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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

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Vibrant Faith, Hope, and Love

My friend James is hospitalized with COVID, his medical history perhaps heightening his susceptibility to the virus. His pain level upon coughing has been a 7 to 9 on a scale of 10; fortunately, this is improving a bit. But to all the medical professionals who tend to him (including caregivers from Thailand, Philippines, Morocco, Nigeria, and, of course, the US), James’ top priority is to honor them for who they are and to affirm them for what they do. “I tell them that, in [my hospital room], you are a person first.” For James has come to realize that, while the staff is there to help him, he also must “be ready when called upon to offer encouragement to [them, even if] through . . . suffering.”

Where does such a heart—this others-first focus—come from? I believe it is the outward overflow of an inner freedom that pours forth in joy when we accept and rest in the fact that God knows us individually, loves us personally, and cleanses us from all our sin. This is “truth that sets [us] free.”1 The apostle James stated it most simply: “We love because [God] first loved us.”2 Such love is not an obligatory burden to bear impossibly in our flesh, but a joyful emancipation to live out fruitfully in the Spirit. It is that for which Paul commended the Thessalonian church: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.3 Faith, hope and love—spiritual growth and meaningful impact are rooted in these.

Yet if we affirm this triumvirate merely in the abstract, as if nodding academically to tenets of a creed, we miss the point. For vibrant faith, hope, and love are more than conceptual; they are relational. Exhorted the writer of Hebrews, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience . . . Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”4 By God’s grace, no matter where we are, even if in a hospital bed, we can “be ready when called upon” to reach others in faith, hope, and love.

Father, draw me close to You today, that You would speak and I would hear. Lead me to where You want me to share the faith, hope, and love that are found in You. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 8:32
2 1 John 4:19
3 1 Thessalonians 1:3
4 Hebrews 10:22-24

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What Did You Get for Christmas?

What did you get for Christmas?” It was the very first question we as children asked our friends upon returning to school in January. We couldn’t wait to tell others what we received, and we listened intently as they recalled their Yuletide treasure. Now that we are adults, our question is a bit more grown up—“What did you do for Christmas?” we ask. Some gather here and some travel there. Some meet with friends, while others relax alone. Some are ready to get back to work; others perhaps not so much. But Christmas still stirs its curiosities: What did you get? and What did you do?

We celebrate Christmas as a promised fulfilled: Jesus, our Immanuel—our “God with us”1—has come, just as God through Isaiah foretold.2 Paul tells us Jesus “is the image of the invisible God”3; He is not a man who became God, but God taking on human flesh for a time and for a purpose. Then we might ask, what did Jesus do here? And Paul would answer that, through the obedience of Christ, God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of sins.”4 “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”5 What did Jesus do here? He took away our sin at great cost to Himself.

Then what did Jesus get here? In a word, us. He redeemed—purchased back for Himself—that which had been lost, that which was “created through him and for him.”6 We were created for Him and now He has redeemed us to be His very own. Just think how important we must be to Him. Imagine how He must love us. You. Me. Us. What, then, is left for us to do but to thank Him, praise Him, and worship Him through our redeemed lives. For He made us for Himself, He redeemed us for Himself, and now we are His.

“For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”—Romans 11:36

Father, thank You for redeeming us through Your Son and making us Your own. May we never lose sight of our worth to You or Your love for us. In the name of Christ our Savior we pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 1:23
2 Isaiah 7:14
3 Colossians 1:15
4 Colossians 1:13-14
5 Colossians 2:13-14
6 Colossians 1:16