Friday, March 8, 2013

What is grace

I was talking with a friend who is struggling with the concept of grace. I have been thinking about grace throughout the day, which made the day very pleasant. To me, grace is shelter, like a warm blanket; grace is a cool drink given to the thirsty, and food to the starving. Grace is everything.

I was thinking about Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham. Abraham would be fruitful, become the father of many nations, and have a son. Abraham’s part in the covenant was to make sure all the male descendents were circumcised. God gave a lot asking little in return. Abraham believed God and did have a son, Isaac. Sometime later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering. Abraham set out the next morning with Isaac to the place God wanted Abraham to go.

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Gen 22:6-12)

This is grace. I imagined Abraham walking with his son, remembering that God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations. Now Abraham was giving up his only son. I imagined the internal struggle of the flesh within Abraham. However, Abraham, of his free will, chose to believe God, knowing that God is faithful. I am sure that Abraham did not understand what was happening, he only knew that God asked him to do this. When Isaac asked Abraham about the sacrifice, I think he looked upon the boy with sad eyes. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Abraham knew that God had provided Isaac as his son, and now Abraham’s son was the sacrifice. This is Abraham’s grace towards God.

When God sent Jesus to become the perfect sacrifice, it was God’s grace towards humankind. Jesus died, and His blood became a covering of grace to those who, of their own free will, chose to believe that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus raised from the dead, and that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice of grace to cover them.

When we lay aside our logic, our reasoning, ourselves, and step into the covering, God sees us as perfect. We step into the covering of a spiritual reality, become perfect in God’s sight, but, alas, we are dragging our flesh with us. The Holy Spirit begins to help us clean up the flesh, and bring the spiritual knowledge we have into the earthly reality where we reside. This is grace.

I have known believers who are concerned about this concept of grace. “Well, how can a person be saved if he/she still has sin.” There is a tendency to become the sin police. However, we are all sinners, and it is more than external stuff, it can be envy, impatience, self-importance, or pride. The nature of man is opposed to the nature of God. That is why God gave us the covering of grace. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are perfectly capable of supporting the changes that will come about in our lives.

Jesus said “a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34). Jesus did not mean Christians loving Christians. It is God’s desire that we love others. As we draw close to God, He will teach us what this means. But obviously, this means that as God loves us, we should love others. That is grace.

One verse I really love is when Jesus turned to Peter and said, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22). Whenever I get my back up, wondering why or what or how come, I hear the Lord speak these words to me.

When I am tempted to be a policeman, I remember that God is in control. I will speak to God and see if He wants me to do anything in the situation. Proverbs 9:8 reads “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.” If God wants me to respond, I still wait on God’s timing. Sometimes I am ready to speak, and God says, “What is that to you?” Other times, God creates the setting so that what He has allowed me to say heard through ears of grace. Proverbs 25: 11-14 helps me wait patiently. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.” That is grace.

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