March 28, 2016
Have you thought about grace today? Posted below is a beautiful hymn from The Village Church’s “God of Victory” album (scroll down to see). I would encourage you to listen and, if you choose to do so, you will hear the following words beautifully sung: “All things in me call for my rejection; all things in You plead my acceptance.”
Think about that – “all things in me call for my rejection” – everything in you calls for God to look upon you and reject you. “All things in You plead my acceptance” – and yet that is not how God responds. In fact, Christ is even now pleading for your acceptance at the right hand of the Father as He intercedes for you. These words give us an insight into grace that is, perhaps, not pondered as often as it ought to be.
Most people refer to grace as undeserved favor or merit but, though partially true, it is missing it’s critical component. Let me use a parable-of-sorts to express what I mean:
In a rural Pennsylvania suburb there lives a man by the name of Steven who owns a car dealership full of beautiful high-end luxury cars. Waking early each morning he walks the three blocks from his home to the dealership for that day’s work. On one particular morning, just twenty minutes shy of noon, Steven looked out through his floor-to-ceiling office windows to see a man strolling down the side walk past the dealership. With just a quick thought, he grabbed a set of keys from his desk drawer and ran out of the office in the direction of the passing stranger.
Looking back, somewhat puzzled, the strolling stranger responds, “Who? Me?”
“Yes! You. What’s your name?”
“Tom,” he says quizzically.
“Hi Tom. I’m Steven and I want to give you these. Here, take them. You’ll discover that they help that 2015 black BMW sedan turn on and drive,” he said with a subtly excited grin appearing, thinking his comment clever.
Tom is left speechless, not quite fully comprehending that he has just been gifted a brand-new car. For nothing.
Now, pause there. That gives us elements of grace: Tom did nothing to deserve that car. Steven had no obligation to give Tom a new car from his car lot. Tom, you could say, was un-deserving.
But let’s replay the day a bit differently:
Waking early one morning Steven, faithfully following his daily routine, begins his walk to work. An unusually serene Autumn morning, he finds himself embracing the crisp air with an extra dose of joy. It’s not until he is about to turn the corner and walk onto his car lot that he notices a man lying alongside the sidewalk, apparently passed out from a night abandoned to drinking. Looking disheveled and smelling no better, the man has in his one hand an empty bottle of liquor and, in the other, a sledge hammer. A bit unsettled, Steven rounds the corner only to be met with a shocking sight: every car in his lot has been smashed and destroyed. The sight of the man now passed out behind him becomes a fading thought as he walks aghast through the parking lot. Thousands of glass shards crunch under his feet as he surveys the devastation. Ruined. Everything is ruined.
It is only after several minutes of confused wandering about that the thought hits him: the drunk man passed out around the corner did this. He is the perpetrator who, in an apparent fit of drunken rage, spent his evening smashing everything in sight.
Steven’s next move surprised even himself. Unlocking his office door, he rounds his desk and pulls out one of the bottom drawers in which is a key. This, however, is no regular key: it belongs to his ‘pride & joy’ and the one car untouched by the strangers’ night of drunken stupor. Locked safely away in a single-car garage behind the lot sits a foreign sports car of inestimable value.
Taking the key, Steven makes the long walk through the back of the lot, accompanied only by the sound of crunching glass in every step. Opening the garage he gazes in awe at the masterfully crafted automobile glistening in the morning sun’s rays shining through the door. The unworn leather crunches as he sits in the drivers seat and turns the key in the ignition. The engine purrs as Steven drives the ‘jewel of his fleet’ slowly across the decimated car lot, through the front gate, and onto the street. Turning the corner he pulls up next to the man still there, snoring as he lies in his own putrid filth.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Putting the car in park, he gets out and begins to shake the man awake.
“Sir, I know what you did last night.”
Garbled mumbles and a bothered groan is the rejoinder.
“Sir, I know what you did last night and I have something for you.”
Managing to sit up, half awake, the man squints from the glistening reflections of the sun as he looks up at the stunning automobile parked beside him.
“It’s yours, sir. Here’s the key.”
Now that, I argue, is a greater depiction of the essential nature of grace. Not only was the drunken man un-deserving of the car, he was actually ill-deserving of the car. Meaning this: he worked very diligently and faithfully all night to deserve to be prosecuted as a vile criminal.
Think of it this way: Tom, the stranger in the first scenario who walked past Steven’s dealership, did not do anything to deserve a new car but he also did not do anything not to deserve a car! He was simply walking innocently by and received a gift from a kind man! The drunken man, on the other hand, did everything in his power to depose himself to Steven as a worthless criminal deserving only of severe punishment.
You get it?
This is the testimony of Scripture: you and I are not innocently strolling around this earth, minding our own business, before receiving a wonderfully kind gift from God. No – it is the exact opposite:
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
In fact, we worked very diligently – often working overtime – to earn a wage:
“For the wages of sin is death,…”
And then this happened:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved…”
Much more could be written but perhaps that is sufficient. May we grow in our understanding of just how incredible this gift of grace actually is. And may that ever-increasing knowledge lead to ever-increasing worship, praise, adoration, awe, enjoyment, gratitude, thanksgiving and joy unspeakable, full of glory.
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,”
1 Peter 1:8
Ponder upon grace as you praise:
May God smile upon you and bless the work of your hands,
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:16-17
Every good and perfect gift is from God. Here are some quick thoughts:
1) Gifts are given freely, and not earned.
If you earn something by your actions, it is your wages--your just and due compensation. If you aren't paid something you've earned it is considered an injustice. Now God created us for Himself and He therefore owns us as Creator (Col. 1:16). As a result, we owe God our very life breath, and He owes us nothing (except for wrath and damnation because of our sin, but that's another Devo). This fact should cause us to realize just how much we have been gifted by God and live in perpetual gratitude to Him.
2) This completely eliminates all grounds for boasting. Superstar athletes, for example, are often referred to as "highly gifted individuals".Too many times stars, celebrities, highly skilled professionals, politicians and other well knowns can be prideful and boastful. Even people who feel like they are less gifted often take great pride in how hard they work. Let this be clear, humanity may boast in itself, but there are no valid grounds for it. The glory all belongs to God, "in whom we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Your eyes couldn't see these words if God hadn't given you sight; Your brain couldn't make sense of these words if God didn't give you sanity; And the athlete couldn't have scored the touchdown, or made the game winning three-pointer if God hadn't freely given the ability.
3) The greatest gift God has given us is salvation through Jesus. "For God so loved the world, that HE GAVE His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 [emphasis added]). This gift was costly--so costly that we will never know the extent of it. But The God-Man Jesus sacrificed Himself to free all who believe in Him, from the punishment we deserved. He stood in our place as our substitute, taking on himself our infinite sin debt, and He gives believers His infinite Holiness that He earned while living on this earth. This is the "gift of God" as Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us, "not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
So remember, all the glory to God for every good and perfect gift, especially His Good and Perfect Son, offered as the ultimate gift to save those who believe on Him!