his fingers. His love for our daughter evident in his reaction. As they joined hands to pray, our daughter dutifully bowed her head still donning the radiant smile from before, but he couldn’t stop looking at the top of her head. Trying to also bow his head, it kept popping up to look at her. It’s funny as I think about God’s Grace today – that this image comes to mind. The Bride and Bridegroom standing at the point of completion. The day that they will become one. By grace, I am saved through faith.

Grace is true love. It is the love of Jesus that flowed from His Broken Body and Broken Heart that day as a remarkable gift. Grace is the goodwill and favor of God given to His People through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. To know, understand, acknowledge and accept His Grace as enough is a requirement for real faith to be initiated in our life. Faith is the seed in our heart activated by grace. However, to try to grow in faith without being fully immersed in grace will only lead to further frustration. The edges and borders of my life are clear cut. It is a giant canvas made white by His Blood in order to become the “masterpiece” as it is called in the New Living Translation or “handiwork” her in the New International Version. I am God’s Masterpiece. Nothing in my life is without potential and purpose to be worked together for my good and completion. It all begins with His Grace. Grace does not change the details of my life prerecorded by the Lord. (Psalm 139:16) It is the access point of all the promises that He has made to me obtained by faith and trust in the Lord. However, it is all through His Grace.

John 1:16-18 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus came to provide us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) This promise is claimed not by what we do but by the grace that is given to us by the One who “is in the closest relationship with the Father”. I am stuck today in this place called grace. Have I tried to live by faith outside of God’s Grace? Is it possible that in my zeal to please God with faith, I sometimes forget that His Grace is sufficient for me? We can only accept grace. I cannot earn it. The grace offered in Jesus Christ is completely and blood bought. I cannot do a single act or make a significant change that will make it affordable to me. It will always be too expensive. It will be more than I can do.

Some assembly required. I often read the reviews of a product before purchasing it to decide how difficult it might be to construct. Many Christmas eves filled with frustration. The box boasted five minutes of construction but the 5,000 pieces represented five days of work. There would be times that after putting it all together the darn thing still didn’t work. So what would I do? I would read the instructions again, and go over each step to see what I missed. For me, this verse today is a flashlight on my heart to determine the areas of my life where I missed the first step called grace. I am pulling and tugging on doors that the Lord will freely open because I have forgotten to remain partnered with grace? I am pleading and praying for things that can only be released by grace? By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith must be first planted in grace to produce other fruit in our life.

Acts 15:11 (NIV) No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

I can hear the invitational hymn that I grew up with playing in my head. “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood was shed for me. And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee. O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Just as I am. Jesus gives us His Grace exactly as I am. No change in me is required just to come to Him. You know my daughter was absolutely stunning on her wedding day. Her beauty inside radiated in her person outside. As perfect as she looked, she was still imperfect. Her husband didn’t see her faults, flaws or failures that day – only the one his soul loved. When Jesus sees us, it is the same way. As a bridegroom awaiting His Beloved, not based on what we can do or choose not to do. It has nothing to do with anything other than His Love manifested in His Grace which provides us access to His Presence. I can come boldly and confidently before Him not because of my faith but simply by His Grace. Oh that the church would find His Grace again, to rely on the grace given to us by the Love of Jesus and stop trying to reinstitute the imperfect law of grace given to Moses. (Romans 11:5-6) By grace, I am saved through faith.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Lord’s Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough. His Power is made perfect in my weakness. However, it is quite another matter to boast about my weaknesses. Everyone sins. Everyday. There is no one that can overcome the flesh and walk in complete righteousness outside of God’s Grace given to us by Jesus. Who delights in weakness? Insults? Hardships? Persecutions? Difficulties? Not many people I know including myself. However, it is in weakness that I am able to fully accept His Grace. It is a humble position never a prideful state. The more I know Jesus, the more I see how much I need Him and how little I have to offer.

James 2:21-24 (NIV) Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

I shared with our small group last night the helplessness that I felt at the bedside of our son enduring the horrible effects of chemotherapy. Watching his body suffer and waste away, time after time I asked the Lord to put me in his place fully knowing it was impossible. One day as I prayed, I pleaded with the Lord. I am a mother. These children are my promise and purpose in life. God, you know that I would die for them. I heard that still small voice reverberate through my heart – “You don’t have to. I already did.” His Grace is enough. His Grace is sufficient. It is in weakness and failures that I am reminded that it is by grace that I am saved through faith.

Faith is conceived by grace. There is nothing that I can “do” to please God without faith. But I cannot have true and relevant faith without fully accepting God’s Grace and the truth that it is enough for me. Faith without works is dead. Faith cannot be productive outside of God’s Grace will also be fruitless. If you are giving your all to Jesus and it is still not enough, it may be time to revisit your connection to His Grace. His Grace is always enough. It is not reliant on the things we do.

Abraham withheld nothing from the Lord. His trust in the grace of God and faith in His Promise allowed him to journey to the mountain of sacrifice ready to give his all. However, Abraham is not the only one listed in this passage. God considered Rahab “the prostitute” righteous. Hold up! The Bible does not tell of her radical conversion. It does not detail her deliverance from her profession. Grace is enough. You cannot wash yourself clean enough. You cannot be good enough to attain right standing with God again. You cannot pay the debt that sin has slapped on your life. it is by grace, I am saved through faith. Lord, keep in your grace today. Remind me that it is enough for me and every other person I come in contact with.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

How will I know if I am reliant on God’s Grace to accompany me through faith? It really is simple. God’s Grace is the Good News called the Gospel. Have you heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with than vinegar”? My grandmother used to say it all the time. Grace is the gospel but is this the message of our life? Faith without works is dead. But faith in God without grace is impossible. Grace is the access point that is the way to the Father through His Son. The fruit of faith fully invested in grace is found in Acts 4. Believers who believe in the Grace of God will have one heart and one mind. No longer will there be division. Grace is the commonality of Christ. It takes me out of the equation and makes Christ the constant. It says that they testified to the resurrection – they spoke truth and life to people without judgment and condemnation which are not qualities of Jesus. Jesus came to show mercy and love to all mankind offering them grace to be set free.  It says, “God’s Grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Redemption. Restoration. Renewal. Revival. All of these are the fruits of faith conceived by Grace. Could it be that our feeble attempts at faith are fruitless because we have tried to achieve them outside of grace? Food for thought. How can I be gracious if I do not know the sufficiency of grace? I cannot give what I have been not received. I cannot express what I have not personally experienced. I cannot live by faith without living in God’s Grace.

Proverbs 22:11 (NIV) One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

 

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