In this first post of 2015, I really felt led to speak on the very subject that defined all of 2014 for me. In the beginning of last year, I felt that God laid on my heart that He wanted to teach me what grace meant, from the way He is to the way we show it in our lives towards each other.
Coinciding with this, my church’s theme of the year was focus; which dealt with discipline and consistency, both practically and spiritually. The ironic thing is, although I knew my church’s theme and what God laid on my heart even at the beginning of the year, it took until New Year’s Eve for me to put two and two together and remind myself of it.
So now as I live in the year 2015, I really want to sum up the ways God’s grace has become real to me. Last year; I’ve witnessed others go through so much heartache, loss, struggles, and more, and in the midst of that I saw a loss of faith. I saw people who struggled to understand the reality of God’s existence and goodness in the midst of evil and tragic circumstances. There are many true things that could’ve been said and have been, yet the only thing that enables people to get through these kinds of things is the grace of God. No matter the amount of knowledge someone had, it wasn’t able to shield them from the gnawing doubt that can fill the heart of an individual, like the grace of God can.
As I witnessed these things throughout the year, and it came across very frequently around the summer, I was asked by a friend to speak at her church’s service on Sunday. At that point, I had never preached a sermon in my life, and if you know me, public speaking was not a natural gift for me nor did my personality fit it. Before I accepted, I prayed and felt led to do it and was given a message on unbelief.
In this moment, I was able to see an aspect of the grace of God, in that it equips you to do His will in spite of your natural inability/aversion to doing it. So in God’s awesome way He had me speak on a topic that deals with believing on Him by faith, through grace, and at the same time being enabled by that grace to preach and encourage those struggling with that faith.
After dealing with that, there’s another aspect of His grace that either gets ignored or misunderstood. As a Christian, you can either ignore it by living in legalism or misunderstand it and live in compromise. This reality was shown to me in vivid ways, where I had friends that I love go through the horrors of legalism that destroys, and then seeing others abuse the grace of God and in turn having to be GRACIOUS like God is to those very same people.
I learned how to be patient in seeing God work through the lives of people that in our minds we would never expect to be transformed and live for Him completely. There were many assumptions in my heart that had to be dealt with through the Holy Spirit teaching me how to deal with people who even willingly sin against Him. I was also taught how to be gracious against those who use God’s commands as a burden instead of a structure of a life giving relationship with Him. It can be very frustrating seeing His ways manipulated through those who are insecure or hunger for control. Yet…Jesus died for the legalist as much as the liberal. I had to learn this, and then apply it to my thinking and actions. My thoughts had to reflect the redemption that I already had.
If that wasn’t enough, within the last quarter of 2014, I dealt with personal temptations that I never would have imagined I would deal with. Some days it left me saying, “Huh?! But…how did this struggle even come??!” I was able to see the grace of God that is constantly shown to me personally, even when God knows EVERYTHING about me. He knows the things that would shock people, yet He never leaves nor forsakes us. He never allows us to be destroyed by our OWN devices and vices. In these times I learned that the grace of God is more than just something given…its who He IS.
Usually when people picture the grace of God, they see an object in His hand that He doles out to those in certain situations, like a VIP pack for NBA 2k15 or an orb of magic for an RPG game. But God began to show me, through a Bible study with friends, that His grace is who He is, and He shows it because He can’t do anything else or it wouldn’t be Him.
It is because God is gracious, that when His presence resides in those who believe..they are enabled to live like Him. Its then that we grow in ourselves being gracious to each other, and even our planet. Its this picture of His graciousness that allows us to see how His presence empowers, encourages, comforts, edifies, brings peace, increases love, and so much more in us.
At this point, I begin to understand that as a man created in His image that my presence towards others should convey these characteristics. When people are around me, they should feel empowered, encouraged, comforted, edified, at peace, more loving, etc. They should be able to see how my Father is like. Its the grace of God that calls me to a higher level of responsibility than I was able to walk in before.
Its the same with you. When the grace of God before all men appeared in Jesus (Titus 2:11-14), with that free gift brought a responsibility to all the inhabitants of the earth to respond to this grace, either with faith or unbelief. When His grace enables believers to do good works, it brings a higher responsibility of representing Him. When His graciousness transforms us, it brings the responsibility of us being gracious like our Father is as well.
May God give you the grace to see the wonders of His love, to see how to wonderfully love one another. May it break every destructive hindrance of legalism and compromise from the lives of believers, may it call unbelievers to account with the God who settled their debts on the Cross…because of His grace.