Yesterday was about grace, but the results of grace returned in unexpected, and seemingly disastrous ways. Grace restores what is good, but the process can be so disruptive it may feel more like a tearing down than a building up, more like a taking away than a restoring.
Inner healing is very like that, though. Anyone who has gone through the excruciation of therapy knows what I am saying. (I use the word excruciation very intentionally, as its root is the Latin cruciare, to crucify).
All those constructs and coping mechanisms, all those lies we absolutely and fully invested in, all those ways we tried to make ourselves more loveable to the people who rejected and despised us, all those ways we tried to operate in the profoundly broken world we found ourselves in . . . all that has to get dismantled, down to the bricks and mortar, the rubble cleared away, even the very earth tilled and turned, a new foundation dug, before the new life can be built upon that ground.
When the apostle Paul talked about this process, he said,
For the foot soldiers’ weapons of our military campaign are not natural weapons. Indeed, our weapons are divinely powerful for the purpose of destroying strongholds, destroying calculations, and destroying the heights of enemy defenses that are raised up against people who are coming to know God. These weapons take all your thoughts as prisoners of war so that you can pay attention to the Anointed One.2 Corinthians 10:3-5, The Source
You see it, though, do you not? Those old ways are deeply entrenched in our inner being, what Paul called the old or former self, the person we identified as before Jesus restored us, purified us, and filled us with his Spirit. The former self with its old ways forms a stronghold within that rebuffs any attempts of grace to dismantle the old and build up the new.
God’s glorious grace disrupts the former self and the life that former self had worked hard to construct. If only—if only—there was a group of Pharisees who could just drive us out of our former lives, our former way of being, so we were completely stripped of it and could be embraced, naked and vulnerable, by Jesus into our new life.
Leaving the former things and coming into our own is a process. It is an organic symbiosis of our willingness to choose, and to live out what we are learning from Jesus, and the stupendous power of God’s divine action.
God’s Grace Described
Scripture describes God’s grace in three ways:
1) Saving grace
2) Enabling grace
3) Common grace
All grace is God giving God’s favor to the undeserving. You and I cannot earn God’s grace or do anything to deserve it, grace is simply a gift given out of God’s love.
- Saving grace is at the heart of one of the core doctrines in our faith, justification by grace through faith. We are saved on the basis of God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which we receive when we hear and believe the gospel. Even being able to believe God and to act on what you and I believe, is all a gift, all grace.
What we have actually “earned,” according to both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian testament, is death – the “reward” for sin. But because of grace, God gave the gift of salvation to all those who would believe in the justification earned by God’s Son through the cross. Instead of what you and I have earned, God by grace offers us eternal life instead.
- Enabling grace God justifies a believer by grace, God cleanses that person of all unrighteousness by grace and God also empowers this justified and cleansed person with the desire and the ability to apply God’s word to their life, to listen to God, to obey God, to please God.
God’s grace is God’s power, God’s divine assistance, to be God’s instrument and the expression of God in every situation. The man with restored sight was able to stand up for Jesus, even with his limited knowledge, and was even able to realize spiritual truth, that Jesus was approved by God, while being pressured by the Pharisees.
Scripture teaches that God lavishes on all those who put their faith in God the riches of God’s grace.
- God’s grace makes believers strong.
- God’s grace helps those who put their trust in God whenever we are in need.
- God’s grace makes believers holy by setting us apart for God and transforming us into the likeness of God the Son, Jesus.
- Common grace Grace flows from God’s love, and God gives no explanation for God’s love. It is not anything you or I did, it is not some essence we have, like lovableness. God simply loves. God’s very nature and being is love and therefore God loves. Because God is love, God says the Lord pours rain and shines the sun on every field, of the good people and the bad people alike. God blesses the whole earth and sustains all life by God’s common grace to all people.
Because God’s nature is love, God’s grace flows from God’s love. One way to test love, the Bible teaches, is to check for grace. The Pharisees, for all their fervent passion for God and the things of God, were weighted towards judgment rather than grace. The people were afraid of them, afraid of being punished by them, afraid of being kicked out of the warmth of God’s house and people.
That is not to say sober judgment is now somehow passé among Christians, that we are no longer interested in righteousness, nor of the discipline that comes with training into righteousness.
Just that there is a balance, and if the scales are tipped at all, they are tipped towards mercy and grace. It draws me to think about how you and I present God to the people around us. What nature do they see? Love? Grace? Justice? Judgment?
[Grace | Pixabay.com]