The Door to Grace

It was his turning point. Presented with the gospel one day, Ray responded to his friend that he had led a good life and that was good enough. So, when his friend dared him to go one day without sinning, Ray eagerly accepted the challenge. “I didn’t even last one hour,” he recalled years later, “That’s when I realized I needed a savior.” It is the most blessed grace to come to the empty end of ourselves and to entrust our all to the atoning work of Christ on the cross. For as Paul wrote, it is through our Lord Jesus Christ that “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”1 Such comfort! We need grace! But what is it about faith that God establishes it as sole access into His grace?

Coming to faith in Christ Jesus aligns us with two eternal and inescapable truths: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”2 Further, our humble submission to Jesus trumpets to all creation—seen and unseen—just who He is: “The Son is the image of the invisible God . . . All things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”3 Life itself is found in Him. And perhaps above all is this: “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”4 We have nothing to add, no compensation to offer Him, just ourselves in need of grace.

Then grace is not a matter of our goodness, but Christ’s fullness, for “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”5 For “righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”6 And “through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”7 By grace we have been saved through faith8 (and faith itself a gift from God). “Through faith in [Christ] we may approach God with freedom and confidence.9By faith we . . . receive the promise of the Spirit. 10 And having “gained access by faith into this grace . . . we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”11 This is grace upon grace—grace in its various forms. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”12 For we need grace; we need the Savior.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. —John 1:14

Father, we turn to You for grace. Strengthen us in faith that we would always flourish in Your favor generously poured out on us and through us in its various forms. Be glorified in us. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Romans 5:1-2
2 Romans 3:23-24
3 Colossians 1:15-17
4 John 3:35
5 John 1:16 ESV
6 Romans 3:23
7 Romans 5:1
8 Ephesians 2:8
9 Ephesians 3:12
10 Galatians 3:14
11 Romans 5:2
12 Hebrews 14:6 ESV


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


Good Stuff

Most people who reach my age have a lot of stuff. It’s not that we are hoarders, necessarily, but our “this-and-that” accumulation has gradually morphed far beyond our needs, and a sizeable portion of our wants, for that matter. Many of us have a growing yen to right-size our earthly possessions to what is important as we run the bell lap of life. I think there’s a reason for this: as this life fades behind us and the nearing Kingdom increasingly consumes our field of vision, we realize that much of what we’ve treasured from an earthly perspective is different than what God esteems, and that a godly character is infinitely more valuable and impactful than one’s wealth and possessions. We do well, then, to understand what God values and to align our entire beings to His desires.

Wisdom. Wisdom, wrote Solomon, “is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”1 For wisdom protects us and watches over us,2 and through wisdom we gain understanding and direction, well-being and honor, and counsel and justice.3 Aren’t these what we want above all else? Pray for wisdom.

Commands. God’s laws moved David’s heart to song: “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold”;4 it is “sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.”5 For God’s laws lead us in “the way that is good and right,”6 the way of love for God and for each other. In His mercy, He has put His Spirit in us to move us to follow His decrees and to be careful to keep His laws.7 Walk in His Spirit.

Integrity. Observed Solomon, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”8 We may marvel at worldly accomplishments, wealth, or fame, but isn’t it true that we esteem most highly those of noble character—character that reflects God’s presence? May your good name reflect His.

Faith. Life-giving faith is the complete abandonment of self-righteousness and the total reliance on the righteousness of Christ, for life itself is found only in Him. No wonder Peter declared faith to be “of greater worth than gold,” for it will “result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”9 Trust Him.

These are treasures that last, treasures built up in Heaven. They glorify God who glorifies us. This is good stuff.

Father, send Your Spirit to us to convince us of what is truly important to You and therefore to us. Grant us the grace and wisdom to submit everything to You for Your glory and our good. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Proverbs 3:14-15
2 Proverbs 4:6
3 Proverbs 8:12–21
4 Psalm 119:72
5 Psalm 19:7-10
6 1 Samuel 12:23
7 Ezekiel 36:27
8 Proverbs 22:1
9 1 Peter 1:7