Welcome GraceBreak Cycles, Embrace Grace
How many times have you gotten up and within fifteen minutes wanted to crawl back to bed? Or you just wondered why you keep pushing forward and onward and ahead? Last week, I wondered “why” and my why’s took me down dreary paths. I moped and questioned God and his leading. For two days I alternated between demanding God do something and pouting that he hasn’t.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
These verses from Thessalonians pack a whole lotta hope tucked in a challenging call. I tend to skim over the secret ingredient that makes the challenge doable, but let’s first take a look at what Paul is telling us to do.
Be worthy of God’s calling.
Be resolved for good.
Do work in faith.
These three challenges address our heart, our choices, and our actions. In order to be worthy of God’s calling we must have our hearts cleansed of unrighteousness, which means that we basically need to get rid of slander, gossip, hate, and murderous thoughts, and anything else that pulls towards unrighteousness.
Our minds, will, and emotions must be resolved for good. This requires developing self-awareness. Where are you at in your thoughts? I tend towards speaking poorly to myself and about myself, which trickles down into what I think about others. Resolve your mind for good. When you choose good things to pursue that benefit others and yourself, you demonstrate a will resolved for good. Bringing your emotions to God, and letting him administer grace to you is how you resolve your emotions for good.
We often don’t see the outcome of our work. And by work, I don’t mean your day to day job where you exchange your time and effort for a paycheck. The work I’m referring to is your work of kindness and service. It takes faith to serve someone else without expectations placed on them. To act like you’re trusting God when you don’t see any evidence that proves that you should trust Him is faith at work.
These verses from 1 Thessalonians contain a secret ingredient that makes the three challenges possible. It is God who works in you to be worthy of God’s calling, to resolve to do good, and to work in faith. It’s God’s grace and power that enables you to leave behind your sinful habits and rise up to be a beautiful testimony of God’s amazing grace in your life.
It’s God who works in you to hope in him when all is dark.
God works in you to build your faith as you step out in faith and serve your neighbor.
Expect maturity to be a winding road and not the direct interstate. Enjoy the journey of surrendering your weaknesses so that he can be strong in you. It is his grace that works change in your life. Rest in that truth and know without a shadow of doubt that God has you close to his heart even on the days that you wonder what the point is to this Christian life.
And there is a point. It’s to point others to the grace and lordship of Jesus Christ. Then you get to experience God’s glory flowing in you and through you so that other’s may see God alive and current and present for our lives.
May God work in you to make you worthy of his calling, to resolve to do good and work in faith. May God make his power and glory known. You are a mighty force in his kingdom. Turn to him, rely on him, abide in him and turn your weaknesses over to him.
It is God’s power who works in you to make you worthy of his call, fulfill your resolve for good and every action done in faith.
Pray a prayer of faith to ask God to work in you in order to shine his glory to those around you.
Rely on God and not your own strength. Own your weakness and then exchange it for his strength. You’ll see his glory rise up within you.
Have you heard the phrase, “What’s the catch?” or “If something is too good to be true, then it probably is?” For example, commercials. If anything brings out the skeptic in me, it’s commercials. Nothing is as it seems. But listen long enough and pretty soon, we’ve ordered that amazing product. Only we find out it’s not so amazing because the grill that’s “smokeless” just actually “smokes less.” It’s incidences like this that grow skepticism.
Being a skeptic is not necessarily a bad thing, it keeps us from being gullible and being taken advantage of by miscreants. But God is not a miscreant. He is the king of the world, the great creator, and deeply interested in my heart. And in yours.
He made you for relationship with him. But the pesky thing called sin stands in the way of knowing him. We can know about him, but to truly know him, we must experience him through his grace.
But, we lean towards performance and the unwillingness to receive anything for free. For example, someone gives us a compliment so we feel obligated to give one in return. Someone surprises us with a birthday gift, and we feel the need to return the kindness when their birthday rolls around. Pretty soon giving is tied to obligation and worth is tied to what we can do.
If we can wrap our heads around the idea that God, while we were wretched, hell-bound sinners, loved us enough to save us, then we must let go of the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back,” mentality. God loved you while you hated him. God loved you while you hated yourself. He looked into the future and saw a beautiful son or daughter distraught by life’s struggles and he whispered, “Come to me.”
His love for you doesn’t change once you love him back, but it does enable you to live for him. We can’t save ourselves. We can try, but then we lose the depth of grace in our lives.
I know what I am. I know what I once was. Do you?
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-8
God saves you. He takes your dead heart and makes you alive. He pours grace into your life so that you will walk in the ways he has for you.
Going to church, reading your bible, being in community with other believers is vital to your health as a follower of Christ. But they won’t save you. They won’t prove to God that you’re worth his time and attention. Your faithful heart that receives his grace is what he’s looking for. He’ll take care of the rest.
Open your heart to him and receive him.
When has performance replaced grace in your life?
Would you tell me in the comments about a time you’ve exchanged performance for grace in your life?
I’m a both and kind of girl. It’s both coffee and chocolate. It’s both chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. I can’t separate the two. I mean, I can, if I have to, but I’d prefer not. But those are the easy both/ands. Those are the ones that I can take and run with that don’t make me squirm or feel twitchy inside.
It’s the ones that challenge our pet preferences, especially when it comes the Bible, that make us twitchy. Everybody has them, so when one of the both/ands rub up against those preferences, which we often disguise as biblical truth, we get. . . twitchy. You know, that squirmy feeling we quickly ignore, but keeps coming back and so we drown it out with busy? Yeah, meet twitchy.
Grace and Truth
Grace and truth is a both/and kind of deal, and it’s easy to get twitchy about them. Our human tendency is to lean slightly one way or the other. We extend so far to the grace side that we forget to bring truth right along. Or we run so fast with truth as a weapon that we leave grace back there at mile marker 3 while we’re at mile marker 20 brandishing our sword.
The two can’t be separated, it’s when we try to separate the two that we create legalism and liberalism. Both prevent the Holy Spirit from truly accomplishing his work in our lives. So what do we do? How do we stop this separation of grace and truth?
John 1:16-17 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
For starters, we focus on the personhood of Jesus Christ. Who was he? Why did he come? Why should I follow him? We can answer these questions by starting at the beginning. Jesus is God in the flesh. He came to show us the way to Father God and following him is the absolute best, most remarkable decision you can make. Not so that you have a “genie in the bottle,” but so that you have the hope of heaven in your heart, which makes every trial or burden in this life a mere stepping stone into the presence of God.
So. First things first. Consider your own heart. There’s a funny little saying that when you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you. Technically, they’re pointing at your hand, but I think we get the picture. Be careful how you point an accusing finger at someone. Often the lack we witness in other’s lives is prevalent in our own.
Jesus brought both grace and truth. He fulfilled the law, streamlined the law and in essence made it much more difficult to follow since it’s now dealing with the heart rather than behavior as the Mosaic law did. But his grace is what gives us the power for our hearts to be changed. Grace is the power we need for transformative living and when we reject grace in our own hearts, we turn back to the Mosaic law and focus on behaviors.
Grace considers how much God loves you. Think on how Christ set that kind of love before him in order to endure suffering on the cross. If God’s love can be Jesus’ motivating joy, and through Jesus you get to know that kind of love, embrace it. Embrace the grace that God pours out into your heart.
The truth? God loves you. He has set you apart. He has called you to be righteous. What steps can you take, with God’s strength, to step into that righteousness? What habits or attitudes are preventing you from “right-living” according to God’s standards?
It’s both grace and truth simultaneously growing in your heart. As you experience God’s grace and truth working in your heart, you will be so enamored with loving God and serving others that another person’s failure won’t bring out the pointing finger. But instead it will bring out a story of how God showed you grace and truth to change your life.
I use to be afraid of people and their rejection. But God showered me with grace. He reminded me over and over again that his approval could satisfy me. But he also showed me truth. He showed me how people’s approval had his spot in my heart. I turned seeking people’s approval into an idol. I can’t serve two masters. God helped me kick that people-pleasing, fear of rejection, dead idol right out of my heart.
Grace and truth. They work together to bring lasting change. They work together to bring victory. Keep them together as one unit and watch how your life is transformed.
Meditate on Romans 8:31-38.
Ponder Hebrews 12:11-16.
Remind yourself of God’s love for you. Write it on a card and place it where you will see it regularly.
Choose one behavior that doesn’t bring about righteousness in your life to stop doing. Rely on God’s strength and trust him with the process.