The Gift of Grace

God’s grace can be a hard concept to fully grasp, maybe because it is so different from our experience in everyday human interactions. I’ve heard grace explained using the acronym “Great Riches At Christ’s Expense”. I’ve also heard it is “getting blessings we do not deserve” while its companion mercy is “not getting the punishment we do deserve”. These are simplified versions of the Dictionary.com definition: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”. God’s Word confirms all those explanations are consistent with His expression of grace:

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17b, NIV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a, NIV)

Far more life understands that grace is a gift from God. A right perspective on grace enables us to live the best life possible. But we can think too much or too little of ourselves and miss the wonder of God’s amazing grace.

Thinking too much of ourselves leads us to minimize our sin and our need for God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we believe our sins are “not that bad”. If this were true, then Jesus did not have to die to pay for our sin and the spiritual darkness it reveals! We could have overcome separation from God on our own; we did not need his gift of grace. These strong words from Romans 3 make it clear this is not the case:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

Grace is a gift. From God. Failing to recognize the Giver leads us to try and earn this precious gift, to prove our worthiness. But that is impossible. Earning it is not God’s plan; our efforts can actually pull us further away from the security of His grace.

On the other hand, thinking too little of ourselves leads us to minimize ourselves and reject God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we continually question, “Why would God save me? I’m not worth it.” From God’s perspective we are the most important part of His creation. We are the only part made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are the only part granted forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). And we are the only part that God lives inside (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 3:16). We are worth it because God, our Creator, decided we are worth it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

If we don’t understand God’s grace we will be tempted to think that doing good works will prove our worth and love for Him; we believe that will make Him happy with us. So when we fail to obey — which we will! — we feel guilty and condemned because we believe we have let God down. We fear that he will pull away from us. We may even feel separated from Him and assume that He has pulled away. But far more life frees us from feeling condemned when we sin. Instead it understands that God’s children live under grace. It enables us to acknowledge our sin without letting it define or conquer us. It believes this Biblical truth:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV)

Rather than being under the condemnation of sin, far more life is living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace-filled living is characterized by inner joy, peace, gentleness, patience, love, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that radiates from us. God’s light shines through us and reveals the brilliance of His character. Grace also provides the power to choose righteousness rather than sin. We do not take Christ’s sacrifice for granted; our freedom was purchased at a high price. But that sacrifice was not the end; it was a new beginning. Jesus is alive. He overcame sin and death and sent His Holy Spirit to give us far more life. What a precious gift!

Sisters,
How do you define grace?
How do you minimize your sin?
How do you minimize your worth?
If you have not accepted God’s grace, what is stopping you?
If you have accepted God’s grace, how do you see His power changing you?
Praise God for the gift of grace and the power to live far more life!
-Shari

Heart Desires

What do you desire?

A lot of things may come to your mind: enough money to pay bills and have fun; more or better relationships; better health; a break; more sleep; more fun; less stress. Some answers vary based on our life circumstances while others are universal. But if we dig beneath the surface to analyze our desires, I think most of our desires fit into these categories: safety; security; belonging; and purpose.

We all desire that our physical, mental, and emotional needs are met; that is a basic human trait. We desire safe places to live, work, learn, and play. We desire enough money to cover all our needs and some of our wants. We desire to connect with other people in a meaningful way. We desire to know why we exist and to do something that matters.

But sometimes we believe these desires are unattainable. We believe God is letting us down because our desires — even our basic needs — are going unmet. We struggle to understand why, then read a verse like this:

Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most. (Psalm 37:4, TPT)

If we are doing our best to follow God, yet our desires are unfulfilled, this is a hard verse to swallow. We might believe there is something wrong with us. We might believe we aren’t good enough. We might believe we aren’t doing enough to make God happy. After all, God is perfect, so there can’t be anything wrong with Him; the problem must be with us, right? We believe far more life is outside our grasp. We feel helpless and hopeless, that we will never reach it. I’ve been there. Have you?

Too often we think God is like Santa Claus; if we are good, He will give us the things on our wish list. But that’s not how God works! He wants to be our biggest desire. One Psalmist states it this way:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Can you say this? I confess that too often I cannot. I desire God a lot more than many things, but there are still relationships and desires that compete for the #1 most desired slot in my heart. Far more life recognizes that desiring God is far superior to everything else. This is where we find fulfillment.

But God knows we are distracted by other desires. He doesn’t condemn us for those, but He may not fulfill those desires. Because He knows they are not the best for us in the long run. And He wants what is best for us.

When our desire for God is our top priority, that is far more life. We begin to see life from His eternal perspective. We are fulfilled. We are satisfied. We have passion and enthusiasm for life. Our desires change to line up with His. We want for everyone to acknowledge God as Lord. One prophet declared:

Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8b, NIV)

Satan tries to convince us that making God our utmost delight and pleasure means that we will miss out or be dissatisfied. But God’s Word offers this truth:

What the righteous desire leads only to good, but what the wicked hope for leads to wrath. (Proverbs 11:23, NET)

Our righteous desires lead ONLY to good! We are guaranteed a good outcome when we follow those desires. Sometimes the good results are not quickly evident. When I was a new graduate, my desire was to stay in that city and help reach people there for Christ. But it took several months to find a job that met my financial need. I still do not know what “good” came out of paying for necessities on a credit card and going into debt. Maybe my character grew. Maybe I had an eternal impact on someone without knowing it. But I trust that my righteous desire led to good. Why? Because it doesn’t depend on me.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:13, NLT)

God is the source of our righteous desires. And He is working in us to not only desire what is good but to do it. Isn’t it awesome that He does it all? He makes us righteous. He gives us righteous desires. He empowers us to fulfill those righteous desires. He causes good to come from them. Far more life embraces God-given righteous desires and uses His power to live them out.

God will meet our basic desires perfectly, even when they look different than we expect. He offers us perfect safety (Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 18:10, NASB). He offers us perfect security (Proverbs 3, NASB). He offers us perfect belonging (Romans 14:8, NIV). He offers us perfect purpose (Exodus 9:16 and Romans 8:28, NIV). He alone offers far more life!

Sisters,
When you read Psalm 37:4, does you feel good or bad? If bad, what do you believe about God or yourself that is distorting this verse?
When have you thought of God as Santa Claus? Commit to pursuing a relationship with Him instead of just giving Him your wish list.
What competes with God for your desire?
How have you seen God give you righteous desires and power?
Find far more life this week as you make Him your biggest desire!
-Shari