Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For By Grace You Have Been Saved

For by Grace You Have Been Saved

Years ago I was in Texas to lead worship for a retreat. The topic was ‘Environments and Relationships of Grace’ and I spoke at one of the sessions. I have included some of my thoughts here for you to contemplate. Grace has been described in various ways: 
- the unmerited favor of God. 
- undeserved love 
- Gods Riches At Christ’s Expense 
- Grace is God’s giving us what we don’t deserve and mercy is God’s not giving us what we do deserve.
I am sure that you could add a lot more of these succinct attempts at giving definition to the concept of Grace. The thoughts that I want to give here have more to do with the outworking of grace in our lives. 

Grace sets us free - it never binds us to something
       One of the most crucial hindrances to Grace that Paul and the early church had to deal with was the continual attempt by some to impose restrictions and conditions on grace. It continues until today. Legalism is all around us and robs us of a relationship with Christ. 
      Paul fought this at every turn. He understood that to make the focus our sin would only empower the sin. Grace focuses on Christ and His gift of life. To focus on that takes away the power of sin and empowers the new life that is in us because of the Holy Spirit that indwells us. Grace allows us the freedom to come as we are and believe that Christ within us will change us.
      Legalism binds us to rules and regulations and makes us responsible to deal with all that is wrong with us. We never could fix ourselves.  It was precisely because we couldn’t be good that He had to come. It is His goodness and righteousness that I live in now. In an environment of Grace I am changed by Christ, not by my own effort.

Grace provides a safe place
     Grace provides an environment of safety. I can reveal my weaknesses and struggles and not have to defend myself anymore. I am free to try and to fail, and my failure not change how I am viewed or whether I am acceptable to God. I can be vulnerable. When we are not in environments of Grace we will hide and keep our weaknesses and our sin hidden and in the darkness they grow and fester and drain us of life. Jesus was a safe place. He saw men for who they were. He knew the sinners and He ate with them and liked being with them. He wanted them to know they were welcome. The ones who had to fear Jesus were the self righteous men who would bind others with rules and regulations, and in doing so enslave them rather than setting them free.
      I must ask myself - am I a safe place for people to deal with the issues of their lives and know that they are accepted because of Christ and the issue not be their performance.
     This does not mean we ignore blatant sin or that we not confront sin, but rather that we not make sin the primary focus, and demand behavioral change rather than a heart change. Jesus and His unconditional love must be the primary focus. 
This leads into the next thought -

Grace looks beyond fault and sees need
God hates sin but He loves the sinner. We should take a lesson. I can’t say it any better than this - God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8 While we were sinning, Christ looked beyond the sin and saw the need. He didn’t come to condemn but to save. His motive was salvation and restoration. 
Grace provides protection
In relationships of grace we must choose to protect each others weaknesses and submit to each others strengths. Too often we see people fail in an area of weakness and then just write them off because they failed. (We set pastors up for failure all the time because we expect them to be supermen who have all the gifts of the spirit in equal measure and when they don’t do certain things well we criticize and demean them for their lack and then wonder why they are ineffective). That is an indictment on us rather than them. We should protect them in those areas of weakness by surrounding them with people who can bring to bear their strengths. Then both are being used effectively and the work of God gets done and God is glorified in the body functioning effectively. When I am in an environment of grace where I can reveal my weaknesses and know I am protected, it allows God to work in and through me unhindered.

Grace provides Hope
It only makes sense that when we are operating in an environment of bondage and performance that we would become disillusioned, burnt out and wander off into the wilderness to take a back seat and not be used. How many people do you know who are in that place. They started out well but soon faded into the woodwork because they were not able to live up to the legalistic standards that are placed on them. Legalism robs us of hope! Grace provides us an atmosphere where hope flourishes because it is not us but rather Christ in us. Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and exist.”

Grace is the environment God has created in which He works to fashion us in the image of His Son Jesus Christ. 

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