Obsessed by grace

I’ll quote a lot from today’s study – because it’s such an important message. If, you don’t have a solid, spiritually understanding of God’s grace – you will constantly struggle in trying to follow Jesus. Many aspects of your Christian life will become a chore instead of a wonderful joy!

Let’s start with the text, set for reading and meditation, we hear Paul’s advice to young Timothy [2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)]: “(I am reminded of your sincere faith), … for this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

A number of points: we are to take active steps to fan into flame the gift of God; because the Spirit gives us the power to love and to be self-disciplined, We are called to live a holy life to serve God’s purposes; and, the Holy Spirit (in us) helps us to guard our faith.

Some people misuse Romans 7, especially these verses (18b-19): “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Yet, Paul provides the answer to mankind’s predicament , in verse 24b, 25,  “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul in these verses, is identifying with mankind – regarding the issue we all have – it’s impossible, when we are slaves to our sinful nature – to do good (to please God). Indeed, in 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul counted himself as the worst of sinners (as Selwyn notes) – this is the main reason why he is so thankful for the grace of Christ – because God saved his ‘wretched’ life. In the same manner – I’m forever giving praise to Jesus – because He has also saved my very, wretched life.

Back to our study, Selwyn writes: “Paul emphasised grace to such a degree because he knew what would happen to Christians if they responded to the instinct to try and earn God’s love. They would become workaholics, driven by the idea that God would stop loving them if they were not busy. …

Paul knew beyond doubt that God loves people because of who He is, not because of what they do.

We simply must get this truth into our heads, for if we don’t then we will end up working to be saved, instead of working because we are saved.”

If, you are shaking your head in disagreement with Selwyn’s words – then I plead with you to take this issue to God in prayer – for, only He can change your heart.

In time of need (there is God’s grace)

In today’s study, Selwyn discusses ‘what we mean by grace’.

He writes; ” … grace is God’s unmerited favour … grace is God’s redeeming love … Grace is the strength God gives us which enables us to live or do as Jesus would do, were He in our situation.”

Essentially, grace is the ‘working out’ of God’s love for His people; a love that poured out upon us (and continues to gush over us), while we were still sinners and we lived in a state of open rebellion.

I believe Selwyn is right when he says: ” … nothing can happen in your life today for which divine strength will not be given. Through God’s grace we can face anything that comes providing, of course, we are open to receive it.”

In Titus 2:11-14 (NIV), we read: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

I couldn’t express it any better – this is the purpose of God’s grace – ‘to prepare for Himself a people, who are eager to do what is good’.

At the beginning of this New Year – will you resolve, by the help of God’s grace, to say ‘No’ to the selfish ways of this world; and to live like Jesus – eager to do what is good? It’s about following Jesus, knowing that nothing can separate us from His love, and trusting that His abundant grace is always available to help us in our times of need.

The following verses taken from today’s reading, is an excellent summary (Hebrews 4: 14-16, NIV): ” … Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Grace, guidance and gumption

I don’t have any real comments on today’s study, which I think is more a continuation of what Selwyn wrote yesterday.

He is building on the point he previously made – that God does everything through Jesus. Selwyn concludes with the statement that of all the essential elements of Christian service – grace comes first. He writes: “Without grace, all our efforts are doomed to failure. God stands ready to give you abundant grace. Empty your hands (of useless things) to receive it.”

[Note: The word ‘gumption‘ (regarding the Title of today’s study), is not one that we come across a lot these days, it means 1. Boldness of enterprise; initiative or aggressiveness. 2. Guts; spunk. 3. Common sense. The usage in the title, is in the sense, of having guts or courage. ]

The verses for today, follow, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NIV): “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

Two reflections on the above verses: one,  Paul’s hard and effective work – was the effect of God’s grace. Two, there is only one true gospel; and, by this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word … .  Notice again, my dear friends – there is an implied condition – you are saved IF you hold firmly to God’s Word.

Any comments?

“It’s OK to hurt”

Some more thoughts about yesterday’s study – at times the apostle Paul was hungry, and at other times he shivered in the cold because he did not have the right sort of clothes to keep him warm. You may ask – then, how does his experiences align with what Jesus says in Matthew 6:24-34 (NLT) ?

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Well, here are my thoughts – we are not to worry about our future needs but we will have troubles today – which will be the cause of some worry.  Jesus will ensure that we (His followers) have enough to get through today – we, in general, may shiver in the cold but we won’t freeze to death – and, we may go hungry but we won’t starve to death. The one complicating factor is Satan. He may ask God for His permission to test us – to burden us with trials – as a test of our faith. In Luke 22:31, we read (Jesus talking to Peter/Simon): “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

It’s my feeling that Paul was constantly ‘sifted’ by Satan – in one sense as a test of his faith but perhaps more to frustrate his efforts. What do you think? Likewise, we too – can find ourselves –  hungry, cold and lonely; yet we constantly turn to God’s love –  seeking His faithful comfort.

Selwyn starts today’s study with these words: “We continue meditating on the thought that some forms of loneliness may remain part of our human condition until we die and go to heaven. Is this watering down the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit or the joy which Christ gives to us? I believe not.”

He concludes with these important statements: “Some hurts are part of the human condition … , but remember this – the presence of Jesus can relieve and support so that the pain is not incapacitating. … God always gives enough grace to carry on.”  I totally agree – through all the difficult times I’ve had – Jesus has always provided more than sufficient grace. You can trust God with your eternal life – because He loves you! 

Paul’s words, as recorded in his second letter to the Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT), taken from today’s text set for reading and meditation, are well used by Selwyn in today’s study: ” … I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We don’t deny our feelings when we suffer the insults, hardships and troubles – it’s okay to hurt – yet, we trust in Jesus’ love – to provide comfort and healing for our suffering hearts. What are your views?