What does the word “grace” mean to someone who is a Christian; someone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and trusts Him for his/her salvation? I have heard the definition of “grace” as “unmerited favor” and it being described as “Just As If I Have Never Sinned.“ And I know many Christians love to quote Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” and Titus 3:4-6: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
I love these two portions of Scripture because I know that I could never be good enough or do enough good to earn my own way to heaven. I am eternally thankful that God has saved me through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross for all of my sins – past, present, and future. Jesus alone was the perfect sacrifice for my sins and for the sins of all those who trust Him as Savior. Three other favories portions of Scripture of mine are Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. BUT GOD demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I also appreciate and know by faith Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Other phenomenal Scriptures reassure me of my eternal security in Christ: John 10:27-30: “My [Jesus’] sheep [followers] listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them from My hand. My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are One” and Romans 8:38-39: “For I [Paul] am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I know that I have received God’s grace and I will always have God’s grace – have it, got it, it’s all good! But now, what do I do with God’s grace? Does God want me to perform a ballet dance all around and through a china shop to demonstrate I have God’s free gift of grace. If that were true, I would be in BIG TROUBLE with my involuntary cerebral palsied movements and inability to walk! (A candidate for “Dancing with the Stars” I am not.) Demonstrating God’s grace is different from being graceful. Does having God’s grace mean I can become a “couch potato”? I can do nothing because I “have it made in the shade” – I have my free ticket to heaven, so to heck with everyone else. I don‘t believe that is true either.
I believe God wants us to share His grace with others and He gives us practical ways to do so. What we do with God’s grace will not affect our salvation, but it will affect how we live in this life and it will affect the people around us for good or for bad. It will affect how others view Christianity and how others view God.
For example, in 2004 Mel Gibson directed the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” In fact, it was a “Mel Gibson Film.” Most Christian organizations applauded the movie, while some secular groups thought it had anti-Semitic overtones. A friend of mine who works for the “Jesus Film” with Campus Crusade for Christ, who have their own movie about Jesus made in many languages for different people groups to see, met Mel Gibson while he was doing research for his movie. Her sense was that Gibson is a Christian, but she really didn’t ask him, “Do you believe in the “unmerited” grace of God?” A short time after “The Passion of the Christ” was released on DVD, churches all over the country showed it to their congregations and visitors as an evangelistic tool. However, the use of the movie as an evangelistic tool was sharply devalued when Gibson was stopped for a D.U.I. and allegedly used anti-Semitic language, directed to the officers, in his drunken state. To add insult to injury, Gibson shortly thereafter left his wife for reasons I can‘t remember. What was once a powerful evangelistic tool for the gospel turned into the butt of jokes for late-night comedians and also Bostonian comedians visiting Fenway Park. If Mel Gibson is in fact a Christian who has trusted Christ for his salvation, He has the free gift of God’s grace and his salvation is secure. However, his reputation as a Christian has been greatly marred and his witness for Christ has been virtually destroyed. I pray that he will humbly repent and return to God in this lifetime.
What does God desire us to do with His free gift of grace. God wants us to freely give it away. Jesus says in Matthew 10:8b, “Freely you have received, freely give.” By His grace, Jesus gave His first disciples the abilities to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Most of us do not have those gifts of the Holy Spirit (a topic for another post). But, all believes in Christ have received the Fruit of the Spirit: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). In major league baseball, scouts are always looking for five-tool players – ball players who hit for high batting average, hit with power, have above average base running skills and speed on the bases and accurate throwing and fielding abilities. As believers in Christ, we have all have received the Holy Spirit Who lives inside us and we are all nine-tool believers. We all have the Fruit of the Spirit with all nine character qualities. A simple analogy for the Fruit of the Spirit is an orange consisting of nine sections – nine pieces of one fruit (“Orange” you glad I told you this?).
We are to use the Fruit of the Spirit to enable us to use the spiritual gifts we do have to do the works God calls us to do and to do them as unto the Lord. Jesus says to us, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers [and sisters] of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:35-40). As Christians, we are to excel in the Christ-like qualities of compassion and mercy, service and helps, humility and encouragement, caring and giving. Those who have leadership skills are to be Christ-honoring servant-leaders to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to the needy world around us.
These qualities do not come naturally, at least not for me. It’s very difficult to love those who are a pain in the behind, to have joy in the midst of trials, to have peace in the middle of chaos, to be patient and kind when I am tired, to do good to those who have hurt you, to be faithful when the “ship is sinking,” to be gentle and self-controlled when ever fiber in my being wants to lash out at the ignorance around me. I struggle with all nine qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit at one time or another, especially when I am tired. But, the one I struggle with the most is “patience.” I just wish God would hurry up and teach me patience and I want it done yesterday! We all know God does not work that way. I can only begin to have these qualities become a real part of who I am when I earnestly pray for the Fruit of the Holy Spirit to control me, as I grow in God’s grace (realizing how much God has given me and has forgiven me).
Why did God give us this matchless gift of grace. First, He gave His grace to us because He loves us and because we desperately needed it (John 3:16). Secondly, the answer can be found in Ephesians 2 :10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.” Also, it says in Titus 3:7-8, “…so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I [Paul] want you [Titus] to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
What are some practical ways to freely give God’s grace to everyone in our lives, and especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Here are some ideas from Scripture:
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk [or roll] humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons [and daughters] of God“ (Matthew 5:9).
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me [Jesus]. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother [or sister] has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother [or sister], then come offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I [Jesus] tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:38-45).
“Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves’” (Luke 22:25-27).
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my [Paul’s] joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spirituals songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him“” (Colossians 3:12-17).
God teaches us in His Word how to extend His grace to others. One does not have to be physically strong or extremely wealthy or a genius or popular or beautiful or have any other earthly virtue to extend God’s grace to others; the free gift of grace that we have tasted. Yet, giving God’s grace to others is one of the most difficult things to do without the help of His grace. I know it’s hard for me to “turn the other cheek” and overlook an offense and not want to correct a “know-it-all“. I saw how hard it was for Jackie Robinson, in the movie “42.” He faced unconscionable acts of racism and life threatening hatred from the darkest recesses of the hearts of men. Watching what Jackie Robinson had to go through, on the Big Screen, made me tense up in anger, disgust, and even horror. Yet, I watched a man who “had the guts not to fight back” because he knew that he was fighting for something greater than himself and that made me thankful that there was a Jackie Robinson to show us the way. In a magazine, I read that his mother taught him about the One who would help him win the fight. Jackie Robinson was a five-tool baseball player. He was also a nine-tool believer. He once said, “My mother said she always believed the Lord would take care of us [after his father left her for another woman]. Right then and there, I never stopped believing that.” He also once said, “Life is not a spectator sport…If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” Jackie Robinson was not a perfect baseball player. He had to change his position from shortstop to first base (Pee Wee Reese was the Dodgers‘ shortstop) and he had to practice hard and work at it. He said, “I never believed in backing out just because things weren’t the best they could be.“ Jackie Robinson was not a perfect man and would give in to his anger now and then, later on in his career, but that’s why, as we all do, he needed God’s grace. None of us are perfect, even in the best of circumstances. (Besides, Jackie would argue balls and strikes with umpires who had wide strike zones, so that doesn’t really count as arguing.)
In his baseball career with the Brookline Dodgers, Jackie Robinson stole home a record nineteen times. The twentieth time, it was Jesus who called him Home, free of charge, by His matchless grace.
People have said to me more than once, “I bet you can’t wait to get to heaven and have a new body?” Yes, that will be very nice. But, I am also looking forward to feeling my Savior’s embrace and hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). The Christian life is not a spectator sport. God’s grace is not like a free ticket that one puts in a vault for safe keeping and the only time one brings it out is to show Peter at the pearly gates, in order to go through the turnstile of heaven. Grace is the free gift of God, given to believers to share with others and to, by faith, treat them in the same way Jesus has treated us, with love, forgiveness and grace. Grace helps us to grow in Christ-like maturity, enables us to know we are forgiven, aids us in asking for the forgiveness of others, and gives us the ability to forgive others. Grace is our most valuable treasure that grows in our hearts by faith, and it is to be given away free of charge with no strings attached, just as it has been given to us.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
“Peace I [Jesus] leave you, My peace I give you. I do not give as the would gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
“Any one, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17).
“To Him [Jesus] who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the Only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! AMEN” (Jude 24-25).
The grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
In Christ’s Love,
P.S. I am taking some time off from blogging to enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and catch up on my reading. My next post will be sometime in June. Thanks very much for letting my share “Lyd’s Look on Life” with you!