Have you ever received a gift that was simply too big and too lavish to accept? We've all just finished up another Christmas. I wonder if any of you, in retrospect, are looking back and wishing you hadn't given such a lavish gift to someone. Or, maybe you're wishing you could have given a nicer gift to someone special. That's usually the category I fall into. I have two wonderful friends and over the last couple of weeks I keep wishing I could have given them something really great -- something really, really spectacular. Something that would have made them stop and catch their breath. Something that really says how special they are to me. Instead, they got a bag full of hand made items. The gifts really did come from my heart and, in the end, simpler is probably better. It makes me wish anyway.
Grace. I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking this past year about grace. My conclusion thus far is this: God's grace is ultimately and magnificently sufficient and my grace is hideously insufficient. God's grace is too big to be contained, measured, weighed, or stopped. We cannot breathe without it. It comes unexpected. It is undeserved and unwarranted. It cannot be taken -- it can only be given. God resides on a throne called "GRACE."
Read: Ephesians 2:1-10
According to these verses, God is actively giving grace in our lives. How many ways do you see God giving His grace?
Ephesians 2:1 says we were dead in our transgressions and sins. Dead. That seems fairly serious. But, God, who is rich in mercy and because of His great love for us, made us alive. GRACE. He raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms (we can only imagine what that looks like for us!). GRACE. He saved us. GRACE. We are God's workmanship! GRACE.
Even though the Old Testament writers speak a lot about the Law, life has always been about grace. God has always been about grace. Yes, the law is important; however, if you read between the lines a little you can see God's amazing activity of grace in the lives of those who recognized their brokenness. Let's look at King David.
Read 2 Samuel 12, 2 Samuel 24 and Psalm 51:16-17.
In 2 Samuel 24 David's pride got him into trouble and God allowed David to pick one of three punishments. (I'm oversimplifying this passage, I know.) David had learned a thing or two in his life. He learned how ruthless people can be, for he even saw it in himself. He couldn't choose. Instead of falling into the hands of men he chose to fall into the hands of the living God for His mercy is great. Grace.
In the account of David and Bathsheba, David lost sight of God's life flowing through him and wanted what he wanted and did whatever he had to in order get what he wanted. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David admitted his guilt, repented and fell into the hands of the living God. If God would have wanted sacrifice to make amends David would have brought it. But, David knew that what God wanted was David's heart, broken and contrite and in need of grace. When David brought that to God, David was forgiven. Grace.
It's always been about grace, not law. Law only proves to us how much we need grace.
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9a) God's grace is sufficient in all of our weaknesses. It's easy to think of that word "sufficient" as meaning "only just enough." The gift is just enough. "Sufficient," however, actually carries with it the meaning of "more than enough." The gift is SUFFICIENT! It is more than enough! It takes care of everything and there is nothing lacking! I don't know about you, but a grace big enough to cover my multitude of weaknesses is BIG!
I have weaknesses. You have weaknesses. Jesus understands weaknesses. HE is not weak, but He was tempted in every way just like you and me. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15, NIV) Because of our weaknesses and because He knows all about it He invites us to come -- to approach His throne of grace -- boldly! -- where we can find grace when we need it. How do you picture God on His throne? Do you picture the classic storybook throne? A large, opulent throne, all gold except for the red velvet upholstery on which the king regally sits. It's easy for me to have that picture, but I don't think that's it. I think it looks more like a seat (albeit, regal) that is soft and roomy. One that is inviting and there's always room on it for one more person. And, God sits and beckons me to His side. "Kerry, come and sit with me. What do you need today? Do you need forgiveness? Do you need the strength of my arms? Do you need to tell me anything? Speak boldly for I already know and I have more than enough grace for you today." It makes me stop and catch my breath. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)