Faith that is passionate for grace

What's so great about God? What's so great about His grace? What is it anyway, besides a girl's name, and how does it change anything?

The LORD is supreme in every way. He's all-powerful, towering in authority, the righteous Judge. God's very being defines what is good. Unlimited in His love, complete in His knowledge, infinitely holy and perfect in every way.  

And us? Not so much. We're capable of relative good, but given enough time we muck things up, hurt those we love, and we tend to self-destruct.

Which makes an all-powerful, holy, righteous God a threat to our security.

Yet the description of God is incomplete on account of one missing word. Perhaps above all else, the LORD saves us and adopts us to Himself and He wants to be eternally praised for the glory of His grace,

Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

I love this title for Jesus, the Beloved. The One cherished by Abba, forever adored in heaven and on earth. Jesus is the only means of God's grace. Through Him, God bestows His grace to those who believe.

To understand God's grace, we look to the cross, to Jesus' substitutionary death and resurrection.

When man did the worst thing man could have done, when man had the opportunity to kill God and finally be our own gods, man jumped at the opportunity and nailed Jesus to a cross and put Him to death but God raised Him from the dead…

At man's most telling moment in history, God showed the glory of His grace.

When He could have hurled this planet into a wall, God demonstrates His love. Christ bore our hatred and our sin. Jesus stunned the universe and submitted to the cross and there He dominated sin and death and the devil and hell! On the third day Jesus walked out of that sealed grave. This is grace.

Grace doesn't just pardon sin, what Jesus did for us changes everything between God and the sinner.

Grace doesn't just forgive sin, God's free gift gives assurance of God's favor to the believer and transforms those living under it.

So when we talk of being passionate for God's grace, what is grace?

Grace is essentially a free gift. Any definition worth its salt must start here.

Grace is a free and otherwise unattainable gift to the undeserving.

It's not grace to give a balloon to a cute little kid, a compliment to a beautiful woman, or a donation to a favorite politician. But it is grace to give a gift to your enemy. It is grace to truly forgive someone who hurts you and yet never apologizes.

Grace is a free gift to those who have nothing to offer in return.

Grace is not a gift to the "right kind" of person as if God gives to the devout. God gives grace to the "wrong kind" of people. God justifies the ungodly; when we were enemies, God gave His Son.

So grace is something valuable and sought after, yet utterly unattainable. It has to be given, and be received. And it is only given to the undeserving.

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

What are some examples of grace?

Grace is the free gift of God's forgiveness for those give God no reason to forgive them.

What earns forgiveness anyway? Making amends? How much? Being really good? How good? For how long? Feeling really bad for what I've done? How bad do I have to feel? How is it that this merits forgiveness?

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Grace is the free gift of Christ's righteousness to the unrighteous, the ungodly.

It's not for those who trust in their own rightesousness! It's given to those who stop trying to justify themselves and look to Jesus. These are given the free gift of perfect standing, the gift of perfect righteousness,

Romans 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.

This is a gift of highest worth, Christ's righteousness freely given to the undeserving, the ungodly, whoever trusts Jesus to give this to them,

Romans 4:5 It is not to the person who works but to the one who believes in God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Grace is the free gift of God’s surprising favor, His acceptance granted to those who have no other way to gain His favor.

It is the free gift of eternal life with God, the free gift of an amazing future, of not fearing the other side of death. It's the free gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ in you. Every answer to prayer. Every aid and help that God gives to those in need. All are free gifts. All is pure grace.

Grace is any gift freely given to the undeserving. O there's that word again, undeserving.

To be undeserving offends us. More than ever, society insists that everyone is good, everyone deserves every good thing. Nobody is unfit. I think this is a coping response to alleviate our shame and fear of not being loveable, not being valuable. We lost this assurance once we stopped listening to God for these.

But grace is for the undeserving, who simply trust Jesus for it.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

Rather than take offense for being undeserving, rejoice, this is good news.

Grace is the free gift of God's favor, the assurance of His love today. There is no way to achieve these; but God chooses to give you these and more in Christ.

If you're undeserving, embrace it.

When Isaiah saw this he said, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips!" Then God forgave his sin and granted him a significant role. Paul realized how far short he fell from God's goodness, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And Jesus assured him of His grace.

Grace is reserved for the undeserving, who don't have it all together, who battle addictions, or struggle in a relationship with someone who does, those who fear too easily, who struggle to pray, struggle to love, who can't control their emotions, can't shut up tho we know we should, can't forgive and forget.

The great German theologian Martin Luther wrote 500 years ago, "The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it."

It's hard to face but about all that God finds is brokenness and bondage to sin and death. But what God’s grace creates is righteousness, life, and praise.

God doesn't seek that which pleases Him but it pleases Him to confer infinite worth and honor to those who are worn out by the endless effort to justify our worth and to merit admiration and love.

Even as we speak of a faith that is passionate for grace, I'm not always passionate for grace. I don't always live by God's grace. But let us believe that Jesus is passionate for us to know His grace. Passionate for a reason.

For God's free gift in Christ resets the believer's relationship with God, how God relates to us. Grace also redefines how God relates to the world today.

Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save sinners. He looked beyond those who hated Him. He came searching out those who wander through life dazed and confused. He came to grant them God's favor and forgiveness, a new name and the assurance of eternal life and hope for an awesome future. 

We believe that Jesus has a passion to use us to extend His grace to others. Both to share the good news of God's grace but also to extend it to others…

Luke 14:13 "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

People are scared right now. Tired, stressed, isolated, and confused. They don't know who they are. They don't know God. They have no hope for the future. They have this desperate need to make themselves worthy and valuable. To justify themselves by any means. Any action. Any choice.

But God's heart is to redeem them not to judge them yet.

People don't need adding to the political noise, arguing for our candidate or virtue signaling if we actually agree with them. They need us to treasure Jesus Christ, to live fully aware of God's grace. And church, we have His grace to share.

For the guilty, Christ died on a cross for them, offers them pardon, forgiveness, cleansing, this is real when it is trusted. Christ welcomes them into the wide open arms of God. They need us to tell them about Jesus.

For those broken by sin—and sin is breaking so many—there is healing, purity and mercy. God's affirming love. God's clarifying truth that He sees them whole and He's a comforter, a renewer (He makes all things new) and an avenger. He is merciful and just.

For those who are so confused by sin and overwhelmed by so many choices and options and no solid truths to hold onto, that they don't even know who they are, Jesus gives the picture of a His loving Father draping a confused and broken son in every assurance that he is home and he is the father's beloved, he's not identified by his stupid choices, his failures, the identity he made apart from the father. He is the Father's beloved.

For those facing challenges in this life, there's a picture of Christ in the boat with you to speak to the storm, He is with you in the fiery pit to walk you through it (I saw three men tossed into the fire, but now I see four).

For those who fear what happens after death, the risen Christ who kicked the devil's teeth in, who went through death and punched a semi-truck sized hole in it, promises that the moment anyone who trusts Him passes from this world He's there to welcome and bring them into the most amazing life ever.