49: Grace for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow
When I write a newsletter, I pray and ask God for direction and content. Then I pass it to my son who distributes it to you. I often wonder how people respond to what is written and if they were encouraged, convicted, or edified? I was deeply moved by the responses I received to the January missive. Apparently the message resonated with many of you.
Thank you to all who took the time to share your heart and your story. I am still in communication with some who wrote and praying for others in difficult circumstances. It was confirming to see how God is alive and at work in helping us all to be more open and real about our need for healing and community.
I would like to begin this letter with a question: Is God’s grace limited to salvation when we first believe?
One sister that I spoke with a few weeks ago, observed that after she came to faith, she would listen to grateful converts stand up in church and share their dramatic and often sordid stories of their old life and how Jesus had saved them and made them new creatures. These testimonies were moving and encouraging.
But then she fell into sin while serving in ministry and didn’t know what to do. For she also noticed that she never heard someone stand up, who was already a believer, and share how they had sinned and God had wonderfully forgiven them. I can only imagine how alone and helpless she felt, wrestling with shame and regret by herself and afraid to ask for help.
We are afraid to reach out for help because those of us who know Christ are supposed to know better. As a result, we are hard on ourselves, and sadly hard on each other. We all desperately need to hear that God still loves us, and likes us. I am totally convinced that God’s grace is for sinners who believe, as well as believers who sin.
Wouldn’t be refreshing and encouraging to hear someone stand up who had been a committed Christian for many years, and share how they had sinned and found that God’s grace hadn’t changed, that He still loved, forgave, embraced, and received them?
Do you know who needs the gospel, the good news of God’s love and grace, as much as unbelievers? Believers. Grace is for those who don’t know Jesus and for those who should “know better”. God’s love does not change because He doesn’t change. In fact He can’t change. God is love. Period. Whether we are the younger prodigal son returning home, or the older brother who never left home and has his own issues, God’s love is constant. His grace is ongoing. His heart for His children never changes.
I have just begun to attend recovery meetings or 12 steps gatherings, I am not sure of the correct terminology. I appreciate their honesty, and their humility. Last week I was at a lecture on why alcoholism is a physical disease. The speaker was an articulate educated young lady who shared her story and then educated us on the physical and mental aspects of this illness. She also shared that the only hope for an alcoholic or drug addict is Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Step Program for Recovery.
I am not an alcoholic, nor do I have an addition to drugs, but I confess to being an addict to work and ministry, and to mistakenly seeking to find my identity in what I do and not in who I am in Christ.
I have a good friend who says he has all of the socially acceptable addictions; greed, power, and success. In his experience, society rewards him when he succeeds at his addictions. He also says these are just as lethal to his family as drugs or alcohol. We all need to find the grace to overcome sin and addictions in whatever form they take.
I sat there and listened to this powerful story and wondered how God’s grace reached these men and women and enabled them to live in recovery. I need grace just as much as they do, and wanted to discover their secret. I pondered on what aspects of AA enable people to overcome these powerful addictions.
Then a verse came to me, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. I saw clearly that ongoing humility is the path to receiving daily grace. When I first came to Christ, I acknowledged my need for Jesus and then received grace to become a new creature. I need to humble myself daily and recognize my need for fresh mercies and new loving kindnesses.
James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says,“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
As these men and women regularly share their needs, their successes and failures, they are humbling themselves. They are acknowledging they need help. In their honest humility they receive grace. It is so difficult to admit we need help. Especially for those of us who appear to have our lives in order. It is hard to say, I am struggling, would you pray for me.
I have noticed that there are certain acceptable requests among believers. If we have a serious illness, lost our job, or someone has passed away, we can ask for prayer. But I hope that someday we will be able to also ask for help when we are struggling, having difficulty with anger, have a hard heart, are weary, hurting, or having trouble loving God and our neighbor.
This kind of honesty is humbling, but as we have seen humility is the path to grace. We are each always and utterly, dependent on God. This never changes. We never outgrow our need for grace. Here are some scriptures that I hope will be an encouragement to you as you meditate on God’s grace, His mercy, and His love.
Romans 5:15 But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many.
Romans 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:20-21 where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship.
One of my favorite words in the Bible, is a synonym for mercy, lovingkindness. This is the Old Testament word for grace. God is not only merciful, He is loving, and kind. Our gracious God is full of lovingkindness. I sometimes awake with the happy thought that God has a whole new batch of mercies each morning, just for me.
Lamentations 3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
If you run out of passages on grace in the New Testament, do a word study on lovingkindness in the Old Testament. It is wonderfully edifying.
My God grant us a spirit of truthful humility, that we may receive grace for today and bright hope for tomorrow,