Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Amazing Grace

In small group yesterday, the girls and I were talking about life purpose and vision. In Ephesians 4, Paul says, “to live a life worthy of our call, because God himself has called us.” We talked through things like change, growth, maturity, and grace. On my drive home, I received a text message from one of my girls that said, "What exactly is God's grace?" This question struck me.
My reply was this:

Webster says: Grace-noun; favor or good will. The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God, the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them ...I say: Grace is an extension of genuine kindness and love whether one deserves it or not. It is a willingness and desire to forgive the unworthy because of love. It is the acceptance of a gift, that without, life has no purpose.
So here I am, sitting in my driveway, using the dictionary app on my phone, texting a 16 year-old my view of grace while the melody of my favorite song plays. The chorus began, I closed my eyes and listened intently to the lyrics I love so much, "Caught up in grace like an avalanche. Nothing compares to this love...love...love." It was quite a God moment. At youth the we sang, "How He Loves", one of the lines reads, "If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking."

I think these descriptions are funny, they seem so destructive, right? Getting snowed in and drowning doesn’t sound like the most pleasant of things. It can make you think, I'm not so sure I want grace.  However, the truth behind the analogy is relevant. Grace by God’s definition is overwhelming, consuming, and unconditional.

Think about the best present you have ever gotten for some special occasion. The one you wanted for months, obsessed over, and could not wait to get. It's like that, but for no good reason. God's grace is the best gift ever just because he loves you that much.

Mercy is different from grace; mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Grace, on the other hand, is getting what you do not deserve. The Bible says God's mercy is new every morning. Meaning, he will not "punish" you for messing up; his mercy offers pardon. Grace is a freely given gift of love that you choose to accept.

God becoming man, living on earth, then dying a torturous death wasn't to show off. If he was trying to show off, I'd like to think he would've used lightening, a face in the clouds or dinosaurs. He went from ruler of the earth to a homeless prophet, not exactly glamorous. Jesus lived to die and with him, sin died. When he was raised again, he conquered sin and death. The grace part of that scenerio is instead of death, we are promised eternal life in heaven.

Everyone that knows my past knows I have made bad choices. I have not been the nicest person. I treated people poorly, given into all kinds of worldly junk. My decisions resulted in all kinds of baggage. All of it brought on by no one but myself-- I deserve to carry that heavy backpack for the rest of my life but mercy takes it off my back and grace says I never have to carry it again.

Grace IS like an avalanche or an ocean: it covers and consumes all the junk. We will forever have circumstances that cause us to mess up, fall away, or question God. His love is bigger than all of it and grace is what pulls us back to Him.

The word grace throughout the Bible in New Testament greek is xáris, which means to freely extend; leaning, inclined to, favorable kindness towards; disposed to bless. The Old Testament Hebrew equivalent is kaná. I love that visual; that God is leaning, reaching, extending himself towards me. He wants to bless me, love me, and forgive me. It is overwhelming.

That's how our lives become examples of God's grace. It requires some humility of course, that is the hardest part. We have to give up the thought that we can make it on our own. We have it all together. We don't need any help in this life. The selfish perfectionist in us has to die in order for grace to live. 

Grace is alive in you when you have overcome hard circumstances and faith remains or you are facing a battle but have hope for victory. You walk in grace when life's damaging roads produced heavy baggage but now you journey with weightless freedom. Grace is fully alive when you realize that you don't deserve it, you cannot earn it, you cannot escape it, and you are overwhelmed by it.

Today, bask in it. Make snow angels in the avalanche and do the backstroke in the ocean of God’s amazing grace.

"The grace or love of God is FREE IN ALL and FREE FOR ALL...  It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in anywise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavors. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it." - John Wesley

1 comment:

  1. Monica McAmis CiampaMarch 8, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    Absolutely loved this! My Bible study this week has been all about Grace! God keeps reconfirming what He seems to be telling me. You are so correct! It's truly Overwhelming when you really think about how AMAZING His GRACE is! Love what Romans 5:1-2 says..."through whom we have gained access by faith into this Grace in which we now STAND.."..in this verse Grace is not just described as something God does or a gift, but Grace is described as a Place! We can think of Grace as a Place we can go stand! Isn't that awesome? Anytime we feel pressure, suffering, trouble, we get to Stand in our place of Grace. We must determine to LIVE in this Wide open Place! Grace always stands in us, but we don't always stand in it. And if we feel far from God, it's our door that's shut, not His! Thanks again for the reminder today of the Most Precious Gift that not only Saved us, but made us alive in Him.(Eph. 2:1-9)
    In Christ's Grace I Stand!
    Love & Prayers :),
    Monica Ciampa (Hebrews 4:16)