23 November 2005

What Grace Produces

Sending Wishes
Originally uploaded by !efatima.
As I close the latest issue of the "Voice of the Martyrs" newsletter, I am left with a hollow feeling that something is missing.

These Christians in North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, China, India and other hostile areas are suffering such great injustice and persecution...cheerfully. How can I be their brother? My biggest problem is a successful Christmas program. Our worlds are so divergent and my discipline so faltering that I feel guilty even associating with these humble, glorious saints. I feel as if theirs is a different religion.

How do I get there? (Even saying this makes me uneasy, because I really do love my comfort and security) Certainly it must have something to do with trying harder...

My starting point is to focus on my deficiencies and how to improvement. Think of ways to make me more committed, to make me more disciplined, to make me more... Eventually that train of thought sickens me - it's all so narcissistic. I'm the central figure, even if for self-abasement. "Me" and "I" dominate the internal conversation and my thinking becomes futile.

Let their be no doubt; I am not what I should be. I need work but I miss Christianity if the work I need becomes the basis of my religion. Christianity starts somewhere else - it starts at the Cross.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,* and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-13

Peter starts this letter with a reminder of Christ, His Mercy and our hope in Him. Verses 3-9 are a beautiful description of Christ's redemption, His coming glory (as a result of our trials), our joy and the outcome of our faith - in that order. The salvation of our souls, the outcome of our faith, is mentioned last. Peter doesn't start with our deficiencies, he begins with the only thing that will change our deficiencies - the glorious grace of God in Jesus Christ. Verse 13 states "Christianity" succinctly: prepare your minds for action by setting "your hope fully on the grace that will be brought..." We begin our Christian life by recognizing our need and His grace and we sustain our Christian life in the same manner.

Back to the question at hand - How do I live like those persecuted saints and value Christ above everything?

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

To Paul, change began with the grace of God. God's grace has appeared;
-bringing salvation
-training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions
-training us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, while we wait for our blessed hope - the appearing of Jesus Christ.

I keep tripping on this. God's undeserved favor toward me will change me. It doesn't make sense. Give anyone an inch and they will take a mile. People take advantage of grace. They don't value what they don't earn. Undeserved favor will create spiritual softness and maybe even entitlement.

But I really don't understand grace.

I don't understand the price laid down for me. I refuse to meditate on a God who would become human and die in my place. As His creation, I owed Him everything before the Cross. He deserved only praise and received flogging, nails and mockery. He was infinitely undeserving of death and I was infinitely deserving.

I don't understand my own wretchedness. Most days I suppose Christ's death for me was a nice gesture. How else do I explain my token gratitude? Somewhere in the back of my mind, my righteousness remains intact. My sentiment might be, "Oh thanks God, that was sweet." Humanity is rotting in the dark hole of ingratitude and in my flesh I rot with it.

When I see the weight of my sin next to Christ's beauty and His glorious grace I am left with gratitude and nothing else. This I can share with my persecuted brothers and sisters. Neither of us deserves God but He has come melting our hearts with His grace. Grace transforms all that is ugly.
Grace produces beauty.
Grace produces courage.
Grace produces hope.
Grace produces joy.

These blessed saints have fervent faith and stand in the face of persecution because ALL the elements of the Gospel are real to them. Christ is their hope, Christ is their joy, Christ is in all and through all - He has become greater, they have become less. They are not more disciplined they are free.

1 comment:

  1. This site is a great inspiration!

    God bless!