Riddle: What is it that everyone wants more of, yet more and forgets where it comes from and what it is meant to accomplish? What is it that we want plenty of for ourselves and yet often neglect to pass on to others just as liberally?
Answer: one of the sweetest ‘sounds’ in life: GRACE. It can be a girl’s name, it can describe how we walk or move, and it can even be used as a excuse to avoid holiness by living however we want and then presuming on God to look the other way to our fleshly agendas. I have often heard it defined with an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. And this is accurate. Grace and mercy are two different things. “Grace” is getting what we don’t deserve, “Mercy” is NOT getting what we DO deserve. Grace inspite of who we are, Mercy because of who HE is. This is part of our great gospel. And yet I think there are multiple ways grace works in us, we just don’t really understand them all at this point in our lives. I know I don’t.
I just want to examine briefly one small way I think it does work. While it is not Scripture, I believe that the song “Amazing Grace” was written through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, many claim that “God gave me this song” for much lesser types of musical compositions, and I’m not going to go there, it’s not my table – but I think given the durability and sweetness of that old hymn we can likely find common ground on that one. So let me point out the part that really speaks to me in light of the times:
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” This hymnwriter understood something perhaps we don’t: that the manifold grace of God accomplishes something other than making us feel good and in right standing with God when in fact we may not be. Let me explain: at some point in our lives, if we are believers, the grace of God set to working in our hearts. I am willing to bet it did not feel ‘good’ at first. I remember my own conversion began with powerful, overwhelming conviction. And this was a miracle as my Catholic phariseeism was just as powerful and had a great stronghold in my young life. And so I was miserable, and thought perhaps God had abandoned me or more accurately, actually hated me at that point. To my carnal mind, I thought that being in God’s presence was to be happy and on some type of emotional high – which I had experienced as a devoted Catholic girl, and at a pretty young age, actually. Likewise today, Emergent adherents believe that doing good deeds and finding some gnostic happy place through mysticism is to find God. This is simply not so. They leave off the fear of God in their understanding of how He works and in how they should show him to the world. I personally believe there is a very serious lack of fear of the Lord in nearly every new book that flies off Christian shelves today. No one who truly fears the God of the Bible could ever write that mess called The Shack, and the seeker sensitive/church growth style of ministry that leaves people in their sins through a power-less gospel is another strong example of a lack of proper fear of God.
But as a youngster I had no right understanding of the other attributes of God – justice, holiness, righteousness – so I mistook what turned out to be His great grace toward me as cosmic cruelty. Kind of like when our earthly parents do something we just don’t want and then we try and cut them by saying, ‘you hate me!!’ as we storm off in a little immature huff. The truth is, when we are heathens and He begins to work in our lives, it is His GRACE and LOVE that draw us. That grace teaches our hearts to fear, first of all. Fear God, His commandments, His justice, His holiness – remember it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Once we have a right fear of God in all aspects, and we surrender our will to His in light of our sinful condition, THEN our fears are relieved. No one, and this includes our loved ones who are burdening under His conviction, should have their fears relieved until they are taught to fear first, by His great grace.
And so, if you have loved ones who are struggling with commitment to Christ, do not relieve their fears of judgment; do not let them off the hook in any way – let God do that in His timing, when He relieves their fears after full repentance, reconciling them to Himself for all eternity. Stand firm, do not be ashamed of the Gospel.