Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hoarding grace

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2 (NRSV)

The topic of survival is popular.  There are television shows that depict men and women surviving in remote areas with little resources.  The news will sometimes broadcast stories about families or groups who are hoarding food and ammunition in case of a catastrophe.
In Genesis 6:11-22, we can read about the first survivalist, Noah, who obeyed God, built an arc, and stored up food and animals in order to survive a catastrophic flood.  In verse 22, we read that Noah did this because this is what God commanded him to do.  In verse 13, God tells Noah that He has "determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them;” God provided Noah with wisdom and skill in order to save himself and his family.
Recently, I have heard several stories about families who, in case of a catastrophic event, were learning how to survive with few resources.  These modern day Noahs have one big difference from the ancient Noah—their priority is to try to save themselves and their families instead of obeying God.

Paul says that our hope is not in our food stores or underground shelters.  Our hope does not have an earthly focus; our hope has an eternal focus. We hope of sharing the glory of God.  It is because of Jesus' suffering here on earth that we will not have to suffer in eternity.  We should think carefully about what we hoard for ourselves. We have a hoard of grace, given freely to us by Christ that will last for all eternity!     

Monday, December 29, 2014

Giving glory to God

“For this reason, it depends on faith so that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham…”  Romans 4:16 (NRSV)

“No distrust made him waiver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:20 (NRSV)

Faith and grace are the main components of our relationship with Christ. God’s promise to us, that He will be with us always (here on earth and in heaven), rests on His grace.  This grace assures us that God loves us and will never leave us, no matter what happens here on earth.

The scripture verses above are snatches of Paul’s longer message explaining how it was Abraham’s faith, not his works or his adherence to the law that God reckoned as righteousness.  Abraham’s bit of faith, and God’s immense grace are brought together in verse 20.  Abraham knew how to increase his own faith—by giving glory to God.  By giving glory to God, Abraham became convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. 
Christians today can do this too!  We can give glory to God in all things, and by doing this, our faith will be increased, and we can know that God will do what He promised to do.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Works and grace

"Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.  But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
 'Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.'"  Romans 4: 4-8 (NRSV).

God's grace apart from works is a major theme in Paul's letter to the Romans, and it is a hard theme for modern Christians to grasp.  Christians who live in the United States often have a hard time understanding a person's worth apart from their works or their earnings.  For example, part of the reason that we admire public figures such as sports stars and actors is because they earn a high income.  Their works gain them recognition and money, and this seems to make them worthwhile. 
I have an acquaintance who has had a long career in a profession that assists people in recovering from illness. I consider that a very worthwhile profession.  She contracted a rare disease, and is now unable to function normally or work outside the home. She must depend heavily upon her husband just to help her make it through the day. It is so hard for us, as adults, to depend completely upon someone else for our livelihood. 
A first look at this situation leaves us wondering why God would allow this to happen to a person who possesses skills and a loving attitude that our society so desperately needs.  We often feel so worthless apart from our works. Yet, in truth, her life has become a picture of exactly what God wants us to do.  He wants us to quit trying to earn our salvation and depend totally and completely upon His grace.