Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Great Grace: Understanding the exceeding greatness of His Grace

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

Continuing in our study of His great Grace, allow me to ask, just what is Grace? Do you truly understand His Grace? Have you grasped its greatness in the life of the Christian?

What is Grace?

 Many would respond with this definition. Grace is divine empowerment. It is God enabling you to do what He tells you to do. It is God giving you the ability to fulfill all His requirements and commands. 

 That is incorrect. That is not the definition of Grace. Grace produces an empowerment and an enablement. So that is what it does but that is not what it is. 

 Grace is His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor and goodness and loving kindness. The divine influence upon the new creation heart of the believer produces an empowerment and enablement. To be clear this enablement isn't the Spirit within us, equipped with His Grace, empowering us to keep the Mosaic Law or the commandments of men. Divine enablement is there to fulfill the perfect plan and purpose of God for our lives.

 Grace reveals our perfect right standing with God. Because of His Grace and Finished Work we have been made perfectly acceptable to our Father. We are totally forgiven of all our sins, past present and future. We are completely secure in Him never fearing the loss of our salvation. As His children, we know God as Father and rest knowing He will never be angry or disappointed with us.

Grace is great but what about works? This is where contention is birthed. As men, like a pendulum, we swing back and forth pondering just what is our part to play? Exactly what is expected of us? Is it Grace plus works? Grace minus any works? What is the balance?

 I would like to give an illustration of divine Grace. Look at the life story of Team Hoyt, the father, and son athletic duo. Rick Hoyt was born with Cerebral Palsy and through the aid of modern medicine, he was able to communicate with his parents. In 1977, Rick told his father Dick that he wanted to participate in a 5 K benefit run for a Lacrosse player who was paralyzed in an accident. His father agreed and he pushed his son in a wheelchair, When the race was over Rick told his father being in the race was the first time he didn't feel disabled. Ever since then Team Hoyt has run in over a thousand races including marathons and triathlons.  
See the video here (grab a tissue, Grace is amazing), and their site here.

If you viewed the video, did you see how his father pushed him in the race? How he pulled him in the raft? That is the picture of us and Father God. He is carrying us through this life. He is pushing us in the race. He is pulling us in the raft over the waters. That is divine Grace. Us resting in Him, realizing without Him within us, moving upon us, gifting us, granting us His favor we could do nothing. 

 Sadly, the way some ministers preach and the words some believers say it seems that they, figuratively speaking, see themselves as the one pushing Jesus in the chair or pulling Him in the raft. Seems they are saying "Hey Jesus I got this. I can do this." "Jesus I will help you. I will accomplish this." 

 Then this opens the contentious debate about Grace vs Works. Do works have a place in the life of the believer? Is Radical Grace a do nothing Gospel? This is the challenge. I am confident that I haven't painted the Gospel of His Grace as a message advocating a lifestyle like the beatniks, hippies, or "deadbeats". That is the passive, anything goes, no standard, no fruit or growth type mindset. 

 That said, I also don't want to revert back to the struggling mindset so many have as Christians. The performance-based faith we were freed from. The achieve to receive, strive to arrive, fake it till you make it, earn it mantras have produced nothing but burn out, and religion not a relationship.

Look at 2 Peter 1, here. Take the time to read through these ten verses. The Grace vs Works argument centers on this one statement from Peter. 
...giving all diligence,...2 Peter 1:5 NKJV
 See it's right there. We need to give diligence. We need to work and strive and struggle. Certainly, I won't agree with that view. What Peter did say though doesn't change. He did state give all diligence. 

 What then did Peter mean? The word diligence here is speaking of earnest haste. Be quick to add to your faith. Peter's words aren't contrary to the Gospel. Those advocating a works-based relationship with God are omitting some important truths. 
 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 2 Peter 1:5 KJV
Peter says and besides this give all diligence. Besides what? Look at the context. 
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 2 Peter 1:2 KJV
 The full context reveals because of the gift of righteousness and Jesus giving us His faith, and the Grace of God multiplied to us we have exceeding precious promises. These promises make us partakers of His divine nature. 

 What Peter is advocating is once the foundation of Grace is firmly established be quick to add to your faith. Be diligent to grow up in Him. Think of this though, where do we get the moral excellence, the self-control, the patience, the Godliness or piety, the love for the brethren and the World that Peter commands us to add to our faith? 

 This is why it is all by Grace. Without His fruit within us, without His guiding us, without His wisdom and instruction how can we achieve self-control or patience? That is the error some are ignorantly committed. They feel these attributes come because of our efforts, and spiritual disciplines. 
30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB

 I submit to you they are already deposited into your spirit at salvation. We just need to be diligent to mature into who He says we are and who He made us already. Think of this, how much more fruitful would we be in holiness if we weren't so busy striving and struggling to achieve holiness and just realize He already made us holy in the Finished Work? If my foundation is holiness, then my maturity is in becoming more and more like I already am inward. 

 In summation, just how great is His Grace? It is above all we can even grasp. We can do nothing apart from Him. That is how exceeding it is. Is the Grace Gospel then discouraging works or efforts? It is only rightly dividing what works are. There is an effort that is divinely enabled and then there is self-effort wherein we strive to be what He has already made us. Want to mature? Add to your faith the attributes Peter reveals? Then begin renewing your mind to who you are in Him. Continually acknowledge who you are in Him and grow in this knowledge and fruit will bloom and overflow. 
Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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