This is Amazing Gracecatherderal

 Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned for a total of fourteen years in Romania. Whilst in prison he would sing Christian songs along with other believers. On one occasion the director of the prison entered his cell and said,
 

“I was told that you sing subversive songs here. Let me hear one,” Richard and his fellow Christians then sang a song of God’s great love for man and the sufferings that Christ underwent in order to offer us life. The director listened to the whole song and then turned and left without saying a word. He later became a Christian and brother in the faith. In one of the most unlikely of places and difficult circumstances the grace and mercy of Christ had set another man free.'     

 
                                                                      The Voice of the Martyrs, ‘Jesus Freaks’ p 290
 
In a world where very little, if anything, is offered for free there is a need to understand God’s grace because there is nothing else like it on earth. It is a grace that was forged in the heart of God before the world began and expressed in awesome power and humility through the death and resurrection of His Son, the Servant-King.  Because of this grace, His grace, you and me, the disturbers of peace in His world can find our true position as sons and daughter of a heavenly father.
 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no-one can boast.”                                                                                              Ephesians 2:8-9

 
 The Hebrew word for ‘grace’ 

 
 
The Hebrew word for ‘grace’ is ‘chen,’ and at its heart it carries the picture of fencing in and protecting life.  The One who wants to protect us is the One we have offended most. Despite this His love has never been weakened by our rebellion and failure.
 
To move from existence to life with the great Shepherd (Psalm 23, John 10:1, 14) we need to fully place our trust in the One we have offended most who holds out His hand with the offer of life (John 10:10; 1 John 56:12).
 
“I remember being impressed by Jesus’ power to change people. Almost nobody met Jesus and remained the same as before. Some changed for the better: Peter, an ignorant fisherman, became the courageous leader of the church. Saul, a persecutor of Christianity, met Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus and became Paul, the greatest missionary and theologian the church has known…the set of people who have been changed by Jesus is a set that includes me. I was once on a wrong path that was leading nowhere but to sloth, inertia, self-pity, self-centredness, self-indulgence and destruction. In Christ, I found the right path. I have a strong sense of having been created, guided, forgiven and redeemed by God in Christ.”
                                                                                           Prof S. Davis in, ‘Philosophers that Believe’ page 108
In God’s amazing offer of life we see that grace is exclusively His gift to us; a gift that by its very definition cannot be gained through personal effort or achievement.  In humbling ourselves (breaking down the walls we have built through insecurity and pride), we can benefit from His grace, mercy and loving-kindness, given generously and willingly through Christ alone (Mat 11:28-30; John 14:6).
 
“Every grace with which life is adorned, the grace which covers every sin, every natural endowment we possess, every gift which we can lay at the service of the Church, any office we may hold… God gave it God did it, it is God’s grace; all is of God.”                
                                         
                                            Dr W. Barclay in, ‘New Testament Words’, page 64
 
 
In the work of Jesus Christ we find a grace that covers our life of sin helping us find our true identity in Him as sons and daughters of the living God. Through all that He has done we are ‘the forgiven ones,’ and all across our world men and women from hugely diverse backgrounds are finding forgiveness in Christ.
One woman who speaks of God’s forgiveness in a usual setting is Dorothy Soelle.
 
Dorothy Soelle, a German theologian and political activist, once wrote of the time in the early 1960’s when she found out that one of her professors was an ex-Nazi. She writes about what happened when she challenged the professor  and then goes on to say that what happened after this reminded her of the power of forgiveness…

 “In the late 1960’s I learned that this professor whom I greatly respected and revered for his sensitivity and receptive spirit, had not only been a Nazi but had even participated in a book burning. I couldn’t fathom this, and visited him at his apartment to learn the truth. “Why did you do this, who commanded it, did you know which books were burned.” I wanted to know exactly. It was an excruciating few hours, he didn’t protect himself, but he did insist on the distinction between books and people – which naturally, was the underlying issue during every moment of our conversation.
When I asked where he stood now, he wept. He stammered something that I didn’t understand. The word “Forgiveness” was unspoken yet implicit. And then something utterly extraordinary happened, something I had never experienced before or since. He threw himself on the floor, knelt down, wrung his hands, and then folded them. I couldn’t remain seated in my chair, I didn’t want to leave, so I knelt beside him and we prayed aloud the Lord’s Prayer:  “…and forgive us our sins.”
I had never known before what remorse was, many years later, I learned what the word ‘teshuvah’ meant in the Jewish tradition: deliverance, changing one’s ways, a new beginning.”

         
          Dorothy Soelle’s story in Simon Wieshethals’ book, ‘The Sunflower”, pages
          243-244.
 

 The Greek word for ‘grace’

 
The New Testament word for grace (‘charis’) continues to reveal grace as undeserved, unmerited blessing and favour from another: from the Holy One (Isaiah 5:16) who stooped low and paid the price for our wrong-doing (Phil 2:5-9).
  

Receiving grace and mercy

 
A nominal Muslim man who committed his life to Jesus Christ whilst in prison wrote of his discovery of God’s unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness in the following way. He said…
 
“All began when I had lost everything; my house, my children, my wife…I found myself locked up here, full of pain and remorse. Despair took hold of me…and then one day I met a man who came to visit me in my cell, who prayed for me, who brought me to know and love Jesus so that he might help me. I opened my heart to Jesus. He put his love in the place of my despair; he came into me, not all at once, but little by little, without frightening me, to cure me, to comfort me in my sorrow, to bring back my smile and my joys. He came into me like a seed which, day after day, grew peacefully into love and joy…”
 
                                                       ‘Called From Islam to Christ’ page 168; Ed: J.M. Gaudeul.
 
 

Grace and wages

 
Saving grace has absolutely nothing to do with wages because wages speak of what a person works for and therefore earns. It is through the grace and mercy of God alone that we are saved. One Jewish doctor who found this to be true is Michael Sischy.

Michael Sischy was born in Johannesburg in 1970, the descendent of Orthodox Russian, Polish and Lithuanian grandparents. After leaving school he went to Witwatersrand University and graduated with a degree in medicine in 1993 then doing an internship at Hillbrow hospital.

Michael had always been looking for answers and the question “Why” would often come up in his thinking. For example, “Why all the hurt and suffering? He also questioned whether this life was all that there was and what happened when it was over.

In Michael’s fourth year of studies he met Teresa who was studying for a nursing degree. She had grown up in church but was not close to God in any way whatsoever. In her fourth year she went to a church with a classmate and came back very different telling Michael she had been saved. She also told him that she was praying that God would open his eyes. Shortly after this on the Sunday after Passover (Easter Sunday) Michael found himself at a sunrise service and was so affected that, in his own words, he struggled to pull himself together.
Michael then read the New Testament for the first time in his life. He read about the life of Jesus, the predictions He made about His death and resurrection and that Jesus’ followers were Jews who believed He was the Messiah. A few weeks later Michael committed his life to Jesus and, in his own words, experienced a wonderful peace as the truth really set him free.
Michael has faced rejection and persecution from friends and family in the Jewish community but has always found God to be faithful and a great strength to him through difficult times. In 2002 he took over the directorship of Jews for Jesus in South Africa.
 

The wage of sin

The wage of sin is death and in Hebrew thought death is the end of that which is dying (separated and undergoing judgement). From this we see that death is a process and not just an end. For example Adam was told he would die if he transgressed God’s law (Gen 2:17-18), yet death did not immediately occur in the physical sense. What did occur was separation from God. Sin is separation from God and the refusal to live as His son or daughter.
 
In breaking God’s law man began to reap the harvest of his sin (hence it’s wages). Fallen humanity also began to die biologically, yet death is not the end of life and speaks of an existence that will one day be judged. From this we see that death is also the weaker end of life as can be seen in Luke’s gospel where we read the father’s words concerning the return of his younger son:  “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24). 
From this parable that is often called ‘The Prodigal Son’ we see that the heart of sin is not failing to believe that God exists, but failing to accept that He matters. Death speaks of the ‘wages’ of separation from God and also of coming judgement; it speaks of the weaker end of life and of existence outside of covenant.
The gift of God.
 
In total contrast to the wages of death we have the gift of God which is eternal life (Rom 6:23; Eph 2:8-9).  The Old Testament sacrificial system always pointed to God as the giver and man as the receiver.  Ultimately this sacrificial system pointed to Christ the Lamb (John 1:29) of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Grace is always something that a person receives because of Jesus the Righteous One (1 John 2:1)
 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
                                                                                                        1 Peter 1:3-5

 
 
At its heart, sin is the refusal to live with our heavenly Father as His son or daughter through ignoring God and seeking to live life as we think it should be lived. As we look around our world today the wages of sin are increasingly seen in broken, fragmented lives and world-views that often imprison and destroy.
 
Sin is sometimes pictured as the fire that burns the name with a name being that which speaks of one’s true nature and character (e.g. Jesus means ‘Saviour’).  The ‘fire’ refers to our own actions which damage our true nature (name) as we apply the wrong blueprint to our lives.  Only God truly knows what we should really be like and how we are to live.
 
Sin carries a heavy ‘payment’ and ultimately the punishment of eternal separation from God. Grace, on the other hand, is something that is freely given to those who repent and turn to Christ. As already stated, grace is totally based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
 

 Grace and Reward

 
Saving grace has nothing to do with receiving a reward. A reward is something that is given in return for good or evil already done. Note, for example, that hypocrites, who liked to pray in a place where they were seen, had already received their reward - they had been seen! (Mat 6:2). Saving grace is not a reward for anything we have done.
 
Salvation is not a reward that God gives as payment for the good we have done. We are saved by grace alone and our obedience does not make us more saved (our position in Him: Eph 2:6, Col 3:1-3) because it is totally through Jesus.
 
What obedience does is enable us to receive more of what God has already provided for us. For example, if you respond to someone’s invitation to go to their home for a meal your response does not earn you the meal. What your response does is enable you to receive what has already been provided. In the same way our obedience enables us to receive what is already credited to us through Christ. As we gain more wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Prov 3:5-6, Eph 1:17) we grow in maturity under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:2; Gal 5:25) and can benefit more fully from the ways of the Lord.
Whilst we cannot earn or maintain salvation in our own strength, the Bible does speak of rewards. However these rewards do not refer to salvation or keeping us saved 1 Cor 3:15, Eph 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5
 
Rewards are an encouragement to do what is right, and are not given because we deserve them. For example, a parent might give a young child £1 for helping clean the family car, even if the area they had cleaned needed to be cleaned again afterwards!
 
 

Grace and Mercy

 

“Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.”

                                    Jude 2
 
Grace focuses on all that God gives us that we do not deserve (such as forgiveness of sin). It speaks of reconciliation with God and the peace of His presence through the Holy Spirit. Grace is also closely related to eternal life which speaks of the quality of life that comes from and through fellowship with God. Mercy, on the other hand, focuses on all that God does not give us that we do deserve.
Throughout scripture we read of both the grace and mercy of God. For example, in Acts 3:19 Luke writes, “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Because of the work of Jesus the record of our sin is obliterated – the debt is cancelled. We do not receive the penalty (mercy) due to us and through Christ and instead receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God (abundant grace).
 
Paul uses the same word translated ‘wiped out’ in Col 2:13-14  where we read: “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled (wiped out) the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
 
The word used for ‘written code’, in the above verse is ‘cheirographos’, and means, ‘written agreement acknowledging a debt’. God’s law shows that we owe God a huge debt, but are unable to pay it. Yet Paul says that our debt has been cancelled. This is purely because of Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law and gave His life so that we might live.
 
A point of interest in what Paul writes is that he could have used a common Greek word for ‘cancelled’, but he doesn’t. The more common word for ‘cancelled’ would have been ‘chiazein’ and it speaks of writing the Greek letter ‘chi’ (the same shape as a capital X) across a document, thereby crossing it out. The debt would be crossed out, yet people could still see who was mentioned in the document and this is why Paul did not use the more common word for ‘cancelled.’ Instead Paul uses another word that was in circulation: ‘exaleiphein,’ a word that means, ‘to cancel by wiping out’. It was a word used of wiping ink off the page with a wet sponge so that it no longer existed on the page. In this we see that there was no record of the person’s debt at all which ties in with Psalm 103:12-13 and 1 Cor 13:5 where we read that love keeps no record of wrong.
 
In Jesus we see, in a real way, the embodiment of grace and mercy and as mentioned above, both Acts 3:19 and Col 2:13-14 show that salvation is because of Jesus: the debt we owed has been obliterated. No matter what we have done, we are able to know His amazing grace and mercy, even though there is no way in which we could ever pay back God for what He has given. In the grace and mercy we have received we are able to share grace and mercy with others in the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us – the “I will never leave you nor forsake you” holy One spoken of as a seal and deposit guaranteeing the things that are to come (Eph 1:13; 4:30). One example of God’s grace in action in the life of a believer is as follows:
 
Pastor Juan Zuccarellis lives near Olmos Prison in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the 1980’s Olmos prison had gangs who murdered fellow inmates and a church of Satan that held regular services and performed animal sacrifices. They also prevented Christian groups from entering the prison and when Pastor Juan asked to hold evangelistic meetings he was turned down, but he did not give up.
Juan applied for a job as a prison guard and went through a difficult selection process which looked to reject him from the outset. On one occasion, when lining up with other potential candidates, an officer leading the application process suddenly had a serious asthma attack. Juan prayed for the man and asked God to remove any spiritual darkness and the man was healed. The story, recorded in ‘Transformation’ then continues like this…
 
“Juan got the job and soon afterward held the first evangelistic service in the history of the prison, at which hundreds of inmates received the Lord, launching a process that within a few years led to 60 percent of the inmates becoming believers. In the intervening time, the gangs were dismantled and the church of Satan was put out of commission by a combination of dramatic conversions in their ranks or by death as a result of internal fights. What used to be permeated by systematic evil was replaced by righteousness.”
                                                                                     Ed Silvano in ‘Transformation,’ page 60.
God reaches out to all people and His grace and mercy is seen in how Jesus willingly laid down His life at Calvary so that we could find forgiveness and reconciliation. Even when undergoing horrendous pain and suffering at Calvary we see Jesus helping a thief. Now pause for a moment and put yourself in the position of that thief.
 
 

A man on a cross next to Jesus on Calvary

 
So here you are on a cross at Calvary reaping the harvest of your actions having lived life your own way and now this is it. There is no way of escape and there is nothing you can do - except die. You’d been watching others around you, hearing their insults, and seeing some of the crowd heading back to their homes in the city where you’d lived your life at the expense of others. As you hang in excruciating pain on a cross you are aware that there is nothing left for you; nobody is interested in you. Nobody wants you, and all you can see is death waiting around the corner.  For others who linger at the cross you are their entertainment for the day – they have come to see you die. There are no more chances and no hope; this really is the end for you.
 As the panic begins to set in, and fear grips your heart, you join others and throw insults at Jesus. For a brief moment it seems to help because you’re almost a part of the crowd, and not on your own anymore. You’re shouting insults but something is starting to work on the inside, in the deep recess of the heart where life is lived first and foremost, and you turn to look at the one on the cross next to you. There is something different about Him, something so very different.
 
 Time moves on and the pain bites deeper, yet will never relent and only cease as life slips from your battered frame. In your fear and loneliness, you begin to think about your life. You think about some of the things you have said and done. You think about the hurt, damage and heartache that you have caused so many others in your parasitical existence living off those around you. But then there is this person next to you.  You’d heard about Jesus and know why the authorities are crucifying Him, yet there is more to this Jesus than meets the eye. You begin to realise that there is something different about Him, and there is a stirring in your heart. This is the man who raised the dead, cast out demons, healed the sick and ate with tax collectors and sinners. This is the man who had stilled storms and fed thousands from the borrowed lunch of a small boy. This is a man of power yet He hangs upon the cross. Perhaps it is somehow true, perhaps this is the Messiah. And God, the person who is most offended by your sin begins to break into the decreasing and fading circle of your existence.
Light dawns in your mind, and you begin to catch a glimmer of the truth and start rebuking the other man who is mocking Jesus. You call out to the other man being crucified “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40).
 
Then, as death continues to strip you of life you turn to Jesus, elsewhere  spoken of as the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8) although you would not have known  it. In the awareness of your failure and the wages that are stealing your life as you speak you make an outrageous quest. You know His name means ‘Saviour’ and you cry out: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Luke 23:42. And a light starts to dawn in your darkness and hope pushes out fear as you hear the words, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43). 
 
I doubt whether anyone other than Jesus would have given the time of day to this criminal and many may have only been there to see men die.  The last physical experience he would have at the hands of man would be when his legs were broken and he slowly asphyxiated through not being able to support his weight and breathe. Yet in the hands of the King of Kings his life was in reality just beginning.
 
How is it that this could happen? Because, in amazing grace and mercy, God makes sin His personal responsibility which is precisely why Jesus came and stood in our place.
Another man whose eyes were opened to the grace and mercy of God is David Berkovitz, a notorious killer. David was known as the ‘Son of Sam’ and killed six people and wounded a further seven between 1976 and 1977. He believed that he was manifesting demons yet accepted responsibility for his crimes when he was caught. After ten years in prison he placed his trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour shortly after being given a verse of scripture by a fellow prisoner. That verse was Psalm 24:6 and said, “This poor man called and the Lord heard him’ he saved him out of his troubles.” David became even more acutely aware of his failings and the claims of Christ and was soon born again. 
Despite having multiple life sentences David came up for parole in 2002 and has done so every two years since then. However he has always refused parole on the basis that he does not deserve it. Yet David fully recognises that He has been forgiven by God and having studied the Bible spends his time evangelising and teaching fellow prisoners. Because of Jesus we can all find hope even in the darkest of circumstances.
All of us who have come to Christ are recipients of His grace and mercy and are called to become acts of grace and mercy to those around us in a broken and rebellious world.
 
Henry Gerecke was the chaplain assigned to speak to the German war criminals during the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War.  In speaking to war criminals that were eventually to die for the atrocities they had committed, we find the gospel being shared yet again. Some criminals, like Ribbentrop, bowed the knee to Christ.
On walking to the gallows, Ribbentrop told Pastor Gerecke that he had put all his trust in Christ. He climbed the thirteen steps to the trapdoor as impassive soldiers and press representatives looked on. A guard tied his legs and an American officer asked for his last words. Ribbentrop responded: “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul.” He then turned to Gerecke and said, “I’ll see you again.”
 
 

Grace and Free Justification

 

“…Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”                                                               Romans 5:18

 
 
There are some Christians who mistakenly think that adherence to the Law is justification; it is not. The law is a rule of life and due to our sin is something we cannot keep in our own strength; it does not justify. Justification is something that is freely given and what it means is that we have been pronounced justified (right with God) through the work of Christ. Justification is more than pardon since it declares that the demands of the law are satisfied not waived.
 
 

 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

                                                                           Romans 3:23-24
 
 
In the above verse the word ‘freely’ (doorean), is the same word that is expressed in John 15:25 where we read: “…but this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: ‘they hated me without reason” (doorean).  Being ‘hated without reason’ pointed to there being nothing in Jesus’ life that warranted hatred.
 
In applying this to Romans 3:24, we see that a person is justified freely and without any cause within him or herself. In other words there is nothing whatsoever that is found in the sinner as to why God should justify them. All goodness comes from God alone and is received in repentance and faith.
 
The word ‘justification’ (dikaiosis) comes from a Greek concept meaning ‘to declare right with God.’ It is a legal act wherein God pronounces that we have been forgiven (the price paid) and credits us with the work of Jesus Christ who indwells our lives by the Holy Spirit.
 
To justify speaks of pronouncing as righteous (biblically this means being made right with God). God the Holy One has declared that believers in Christ’s saving work are justified. This is all about His righteousness (Rom 3:24, Phil 3:9) being imputed to us. Imputation is the charging or crediting to one’s account the work of another. 
 
 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

                                                                                                      1 Peter 1:3-5
 
The idea of being made right with God is relational rather than moral. Positionally we are legally right with God through Jesus and our life is now about the way in which we relate to God through Christ, and not about any qualities that we may possess.
 

“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

                                                   Romans 4:8.
 
 
 Our English words ‘count against’ translate the Greek word ‘logizeshtai,’ a word used by accountants.  Before accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour our sins put us completely against God the balance of the ledger of life was totally against us. Now, in grace and mercy through Christ God has wiped out the debit balance that we could never pay, and the work of Christ is credited to us. Our sinful nature is covered by His work and this is a finished transaction, which is what Paul means when he says to the Ephesians…
 
 

  “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Gods’ possession – to the praise of his glory.”

                                                                                                            Ephesians 1:13-14
 
 
The word ‘seal’ (in the above verse) speaks of a finished transaction. For example, if you were selling goods to another person the last thing you would do would be to check that the order is complete. After doing so you would place your seal on it, this speaking of a finished transaction.  We are spoken of as ‘marked’ with a seal because the transaction concerning our salvation has been completed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A man who benefitted from this transaction when He bowed the knee to Jesus is Brian Greenway.
 
Brian Greenway is an ex ‘Hells Angel’ who as a child, was bullied and rejected by his family. As a means of gaining some sort of identity Brian entered a life of crime, violence and drugs. However his life was turned upside down when he opened His life to Jesus whilst in prison on Dartmoor. He has spent the last thirty-two years working with prisoners and has seen God’s Spirit move in amazing ways as men without hope turn to a living Saviour. On one occasion Brian wrote…
 

“Jesus didn’t die on a cross only for good people. He died for the unlovely people, like me. Nobody should think they are too good for that or better than the guys in prison. So often Christians say: “There but for the grace of God go I.” I often wonder if they really understand what they are saying. I know I do. I’m living proof of that.”

                                                                B. Greenway in, ‘The Monster Within’, p 160
 
Our life is now about appropriating all that is already present because of Christ. Now, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit our lives are being transformed into His likeness (Romans 12:2; Eph 4:22-24).
 
The word, ‘transformed’ in Romans 12:2 is a passive verb speaking of what happens to us, but not by us. A simple way of illustrating this would be along the lines of saying “I have had a haircut.” The haircut is something that happens to me but not by me. My part is to sit in the barber’s chair.
 
As believers we are called to draw near to God (James 4:8) by seeking Him through prayer and the reading of His word. In opening my heart and mind to Him (sitting in the chair so to speak) I am then transformed by the Holy Spirit who helps me become all that it means to be God’s son.
 
All the power and blessing that we will ever need is available to the servant-hearted who put the kingdom of God first in their lives (Mat 6:33, Col 1:13-14).
 

“Freedom is found in the act of transcending the self when one no longer regards the self as one’s own end.”   

                                                    D. Moore in, ‘The Human and the Holy’ p 181.
 

Grace and Boasting

 
Since a person is saved by grace, all boasting and pointing to one’s own achievements is wrong and offensive to God.
Boasting says, ‘Look at what I’ve done, look at how learned I am, look at my dedication’ and so on. Yet note what Paul had to say to leaders at Corinth who were carrying on as if their achievements, learning and ability came through self and not grace. Paul writes…
 

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”                                                                 1 Corinthians 4:7 
                                                                                           

The person who is saved looks away from self to their Saviour.
 

“…but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” 

                                                                                                     Jeremiah  9:24
 

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”   

                                                                                              Galations 6:14

 
 
Boast – ‘halal’ – ‘to shine, to shout for the Lord’, to have genuine appreciation from the heart for all that God has done as we reach out to others with random acts of loving-kindness.
 
George Foreman, a former world-champion boxer, once wrote about how an act of kindness impacted his life. He said…
 

“I still remember one of my first encounters with a “rich” person. When I was a boy, a woman asked me to cut her grass. She probably wasn’t wealthy, but she gave me a sandwich, talked with me, and treated me with tremendous kindness. She made me feel really good, like I was important and my life mattered. At that moment, she wasn’t a rich person talking to a poor person. We were just two people talking. She broke down the barriers. Now that I have escaped from poverty, I won’t forget those who are less fortunate. I have a burning desire to reach troubled youth. I used to go out and preach on the streets because I wanted those kids to find God. They would listen to me on the sidewalk but would never show up at church. When that didn’t work like I had hoped, I prayed to find a better way to reach them. That’s when the Lord gave me the idea to start a youth centre. In that way, I could help kids who would never step inside a church. I wouldn’t preach to them but would just be available if they ever needed to talk.”                                                   

                                                                          George Foreman in, ‘God in my Corner’ p 180
 
 

“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

                                                                                                           Titus 3:4-7
 
The word ‘kindness’ carries with it the picture of bending the neck towards another. This ‘bending the neck’ speaks of acts of compassion, grace and love and of giving self purely to uplift another. In short, it speaks of relationship.
 
In her article, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” Tamara Jolee writes of her realisation that God wanted a relationship with her and not simply some so-called form of religious commitment. She writes…

“I finally realised that God wanted more than my religious commitment; he wanted me. He wanted to sit next to me in class, to walk with me through life. God wanted to be my friend. Life was different after I realised that God wanted a relationship. He brought a sense of happiness to my life. I had my ups and downs of course, but it was different with God. I knew that no matter what, I was saved and I was loved.”    

                                                             ‘I Am Second’ Ed D. Bender and D. Sterrett, p177
 

Grace and Works

 
In scripture there are some verses which, at first glance, seem to point out that we are still working out our position in Christ as if it were not fully ours. For example, Paul writes…
 

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”                                                                                        Phillippians 2:13-14

 
In the above verse we need to note that Paul does not say, “Continue to work out the salvation that will be yours” but “continue to work out your salvation.”
In looking at this we need to understand the difference between position and experience.
 
For example, if you were suddenly made a King or Queen then this would be your new position as a monarch; but you would still be you. You would still need to work out all that the new positon provides you with. In a similar way we are called to work out that which has already been done for us so that we can grow in grace and into mature sons and daughters. The fear and trembling that Paul speaks of refers to having a genuine respect and understanding for what has already been given.
 

“Two people may have radically different reactions upon finding an uncut diamond. One person has no concept of its value, because it does not glitter and looks no different than a piece of broken glass. In all likelihood he will throw it away because he sees it as worthless. The other person is an expert on uncut diamonds, and realises that he has found something that is worth many thousands of dollars." 

                                      
                                                                                                         Rabbi Tverski in,’ Spirituality’. p86.
 
 

Good Works Prepared In Advance For Us To Do

 

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

                                                                                                           Ephesians 2:10
 
In the Hebrew mindset the word ‘good’ refers to that which is functional and correct. Therefore ‘good’ refers to that which is in covenant relationship with God, we being created in His image for this relationship. Evil, on the other hand, speaks of that which is dysfunctional because it is outside of covenant and therefore opposed to God. Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11,14) who brings us home to our true position as sons and daughters.  The ‘good works’ prepared in advance speak of this coming home and living as sons and daughters. Everything else flows from this relationship with the One who always seeks our highest good.
 
 

“The love of God is illustrated by the proof that God makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust. This is to say it is a love which is impartial. It is also undefeatable. No matter whom a man is or what he does, the love of God seeks nothing but his highest good.”

                                                                         Dr.W. Barclay in, ‘The Character of God,’ page 47.

 
 
 

Jem Trehern, 17/03/2016