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People Like Us

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”1—Jesus, to a woman’s accusers

We glean from the pages of Scripture much theology on the precious gift of grace, but the story of the woman caught in adultery is grace in action. Somehow catching her in the act of adultery, the Pharisees and teachers of the law brought her before Jesus, hoping to trick Him and perhaps kill two birds with one stone. His response to them was epic, confounding even—turning back on them the law by which they accused the woman, and in the process extending grace to both. We relate to the woman, for our sin places us equally in need of grace, and we run to Jesus where it is found. Such assurance! What relief! We will learn more from this woman in next week’s post, but for now let’s gain a life lesson from her antagonists.

How many times have you heard or said this: “Some people [insert a specific sin tendency here]”? In so doing, we speak of others as though looking down on them from a higher perch on a tree of righteousness. Wouldn’t it be humbler and more accurate to say, “Sometimes we all [insert a moral shortcoming here],” acknowledging in our speech what we know in our hearts—that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”?2 After all, who among us doesn’t sin? And if we all sin, why point only to that of “some people”? Have we forgotten the grace we received when we were otherwise helpless? Or what about this pronouncement: “I blame [so and so]”? Why so proudly condemn others when we have undeservedly received pardon?

Paul wrote that God “reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”3 Our message is not one of accusation, but that of reconciliation through the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus. Then may I suggest that, when tempted to look down on those who are as vulnerable as we are, we remember both the power of temptation and the relief of grace? We’re in this together, so as we have received grace, let us ever extend it to people like us.

Father, thank You for precious grace. Where would we be without it? Fill us with Your Spirit, that we would extend compassion and understanding to all who journey this life with us. Bless us to be beacons of hope and proclaimers of mercy to people like us. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 John 8:7 ESV
2 Romans 6:23
3 2 Corinthians 5:18

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Grace Works

An international student friend was trying to comprehend a relationship with God based on His love and grace instead of earning His approval through good deeds. Peggy asked her, “When you first arrived from your country and we picked you up at the airport, what if we had told you that we did it only because we were being paid to?” “I still would have appreciated the ride,” our friend replied, “but it wouldn’t have been the same.” Truth is, even believers in Christ wrestle with grace and works at times: we know we cannot earn salvation (so as to obligate God to pay us our due), but that we are freed from the penalty of our sins only in entrusting ourselves entirely to Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us. Yet Jesus himself said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”1 This may sound as though we must earn God’s love, so how do we reconcile grace and works?

We gain life not by trusting in ourselves, but by entrusting ourselves to Jesus. “A person is not justified by the works of the law,” wrote Paul, “but by faith in Jesus Christ.”2 As we believe, “the Spirit gives birth to [our] spirit.”3 Exclaimed Jesus to the crowd, “Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow from within them.”4 “By this,” explained John, “he meant the Spirit . . .”5 For God had foretold through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”6 Indeed, the Spirit’s presence in our life produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”7 The Spirit will never lead us in the ways of the world, but always in the good and right ways of God. We keep God’s commandments of love not to earn our way into His presence, but because He has graciously established His presence in us.

Which brings us to works. Paul wrote that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,”8 which is to say our birth in Christ is not the end in itself, rather the beginning of a new, purposeful life. For God’s love is proactive love: He has warm, tender feelings of love, certainly, but God’s love acts and speaks. In Him there is no gap between loving feelings and loving deeds; there is no feeling without doing. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds,” argued James.9

What then do we do? Draw close to God, conversing with Him in prayer and receiving from Him through His Word. Listen to the voice of the Spirit, which speaks to our heart. Watch for God working in people around us, and accept His invitation to join Him. Act and speak. For grace works.

Father, thank You for saving me in Your grace. Lead me to the works You have prepared for me, and strengthen me in Your Spirit to do them. Be glorified through this life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:10
2 Galatians 2:16
3 John 3:6
4 John 7:38
5 John 7:40
6 Ezekiel 36:27
7 Galatians 5:22-23
8 Ephesians 2:10
9 James 2:18