Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grace that is Greater

I have been doing a series at Lifegroup on grace and unbeknownst to me I experienced real grace up close and personal. But more on that later. Here is my definition of grace: the unmerited favor of God toward man giving him both the power and the will to serve Him.

As I thought about grace for daily living and what it means practically, I thought about two things. The first is that in order to apprehend this grace we need to really understand our powerless state (our weakness)(see II Cor. 12:9). We need to dispel the silly idea that we can do anything to please God. The notion that God is more pleased with us when we have a quiet time, or read our Bible or turn off the TV during a provocative scene is not Biblical. God is not more or less pleased with us by what we do. He is pleased by the condition of our heart - a broken and contrite heart. That brings me to my story. About a week ago Luana was telling me about an issue and I did not understand what she was saying, and I got angry for no reason. I went into my room and to bed. As I lay down I tried to understand why I got mad and could not come up with a single reason. Then it really hit me as I realized that I have a very wicked heart. That stayed with me as I got up the next morning for my quiet time and I spent the morning in confession. The amazing thing is that I then had an incredible day of closeness to Jesus. The lesson for me was that God works mightily in hearts that are broken and yielded to Him.

The second idea is that we apprehend this grace by hard work. That sounds somewhat contradictory to our understanding of grace so let me explain. In I Cor. 15:9-10 Paul explains that he is who he is by the grace of God - but then says that it was effective as he worked harder than all of the rest of the apostles. The key is the motivation. When we work hard to please God we dispense with grace, but when we work hard because we are thankful for what He has done for us realizing that we do not deserve it, then grace flows. Saving grace is free, but sanctifying grace is about discipline and working hand in hand with God (see Phil. 2:12-13). He has given us work to do (Eph.2:10) and will give us the grace abundantly for every good work (II Cor. 9:8).

Lastly I want to point out that the last two parts to the definition are extremely important and are what distinguishes Christianity from religion. Religion (even Christianity as religion) is man's attempt to reach out to God to please Him and to appease Him. Thus it is works based and will never achieve the goal. True Christianity is God reaching out to man in his pitiful sinful state for no reason other than His love for man and providing everything to restore that relationship. Not only does he do that but He also gives us the desire to serve Him and more importantly the power to do it. Desire without power results in Paul's condition in Roman's 7. On the other hand, power without desire results in all sorts of problems.

May God grant us all the ability to appreciate His marvelous grace.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Home

It is a sure sign that one is getting old. You can't predict when it will occur, and your not sure you really want it. What is it? An eternal perspective. When we are young we see passages that speak of our longing for our heavenly home and we feel uncomfortable because we really don't. We look forward to getting married, then having kids, watching them grow up, having a career and then to grandkids. There is always something else that keeps our hearts unsatisfied and wanting to experience more. There is nothing particularly wrong with any of this, but it is true for most of us.

Even for myself at the ripe old age of 54, I had so much to live for and to look forward to. But over the past year so much has happened that my attitude has begun to change. With Luana's diagnosis of Alzheimer's, my bypass surgery, my mother's stroke and subsequent confusion, this life has begun to lose it's luster. Now I am not depressed or contemplating suicide and I am continuing to press in and work hard, serving where I am able. All I am saying is that there is a subtle change in my thinking. I really do find myself longing for Christ to return and to set things right. I think more about what heaven is like and I don't worry if I miss out on something this world has to offer.

Now I do not necessarily think that this is bad and in fact it is what we are supposed to do. Paul enjoins us think this way as this is not our true home and we have a better one awaiting us. So that is where I am and if you catch me gazing off with my mind wandering, you will know where to find me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The eye is the lamp

I have not blogged in a while and I know you all are missing it. Partly it was due to time and partly that I have not had much to say. I know that is hard to believe. Well I am back and hope you like it.
I have been studying Matthew and this morning I was looking at 6:22-24 and the Lord gave me a few insights. The first is that the eye is the lamp. Now that can be taken literally with the eye allowing things into our body - good things such as the beauty of God's creation and the needs of hurting peopleor bad things such as pornography; or it can function figuratively allowing the light of the goodness of God into our souls.
The second thing is to look at the word translated good or clear. Actually the word is haplous which means single. We have two eyes and for us to see singly then both of them have to work together. Otherwise we see double. Likewise our eyes need to be singly focused on Jesus and not drawn to separate masters. We also need to be single in purpose. If our eyes are functioning as one with unity of ourpose and devotion then the rest of our body will follow suit. Our heart will be in love with Jesus, our lips will sing His praise, our mind will study His word and think through His truths, our ears will listen to His voice, our hands will reach out to help others and our feet will be quick to spread the good news.
The last idea is that if our eyes are bad (evil-poneros) then our bodies will be full of darkness. Now the only way for there to be darkness is by the absense of light. We do not let darkness in, and the only way to have darkness is to not allow light to enter. God will not do this to us - we do it to ourselves either by losing focus (double vision), disease (cataracs) or by putting blinders on.
I hope this is helpful to you as you think about letting the light of Christ enter into your body and then allowing it to shine forth. God bless.