“Bill, when I look at you I marvel at the grace of God.” Now, that phrase could be taken in a couple of different ways. It could mean “you were such a mess that only God could help you,” or it could mean “God’s grace is so wonderful that it has changed your life completely around.” Both are true. Let me add that it is true of everyone who have experienced His grace.
The theological definition of the grace of God is His unmerited favour accredited to us. One who was lost because of the blindness of sin, who was on the road to perdition, and who was completely without merit to receive grace. As a guilty criminal who finds that on the day of his sentencing that his crime has been paid for, his criminal record cleared and walks away as if he never committed a crime. That is grace.
Grace found me when I was a grade 12 high school student who thought that life was all about sports and drinking. I was your average teenager who did not understand or even care about spiritual things until grace found me. It found me when I began to realize that life was more than drinking buddies and hockey games. Grace found me while I lived in a super dysfunctional home with a domineering Mom and a Father who had walked away from God as a young man. Grace found me when I finally understood that in light of Christ’s death and resurrection I was responsible to decide to accept His Grace! I could not pin the blame on my parent’s for not providing the right home environment, or my schools for not providing me the kinds of friends who would encourage me to search for God. I was at fault and I was in need of grace.
Grace, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, has had and continues to have a profound impact on my life. Because of grace I have the motivation that I need to get up every morning and face the challenges that God puts in front of me. Because of grace I see those around me who are in deep and urgent need of her. I understand the theological/biblical argument of why people need grace, that grace that is so drastically and clearly illustrated when Christ faced the wrath of God that I deserved. As much as I understand that argument, it is because I have experienced the truth of grace that I desire so much for each person to experience it as well! To live without guilt because Christ died for our guilt, to live with purpose and conviction that God’s plan includes me is so liberating that it motivates me for every day that I live!
Those of us who have experienced grace at times forget what it was like to live without it. Like, those who get up every morning and try and get through the day by their own strength. Or, those who have convinced themselves that life is all about what one touches and sees and life is over when the heart stops beating. Those who so live without grace need to see in us who have experienced grace models of gracefulness. We, who have experienced the liberating power of Christ through faith in His death, burial and resurrection, must imitate our Father in heaven. We were where they are now, let us be instruments of grace!
After all these years, I marvel at the truth that God’s grace reached even me! I will be eternally grateful. You?
Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!
Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace for even me;
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
O magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!
I will never forget it. An example of being a servant that was so clear, so humble in its character that it has defined for me what this principle is all about. Our church youth group was going on a camping and canoeing trip to a park in Northern Ontario, almost the most beautiful spot on the planet. As we prepared for that trip we thought it a good idea to open cans of stew and pour the contents into zip lock baggies and iron them shut. It seemed like a good idea at the time because we would not have to carry cans in our backpacks, which were prohibited anyway.
When you think of the word, “love”, what pops into your mind? I remember the Disney movie “The Lady and the Tramp” when they are given a plate of spaghetti and they end up sucking on the same strand. We go, “ah” isn’t that cute! We fall into the trap of thinking now that’s love. If you watch television at all you will be quick to realize that love is often a synonym for sex, they are used interchangeably to such an extent that one cannot tell the difference between them.
People have a hard time understanding the true definition of the word, love. You know that by the way people do what they do in order to earn it. A child will go to any length to show their love to their parents. A woman often will stay with an abusive man because of love. We know that is not true ‘love’ but rather a dependence on another for emotional and relational security.
When we come to the Scripture, the picture painted by God takes our breath away. The great overarching story that is presented to us is that man spurned the love of God and preferred to go it his own way. Thinking that he could do better on his own, man determined to build his own utopia apart from God. He sought to find love in things, in himself and in life separated from the Creator. He tried to make a name for himself without taking God into account and ended up with a purposeless life void of meaning and substance.
God’s love brings purpose and meaning to life because He designed to be loved by Him! When we try and stuff our lives with “stuff” we miss the point! God’s love gives us an identity that satisfies the deep longings of our heart. I love literally the truth that First John 3:1 shares with us, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
I don’t know about you, but before God’s love rescued me, I was an absolute nobody! I sought love by trying to please my parents, by trying to gain acceptance into a certain group in high school, and never found it! Never! How often it is then that as a believer in Jesus Christ instead of being satisfied with His love that I have sought that satisfaction in the poor replicas of the love that the world tempts me with? Too often, I must admit.
God’s love has rescued me from sin, it has given me purpose and joy, peace and above all, love. I love those around me with that love with which God has rescued me! Unbelievable!
The call to serve God in a full time, professional sense is an awesome call. I know that each believer has been called to serve God but not every believer has the opportunity to do so as a profession. Even though I must admit that sometimes it would be great to attend church and be a member of a church without the responsibility to lead the church. I especially think that on Monday mornings after a hectic weekend of ministry.
There are times when the call to minister in a professional sense is a down right blast. Nothing thrills my heart more than leading the congregation to discover new and old truths from the Word and make them applicable to every day life. That is awesome. I love being in the study preparing for those times, reading what others have discovered and mixing that with my own. I find it an awesome privilege to be with people at life’s most important and crucial moments. Usually those are found at the beginning of life and at the end of life. I would never want to exchange the time I get to pray with families at those moments. To be able to bring an awareness of the person of God to at times is a great responsibility and joy, to be honest with you.
What tends to frustrate me most is the misunderstandings that seem to inhabit church life. Instead of talking to people who are directly affected by an issue, we talk about them and then elect someone else to go and do our talking! What’s up with that!? I believe that if I have an issue with you, I ought to be courageous enough to come and talk to you about it. However, if I won’t talk to you about it, then I need to change my attitude toward you! I believe that this is the ethic which the New Testament teaches.
Ministry is a wonderful calling from God. It is a joy to serve the Lord and His people. The key, I guess, is continuing to grow as child of God and as a minister of the gospel. I have NOT arrived, I know that I need to grow so much more. I pray that we would all see our lives as works in progress that need the grace of God and the care of others!