Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Grace," a beautiful song by Michael W. Smith

Below is link to a Youtube video of the song "Grace," by Michael W. Smith

God's grace and the rich young man

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ”At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Mark 10: 17-22 (NIV)

The familiar scripture passage above has a great message about grace entwined with the message about wealth and works.  The passage begins with a young man running to Jesus and falling on his knees.  This young man knows that Jesus is from God because he calls Jesus good, and Jesus recognizes this as a reference to God.  

 The specific question that the young man poses to Jesus is "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  The young man recognizes his need beyond this earthly realm; however, the young man's question is asking what earthly thing he can do to inherit eternal life. 

Jesus recognizes the fault in this man’s question; yet, Jesus looks at the young man and loves him.  Jesus loves the young man in his earthly condition and in his attempts to do what is right.   

This young man was trying to find eternal life by traveling an earthly path. We do not find out that this young man is wealthy until the very end of the story.   When Jesus tells the young man that he lacks one thing, Jesus is saying that the man lacks an eternal focus.  The one earthly thing that the young man can do is to relinquish his earthly focus, and store up treasure in heaven. 
God looks upon us as we attempts to draw near to him, and He loves us.  God is very aware of our earthly boundaries, and His grace extends to us in our earthly conditions. Grace always beckons us to keep our focus upon the LORD and store up treasures in heaven.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saints or sinners?

“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, ...” Romans 3:21-24 (NRSV)

Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Discipline of Grace, brings up a thought to ponder. Are we saints or sinners? According to the scripture above, we are both--saints and sinners. We become saints by keeping our eyes on the righteousness of God, and continually keeping our eyes on God's righteousness is always a work in progress because we are sinners.

God uses our sinfulness to glorify Himself. This continual washing and renewal of our souls is possible only when we keep our eyes on God's righteousness, which glorifies Him. If we do not recognize our own sinfulness, then we fail to look to God for our righteousness. If it is only our sin that we look at and fret over, then our focus is on ourselves; we fail to seek God for our righteousness, and He is not glorified.

Driving a car provides an analogy to this dual responsibility that we have of recognizing our sinfulness and sainthood. Where should we look when we drive a car? Should we look at the speedometer to make sure that we are driving within the speed limit law, or should we look at the road to make sure that we navigate our car safely? The answer, of course, is both. Apart from cruise control, it is difficult for us keep at a steady, safe speed without monitoring the speedometer. In addition, we would not even be able to hold a driver's license if we claimed that we faithfully look at the road once each time we drive. We must recognize the need to perform both of these duties continually in order to drive a car safely. It is the same with our Christian walk. We must continually recognize our sinful state and God's grace through His glorious righteousness in order to live as saints.          

Sunday, October 19, 2014

God's grace through Joseph

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”  Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)

God chose Joseph, Jesus earthly father, to be the father of the Messiah, just as He chose Mary.  The book of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man, which means he followed the Torah. He was law abiding and tried to do the right thing because he loved God. 
Joseph desired to do the right thing, which was not to marry a woman who was pregnant with a child that did not belong to him.  Joseph did not want to disgrace Mary by accusing her of adultery, so he planned to keep quiet about what appeared to him to be a wrong against himself.  Joseph wanted to obey the law, but his righteousness was not self-righteous.  He put Mary's welfare before his own hurt.  What Joseph was planning to do was a very kind way to treat a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock. 

Then, Joseph had a dream, and an angel spoke to him in the dream. God's intervention into Joseph's life turned the kind and righteous act of putting Mary away quietly into a magnanimous outpouring of love.  God instructed Joseph to set aside his ideas of kindness and righteousness, and take Mary as his wife and raise Jesus as his own son. God’s dealing with Joseph provided Mary and Jesus a loving, home with a righteous husband and father.

The scripture does not mention if Joseph ever said anything about his dream to anyone, although it is likely that Mary knew his story. This indicates that Joseph let everyone believe that the baby was his.  He allowed his friends and neighbors to think that he and Mary could not wait until they were properly married before they came together, and he allowed his righteous reputation to be sullied a bit.  This righteous man, Joseph, was willing to set aside his own righteousness in order to allow God's grace to pour through himself and into Mary and Jesus.