Monday, November 17, 2014

Overwhelmed by Grace

Overwhelm: to bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

This past week I was so struck by being overwhelmed by God's grace. It was a message that God just kept before me all week.

It started Sunday when witnessing a couple get baptized. I was reminded that God ministers to us and meets us where we are. He doesn't demand that we obey. He just loves us and continues to put truth before us until our hearts are softened to hear Him beckon.

Then Tuesday I had the privilege to pray with a friend. As I was praying, I again was struck with that feeling that I couldn't even really comprehend or articulate God's grace. Just think about it. All the wrath and judgment of God that I so much deserve, God holds back. But what I don't deserve, His love, His patience, His righteousness, salvation...He gives it freely. That is His grace. But He doesn't just give grace freely, the Bible says He pours out His grace lavishly upon us. He heaps it on us.

And as I was meditating on this, Wednesday I flipped on K-Love and  heard Lauren Daigle's "How can it be?" That song just cuts me to the bone every time I hear it. "You plead my cause. You right my wrongs. You break my chains. You overcome. You gave your life to give me mine. You say that I am FREE, how can it be?" I just have to raise my hands and praise God because the Bible teaches that Christ lives to make intercession for us. I know that He takes all of the accusations that Satan makes against me and He pleads my case to God. Christ breaks the chains of those things that hold me in bondage...some of my own making, others by Satan's design. Christ sets me free. Then ultimately, to be reminded that He gave up His life freely, He surrendered it, that I might have the opportunity to live a life now with purpose, and to know that I will live my life in eternity with God.

Listen to: "How Can It Be?"

Then, on Thursday I read on Facebook that Shia LaBeouf, the actor from the Transformers movies, had accepted Christ. What pricked my heart about that story was the blog titled "Cookie Cutter Christians." The piece indicted Christians that expect new converts to talk a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain our minds if they are "truly" Christians. And again I was reminded of grace. My faith walk as a new believer when I was 18 looks totally different than my walk now 20+ years later. As well it should. But I would be an absolute hypocrite to deny Shia or anybody else the power of grace to transform their lives as I was richly afforded by God many more second, third, and fourth chances that I absolutely did not deserve. But He gave to me because He loves me.

Shia was on my heart again Friday, and so I googled to see if it was true that he had accepted Christ or was it just a hoax going around on Facebook. And yes, after reading several stories about his conversion, it was true. The pushback that was coming his way was from Christians who felt his use of expletives to describe his conversion was inappropriate. We of all people should be conduits of grace, knowing that we ourselves have received it from God without cost. And I was reminded of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18. A man who had begged for forgiveness for his own debt, once pardoned, went and demanded repayment of a debt. He did not reciprocate the grace that was given to him.

I don't believe Satan has to do a whole lot to drag new Christians back to their old lifestyles. We as Christians push them away with our critical, judgmental spirits. By no means do I mean to imply that we don't call sin what it is, and challenge people to grow. But it would be absurd if I were to bring home a newborn baby from the hospital, and expect that infant to walk and talk, dress itself, feed itself. Why? Because babies have to grow, mature, develop, be taught, etc. New believers are the same.

And then Friday as I was wrapping up my Beth Moore study on the Book of Acts, I noticed a theme...grace. In the margin...she has a place to write down how you will apply the lesson for the week, and my answer was about grace. I took a few minutes and started flipping back through the book at answers I had written weeks before....and in the margins I had written, "be more gracious," "take time to show more grace," "pray for opportunities to be an agent of grace." I had not seen God speaking this message of grace over my life these last months and it made me smile.

Finally, God brought the week of grace to a full circle. My college-age son showed up for church on Sunday. As I was driving him back to campus, we began I discussion. I recounted how in my early walk with Christ I had sinned so much that I was ready to walk away. I did not want to ask for forgiveness not one more time. And it wasn't because I did not love God. It was because I loved Him so much. I just felt like He deserved better than me. I was the embodiment of Romans 7:19, " I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do." And on that day, God reached out to me and reminded me of His grace that is sufficient.

The imprint of His grace is on my life, everywhere. He has richly poured it out on me. I am compelled by the presence of His Spirit to extend it to others.

Today, may you know His grace, and may you show His grace!