Monday, January 25, 2021

Grace, Grace

Years ago I read a story about a world renown zoo that purchased a great brown bear to become one of its exhibits. The zoo had purchased the bear from a circus where the bear had been confined to a small metal cage. Hour after hour and day after day the bear would pace back and forth from one end of the cage to the other. The zoo had a bear compound consisting of acres of lush, green grass, trees and a pool of fresh drinking water. The bear would be fed three times a day and would have nothing to do but to enjoy its new home. The day came when the bear arrived at the zoo and the zoo-keepers took him to his new habitat. When they opened the cage to release the bear to their surprise the bear continued to walk back and forth within the confines of the small cage. The zoo-keeper tried various things to coax the bear from the cage but it would not leave. Finally, the only solution that was left was to put some kerosene soaked rages on a pole light them and stick the fiery pole through the bars of the cage. This intimidated the bear to jump out of the cage and into his new home. The bear looked around but to the zoo-keepers amazement, the bear began to pace back and forth as though he was still in the small metal cage. Suddenly it dawned on the attendants that although the bear was released from its "metal prison" it still remained in a "mental prison."

Like the bear in this story, many Christians find themselves in a very similar dilemma. They have become accustomed to accepting thoughts of failure and defeat in various areas of their life. They are convinced that that things will never change. This type of thinking has crippled many born again, spirit-filled children of God who truly love the Lord. When they face some of the difficulties of life, they find themselves settling for far less than what God has for them. There are generally two reasons why believers entertain this type of thinking. First, they accepted the opinions of man (father, mother, siblings or others) who have spoken harsh condescending words over them for most of their life and or secondly, they have listened to sermons that provide believers with a steady diet of "you are nothing more than a sinner saved by grace who is weak and is incapable of ever pleasing God." They have been inundated with so many rules and regulations that they are held captive to this mental prison. However, the truth of the matter is, there is a powerful attribute of God that He has made available to all of His children that has freed them from this mental prison, it's called grace.

Philippians reveals grace this way, "For it is God Himself whose power creates within you the desire to do His gracious will and also brings about the accomplishment of the desire." (Philippians 2:13 Wey) I like to define it this way. Simply put, grace is the free unearned, unmerited favor of God that gives the believer the ability and desire to do God's will. God's grace is free, it is a gift, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) As we grow to understand how this free gift from God works in and through our lives, we will find ourselves living in the freedom that the Father has provided through Jesus Christ.

Grace can be seen from two sides. First, it is the free unearned, unmerited favor of God for the believer. The truth is, we deserve nothing good, however, God working through Christ  has provided His amazing grace for all believers. His grace provides, forgiveness, healing, provision, peace, hope, eternal life; the list goes on and on. The other side of grace is, grace gives the believer the ability and desire to do God's will. So not only is God's grace upon the believer for his/her benefit, but it also works through the believer accomplishing God's will for the benefit of others. We need to keep this balance in mind so that we do not take the grace of God to an extra-biblical level. Many preachers in their efforts to present the message of grace to free the enormous number of believers held in bondage to rules, regulations, defeat and failure find themselves teaching grace from an unbiblical extreme. Unfortunately, we have done this very thing in the church in the past with such things as the discipleship movement and the faith teaching (to name a few). Just because something sounds good or sounds right doesn't mean that it is. This is why it is so important for believers to search the scriptures themselves to see if these things are so.

God's grace is available to all of His children. We receive grace through faith, "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace..." (Romans 4:16) not through anything that we can do, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6) We simply reach out and receive it by faith and thank God for His free gift of grace. So if you need God's favor in your life, if you need God's ability in your life and if you need a desire to do God's will, just receive His grace. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)     

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