The Gospel is Grace

The Gospel of IS Grace

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”     John 1:16 – 18

The Gospel is sometimes referred to as the gospel of grace. There is a tremendous amount of truth in that label, but it can also lead to a diminishing of the fullness of the gospel. Our elementary school grammar lessons taught us that a preposition connects a modifying word, an adjective or adverb, to a noun. The purpose of this construct is to give the reader or listener a more detailed definition of that down. This is why it is so important to be cautious in selecting those words that we attach to gospel. The Good News needs no modification. That God, in his great mercy, intervened in history to reconcile humankind to himself is the greatest news that one could ever receive. That this invitation to reconciliation is addressed to everyone takes your breath away.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…”     John 3:36

The Gospel is power; power to save, power to regenerate, power to make holy that which is unholy. (Rom 1:16-17). The Gospel is not just words or an idea or a theological concept, the Gospel is divine power. It is the incarnation of God’s grace, it is alive and growing. The apostle Paul writes to the church at Colosse, “all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Colossians 1:6)

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”     Matthew 6:45

The grace of God is made manifest in his benevolent care for his creation, despite the fact that it has rebelled against Him. The result of this common grace should be the universal recognition that God is present and active in the world. It should result in gratitude as God demonstrates his goodness to all but the rebellious mind is devoted to denying these truths by any means possible.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”     Hebrews 4:16

Our greatest need has been addressed in the Gospel. Salvation comes by grace; salvation comes by the power of the gospel. The Gospel is God’s merciful grace embodied.  The Gospel IS grace.

 

 

 

Psalm 106 – How Quickly

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But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.

In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. (Ps 106:13-14)

To read the Old Testament is to thumb through a catalog of mankind’s many failures. As much a diary as it is a mirror, the pages are rife with grotesque and subtle reminders of our own tendencies. In the two psalms that conclude Book IV of the psalter, the psalmists rehearse Israel’s repeated incidents of glorifying and celebrating God for his mighty deeds, followed by a meteoric descent into the waters of the Lethe.

Psalms 105 and 106 must be read together to gain the full impact of the psalmist’s purpose. Where 105 catalogs God’s unending faithfulness to the people who are called by His name, 106 reminds hearers of the incessant unfaithfulness. The juxtaposition of the two is jarring, and we cannot help but marvel at His Love and Israel’s failure.

And the myriad failures in our own lives.

Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. (v43)

The Christian has little excuse for continued purposeful rebellion. The Spirit serves in His role as paraclete in countless ways, one being the early warning when our tendency toward corruption threatens to affect our behavior. We can avoid repeating the history of our family line by becoming more aware and responsive to His whispers, warning us off of unglorifying speech, thoughts and behaviors.

Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. (v47)

Save us, Lord our God, from ourselves and our bent toward failing you. Let us give thanks and praise for your redemption and your power to live out the new creation you’ve begun in us.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 99–Seven

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O Lord our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. (Ps 99:8)

As the joy and awe of Easter remains fresh in our hearts, we do well to reflect on the reality of God’s demand for holiness. Psalm 99 is linked to 97 as an expression of the benefits of the Lord’s reign over His people. These benefits are not the product of a one-sided covenant however. As mercy is extended to us, we are commanded to pull our boots from the mire that has held us captive and ascend to higher ground. Our core calling is to make holiness the objective of our efforts.

The psalmist also expresses the parallel expressions of God’s reign, mercy and correction. Grace is not license, as some mistakenly interpret it. He corrects those he loves in order to reorient their path. To be abandoned to sin is to be without hope.

Grace and peace to you.

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God So Loved The World VI

Lent 2011

imageFor God so loved the world… John 3:16

so adv 1. In the way or manner indicated. 2. to the extent or degree indicated or suggested. 3. very or extremely. 4. very greatly. 5. most certainly…

You may come to this passage indirectly, perhaps as your first memory verse or your initial introduction to the great truth of the Bible. As you read and absorb it, you cannot help feel the Spirit move as you encounter this simple but profound reminder of the sacrificial love of God for you.

When you read God’s story from the beginning, on the other hand, and arrive at the fourth gospel and this verse, your eyes read the words in a much different light. Where it was just you and the secrets of your heart before, now you have the entirety of history casting its lengthy shadow over God’s love. The rise and fall and rise and fall tempo of man’s relationship with his creator causes you to wonder why He loves us, and marvels that He does.

Love us, that is. He most certainly does.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 67 Make Your Face to Shine Upon Us

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God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him. (v7)

A week has passed this year since the glorious rising of the sun (Son) on Easter morning yet the world does not fear God. The greatest blessing imaginable has been given in the resurrection of the Living Christ, the invitation of salvation and yet the earth does not fear God. Those around us do not fear God because they do not see the living Christ in us.

The psalmist concludes Psalm 67 with this affirmation but it is the early lines of the liturgical form that can have a greater affect on our lives. As we pray these words and absorb them into our souls they have the power to transform. To know God’s face shines upon us is one thing, to exhibit that reality to others is the affirmation that transforms the world. It shows in our trust and obedience, our love and extension of grace. Jesus lives. He lives in me.

May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make His face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known on earth,

your salvation among all nations. (vv 1-2)

 

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Lent Spent with the Psalms Day Fifteen

imageI remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:5-6)

It’s easy to become complacent in facing Easter. We look down the corridor of time back toward the Resurrection and want to know the power of seeing Jesus risen from the tomb. As the stores fill with Peeps and colored grasses for the baskets, we find it easy to satisfy our souls with trinkets and temporary fulfillments. Our often parched and dry souls are smothered by the cultural messages that bombard us with offers to fill us up with this or that. We drink the soda only to find ourselves thirsty again and hour later.

Many in the Church view Lent as ‘that time when we give stuff up’ at best and at worst, with a suspicious eye on the implied ascetic aesthetic. Sacrifice in emulation of our Saviors sacrifice is neither. Our purpose in observing the season of Lent is to put off the things that are controlling our souls and burying the dry, cracked surface of our hearts. Only when we reveal that surface can the grace penetrate deep within us.

Grace and peace to you.

 

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Psalm 65 – Praise Awaits You, O God

imagePraise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.

O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. (vv 1-2)

When we reach the 65th psalm, the psalter takes a sudden turn to effusive praise and leaves behind the psalms of lament temporarily. God has been praised by the psalmist over and over without hesitation thus far, despite the threatening clouds that seemed to shadow each entry in the book. Here there is no lament; it is either cured or forgotten in favor of pure praise for the goodness of God toward those who love him.

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.

Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! (vv 3-4)

Though we should worship God simply because He is who He is, we most often associate our relationship to Him via his remarkable grace toward us sinners. We who were separated from Him by the chasm of our unholiness are given the opportunity to rejoin the community of belief through His grace. Washing us clean, God provides the way for us to move closer and kneel in the courts of praise.

Our response to the grace we are extended is praise for His righteous acts:

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,

who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. (vv 5-8)

Our Father is not content to merely forgive us for our transgressions, he installs us in paradise in a lesser, but still overwhelming, expression of His love for us:

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. (v 9)

Look around you, find a reason and praise Him today.

 

 

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