Sadness filled the person, the question a heart-felt one – “Did I offend God?” This person is a life-long Believer and yet a moment came when the temptation to turn the focus from Jesus overwhelmed her during a time of suffering. Christians nod in agreement with teaching about the grace of Jesus Christ. Few are prepared to take up the practices of the Law of Moses and yet a different kind of “law” creeps into the Gospel presentation so often.
So many times after preaching on the goodness and grace of God I am asked – “But what about all those people who claim to be Christians who still do….” and then I hear the familiar recitation of ‘prohibited’ behaviors. I understand the question because my Christian background was one that mixed moralistic law and the grace of Christ, too. There was always a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ that qualified the claim to be a Christian.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a proclamation of the state of grace in which we live because of Christ Jesus. What a letter it is! There we read this – “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Galatians 2:21, NLT) There is no wavering or waffling in this fact we receive through faith. “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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 2:4-9, NIV)
I live with deep confidence of God’s love and acceptance of me – not because I have achieved a level of spiritual maturity nor because I can point to a long list of ‘spiritual’ accomplishments. I stand confidently in a state of grace. It is rather like the law of gravity. Gravity is! You can deny it but you rely on it all the time. We walk upright, drive cars, put furniture in place – knowing that our feet will stick to the ground, our car’s wheels will stay on the road, our sofa will stay where we put it – because of gravity.
Humans are incurably religious which means that many who are found by God’s grace, who are called to love Jesus Christ, receiving the gift of His love subsequently turn to the Galatian error explained by Paul in these words. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:2-3, NLT)
God leads us to leave behind our sin and to be markedly different from those who are not alive in the Spirit. That holiness does not come from learning the rules and then putting ourselves under terrible pressure to conform with the ‘Christian’ lifestyle defined by others for us. Near the end of Galatians we read – “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT) Fruit! Think of the implications of that. It is no accident that the Spirit uses this metaphor for our Christianity.
The apple tree that grows behind my home produces apples. Not once I have observed that tree working at the production of fruit. No other tree needs to scold it for failing to be ‘apple-ish’ enough. It exists and as long as it is alive it will produce fruit. When Christ draws you to Himself, and you respond with faith to receive the gift of the Spirit, you are made alive!
The fruit that is evidence of that life will most certainly come into your life. Note Who is the Primary Actor in the process – “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior 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 Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, NIV)
Grace is amazing, start to finish. As you live confident in Him – in a state of grace – no matter where you are, what is happening to you or around you, healthy or sick, rich or poor; you will be at peace, filled with the ‘abundant life’ of which Jesus spoke. He will never lead us into any place only to abandon us there. We may run ahead of Him and find ourselves without comfort, but if we are listening and following, we have this absolute assurance – “Be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.” That is why we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT) Yes, re-read that and let it shape your thoughts today.
Take some time to read through Galatians, the book of Grace, again. Agree with the Word and receive, by faith, full and wonderful life that pleases God.
The word from the Word for today – “So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.… And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.” (Galatians 3:26-28, 4:6-7, NLT)
I’ve carried a burden for too long on my own
I wasn’t created to bear it alone
I hear Your invitation to let it all go
I see it now I’m laying it down
And I know that I need You
I run to the Father
I fall into grace
I’m done with the hiding
No reason to wait
My heart needs (found) a surgeon
My soul needs (found) a friend
So I’ll run to the Father
Again and again
And again and again
You saw my condition
Had a plan from the start
Your Son for redemption
The price for my heart
I don’t have a context
For that kind of love
I don’t understand
I can’t comprehend
All I know is I need You
My heart has been in Your sights
Long before my first breath
Running into Your arms
Is running to life from death
I feel this rush deep in my chest
Your mercy is calling out
Just as I am You pull me in
And I know I need You now
Cody Carnes | Matt Maher | Ran Jackson
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