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Crossing over the Crevasse

Several years ago, Peggy and I joined a boatload of others on a cruise through Alaska’s “inside passage.” Reaching Juneau, one of our port-of-call excursions was a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall glacier, where we disembarked and walked around a bit on this slowly flowing, massive river of ice. We approached a crevasse, its translucent windows of brilliant blue drawing us forward to behold its beauty. The closer we stepped, the deeper our gaze, but the deeper our gaze, the darker the chasm. Suffice it to say we staked out our own position of comfort, peering into the depths from a position of reasonable safety.

In last week’s post, we saw God’s grace manifest itself in making us righteous in His sight—guiltless and acceptable before Him. By divine initiative, “Christ . . .  suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring [us] to God,”1 and “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.”2 So, from the safety of righteousness, let us peer into another expression of God’s grace—our salvation—for being “made right” with God suggests a time when we were not right with Him at all. Truth is, we were “separated from the life of God”3 and “dead in our transgressions and sins.”4 We had no hope before Him, rather only condemnation5 for our sins and our sinful nature. Yet it was precisely into our hopelessness that He graciously intervened. Paul expounds repeatedly: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”6 God “saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”7 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”8

Jesus once told his listeners, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”9 By grace, we are saved from the penalty of our sin, and by grace we live rightly in the presence of God. No matter how deep or how dark, the chasm of sin threatens us no longer, for we have crossed over and we are saved. Thanks be to God.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. —Romans 10:9

Father, great is the love in which You lavish Your grace upon us. Grace us to live thankfully, confidently and freely as vessels of your grace, however you lead us today. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 1 Peter 3:18
2 Romans 3:22 NLT
3 Ephesians 4:17-19
4 Ephesians 2:1
5 Romans 5:18
6 Romans 5:8
7 Titus 3:5 NLT
8 Ephesians 2:8
9 John 5:24

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What, Me Righteous?

Is it fair to say that “righteous” is not the way we would describe ourselves?
“How are you today, Paul?”
“Pretty darned righteous, thanks. And you?”
No, “righteous” is not how we feel about ourselves and certainly not the way we describe ourselves to others. For we know our hearts, and what we show of ourselves outwardly can belie what we know of ourselves inwardly. In my book, Christ in Me, we defined New Testament righteousness in relatable terms: “Inside, we want to be as we ought to be; we want to be acceptable before God; we want to be guiltless before Him who knows everything about us. Which is to say we want to be righteous, but we are not, not on our own, anyway.”1 And you know what? That’s a great place for us to start.

Earning God’s approval through our own moralistic achievements is a common temptation to which we easily succumb. As a legalistic Pharisee, Paul strained to gain God’s acceptance through religious rigor, yet ultimately found himself “not having a righteousness of my own.”2 Likewise, he observed that the nation of Israel itself “did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own.”3 We can relate, can’t we? For we know the shortcomings of our soul and the wrongdoings that arise from them, and we are inclined to compensate through our own attempts at goodness. But true righteousness, like salvation, is not seized through our merit; it is received as God’s grace. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are,”4 wrote Paul, continuing, “God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus . . .5 And how He did so is an amazing display of wisdom and power.

Of the Messiah, Jeremiah foretold, “And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord Our Righteousness’”6 The Messiah, said the prophet, would be righteousness for us, and indeed He is, for Paul wrote, “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”7 Jesus didn’t merely deem us to be right in His sight from afar, He made us one with Himself; His righteousness is ours. Live and thrive in the truth of this grace—you are blameless and welcome in the presence of God. Jesus makes it so.

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. —1 Peter 3:18.

Father, how amazing it is that, in Christ, we are made pure and acceptable in Your sight. Remind us of this grace and lead us in it, that we would bring this truth to a world that longs for You. In the name of Christ, our righteousness, we pray. Amen.

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Grace: Why Would We Be without It?

My father-in-law was a quiet, contemplative man—one who measured his words carefully and uttered them purposefully. Being fairly reserved myself, I enjoyed his presence, whether conversing easily together or sitting comfortably in silence. One day as we relaxed in his family room, my father-in-law broke the quietude, giving voice to the private ponderings of his heart: “Where would we be without the forgiveness of sins?” In one simple sentence, he profoundly articulated both the gravity of our sin and his gratitude for God’s grace.

We primarily think of grace in the context of salvation—our rescue from sin and its ultimate consequences of death and separation from God—as well we should, for the familiar Bible verse declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”1 Yet the umbrella of grace extends much farther than salvation; Peter exhorts us to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”2 Indeed, grace shines through the gift of righteousness, our right standing before a holy God based on Jesus’ sacrificial death and life-giving resurrection. It is through grace that the Holy Spirit resides in us, and in grace are we transformed into the image of Christ. And perhaps surprisingly to some, the grace we receive through faith finds its expression through the works we pour out in obedience, for as a people made new by grace, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”3

Over the next several weeks, we will examine grace in at least some of its forms—what it is and what it is not, and the various ways in which it expresses itself. But let’s always start here: God’s gift of grace arises from His nature of grace. He is “full of grace and truth”4 and “from his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace.”5 It is from His character of loving-kindness that God pours out His favor on us, not as our due, but as His gift. Why would we be without it? Receive it, rest in it, and extend it today.

Father, You are good, Your heart is kind, and You lavishly pour out Your favor on us. Each new day as it dawns, may we receive Your favor and trust Your character. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Ephesians 2:8-9
2 1 Peter 4:10
3 Ephesians 2:10
4 John 1:14 ESV
5 John 1:16 ESV