|Study 1: God || Study 2: The Spirit Of God || Study 3: The Promises Of God || Study 4: God And Death || Study 5: The Kingdom Of God || Study 6: God And Evil || Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus || Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus || Study 9: The Work Of Jesus || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus || Study 11: Life In Christ||1.1 The Existence Of God || 1.2 The Personality Of God || Doctrine In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3 God's Name And Character || Doctrine In Practice 2: Grace || Doctrine In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Doctrine In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Doctrine In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4 The Angels || Doctrine In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2: Why The Trinity Was Accepted|
Belief In Practice 2: The Grace Of God
"However , I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace" (Acts 20:24).
These are the sentiments about the gospel from the apostle Paul as he
shares the things that are very deepest and dearest to his heart. The
thing that he was so passionate about was the grace of God. He was so
eager to tell people about it, and share it with everyone he came across,
hoping that they too would respond to Gods kindness, Gods undeserved kindness
to them, and share in a life of peace with their Creator, having been
forgiven of their wrong, sinful, rebellious ways. For trying to pass on
this amazing message he was beaten and outcast, by those who even used
to be his friends; ultimately he was killed for trying to share his gospel
If I were God and people treated me like we treat our heavenly Father, I would leave them dead and be glad they were gone. Fortunately I’m not God, but I am trying to be more like him and his son Jesus and follow the command to “love your enemies”.
Unlike me, being gracious is a part of God's character. Back in Exodus
when the name of our heavenly father was proclaimed to Moses in chapter
34 verse 6, it went like this: "The Lord, The Lord ,the compassionate
and GRACIOUS God, slow to anger abounding in love….etc. In 2 Chron 30:9
we are told: “The Lord your God is graciousness and compassionate. He
will not turn his face from you if you return to Him", and again
in Neh 9:17 : "But you are a forgiving God, GRACIOIUS and compassionate
, slow to anger and abounding in Love. Therefore you did not desert them.”
God knew that we still were not convinced of how gracious and loving he is, he knew that from the moment we were created, but he was determined that he would not stop until the full measure of his grace was poured out to us. This grace of God was revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 1:17 we are to told, “ the law ( Justice) was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.
And what a challenging revelation this grace that the Lord put into practice proved to be, and still proves to be up to this very day. In Luke 1:40 we are told of Jesus: “ the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the GRACE of God was upon him”. In Luke 4:22 again: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the GRACIOUS words that came from his lips”.
Jesus came proclaiming a God that the people hadn’t even imagined, having a heart of compassion and grace for those who were not acceptable by the religious or secular standards of the day, mixing it with even the ones who were thought to be under the curse of God, and even touching the supremely unclean, the lepers, and allowing himself to be touched by the wicked in Luke 7:37-50.
In his stories Jesus shared his insights of the forgiving, loving, compassionate, gracious and joyful God that our Heavenly father is. One of the most challenging and memorable would surely have to be the parable of the merciful father in Luke 15. You can read the full story in Lk 15:11 - 31, think about it and see where you fit into the picture.
It is a story about the truly gracious, loving heart of our heavenly Father. Jesus tells the story of a son who wants to go his own way, leave the family home, and the family, take his share of the inheritance and go and do his own thing. The son ends up squandering all the inheritance in wild living, in the end not even being able to afford enough food to feed himself. Who wouldn’t say 'Serves him right!'. I have certainly felt like that, and I can feel justified in harbouring this attitude. We can even find lots of Bible verses to support our attitude, eg. Prov 5:23; Prov 10:4; and also the popular verse that says, “A person will reap what they sow”.
Not so with the Father, we don’t find dad sitting down inside the house, sulking in his self righteousness, thinking up ideas of confession for the son to go through, making plans to ensure that this will never happen again, being ready to mete out justice, pouring over the thought of how much money the son has wasted and how it will have to be repaid for him to find favour with the family again. We find a dad who is not being reasonable at all. At the father's response I can imagine that many would be horrified: “What are you doing, don’t you know what this wicked boy has done, he deserves to be punished , to pay for his wrongdoing!”. Instead dad is up there pouring out grace and love on this undeserving wayward lad. I love dad's response, in Lk 15:20 “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him (He had to be looking for him, surely) and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.. The father said to the servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, lets have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found”. So they began to celebrate”. I can imagine that the listeners were shocked and dumbfounded, Jesus was telling the listeners, and us, the readers, what God is like, a God of such love compassion and grace. You had better believe it, because we are all, to some extent, greater or lesser, just like the wild living son who has rejected the father.
The reason I love the dad's response is because I too need our Heavenly
Father and Jesus to respond to me, just like the father in Jesus' story
responded to his son. In fact we all need the grace of God to reach out
and touch us. We all have been like sheep that have strayed out of the
way, our sins have separated us from our God. All have sinned and fallen
short of the glory of God, we all have the heart that is described in
Jeremiah as being deceitful and beyond cure, and it would seem that most
of us have done things that we would not like everyone to know about.
But God is there, he knows our lives inside out, there is nothing that
is hidden from him, he actually knows us better than we know ourselves,
which is a very humbling awareness to have.
That is typical of God's grace and love, he has taken the initiative
in reaching out to us in a very clear and unmistakable way. By raising
up for us his own special Holy one, his dear sinless son, Jesus, to be
our saviour from sin and death. As has been quoted previously from Acts
24, that it was the apostle Paul’s life’s labour, it was the thing that
drove him, that he might complete his task of testifying to the gospel
of God's grace. He had experienced the wonder of God's undeserved kindness,
his grace, being richly poured out on him- and wanted to let everybody
else know how great it was. In 1 Tim 1:13, 14 he tells us of the wonder
of his conversion: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor
and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and
unbelief. The grace of our Lord Jesus was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus”. Under God's
justice Paul was worthy of death, under God's grace, that is found only
in Jesus, Paul was given a new start, and he knew this new start, this
freedom, this peace with God, is on offer to all, as is stated in Titus
3:7: "So that having been justified by his grace, we might become
heirs having the hope of eternal life”. In Romans 3:23 we are told: “for
all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God... [we] are
justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ
Jesus “. In 1Tim. 2:4 it says that God "wants all men saved and to
come to a knowledge of the truth”. The extent of God's desire to have
us become part of his family and share in his grace and the blessings
that flow from it is described in Rom 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own
love for us in this: While we were still sinners , Christ died for us”.
God had his son treated like the sinner deserves,
"Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see". Such
is the truth for all who come to understand the gospel, the good news
of Gods grace in all its' marvellous truth . For now we can but wait,
but not be idle. We are encouraged by Peter in his first letter, “to prepare
our minds for action; be self controlled; set our hope fully on the grace
to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven”.