Gripped by Two Different Pictures of Grace

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

My son and I made the trek to London, KY today.  He has not seen his grandparents (on my side) for a bit, so this was a good time to travel and give his mother a “day-off” while creating a nice father/son getaway.  He has loved being in the “toy-room” and having Nana and Papaw to keep him company.  At the moment he is fast asleep in the bed with his Nana.  I am a little anxious to see how long that lasts!

This particular trip to London has been a demonstration of God’s grace in many ways.  Having parents that love their grandchildren and take good care of them is a blessing from the hand of God.  All good gifts come from our heavenly Father (James 1:17).  But it has also been a blessing because I have been able to see two old friends that are putting on display the power of the gospel and the work of God in their lives.  Seeing what God is doing in the lives of both these men has encouraged me beyond measure.

What is helpful for me at this moment is realizing that God’s grace looks very different in the lives of both these men.  One man is presently struggling with some tough issues in his life.  The other seems to be experiencing some exciting and comforting things.  On one hand, tough circumstances.  On the other hand, exciting circumstances.  But both are rooted in grace.  Both men are, when seen from the perspective of God, receiving grace from their heavenly Father.

Let me explain.  Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  That is, we do nothing to earn God’s goodness towards us.  We should be declared guilty and judged for our sin (Rom 6:23).  We should be judged.  But instead of God judging, instead of receiving the disfavor of God, we get His favor.  Instead of judgment we get acquittal.  Instead of justice we get forgiveness.  And this grace comes only through our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus who takes the wrath of God upon Himself and atones for our sins (1 John 2:2, propitiation means atoning sacrifice).  It is Jesus who takes the judgment we deserve and bears its weight.  Because of Jesus taking the disfavor of God, we get the favor of God.  That is gripping in itself.

Now, as God has saved us (which I believe He has done for the two individuals I am thinking of), we know that He is busy conforming us into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29).  God wants to save us and then sanctify us (1 Thess 4:3).  This, again, is all grace.  We do not deserve God making us look like His Son.  We have not earned the right to be conformed into the image of Jesus.  But yet, God has set out to do just that.  He does this throughout our life (what theologians call progressive sanctification).  But the way that God goes about sanctifying us will look different from person to person.

Now, back to the two friends that I met with today.  One is going through tough circumstances.  But, again, this is God’s grace.  It may not look like it from our worldly perspective, but it is grace nonetheless.  I can’t tell you exactly what God is trying to say or do in this persons life, but I do know that God is working for this man’s good (Rom 8:28).  It may not be the way we would go about producing Christlikeness in a person, but God is wiser than we are and has a perfect plan.  The tough times are times that God teaches us to lean on Him…and we all need that lesson (see 2 Cor 1:8-9).

The other friend that I mentioned seems to be enjoying some really great things at the moment.  He has a healthy family, good marriage, great church family, comfortable job situation, and is really having fun studying the Bible.  The time with him tonight had a different feel to it than the time with the former individual.  But the foundation for this meeting was the same as the former:  grace.  God was showing this man favor, although in a different way.  God’s particular manifestation of grace in this persons life is meant to produce the same thing as the grace in the former individual: Christlikeness.

Two men, experiencing two different forms of grace.  The first man is experiencing hardship and pain.  But if we believe the Bible, then we know that suffering, pain, and trials are meant to conform us into the image of Jesus  and teach us to rely upon God (2 Cor 1:8-9, James 1:2-4).  The second man is experiencing blessing and comfort.  But this grace is meant to do the same as the first as this man should remember who it is that bestows all good things (James 1:17).

Tonight I am gripped by grace.  Two different forms, but grace all the same.  May I always look at my circumstances and see God’s providence standing over them all.  And may I remember, as I hope these two men do, that God is for me and not against me.  That God is busy working in me and will bring to completion that which He has begun (Philippians 1:6).  Sometimes that may mean pain and suffering.  Other times in may mean comfort and ease.  Both, however, should result in me growing up into the image of Jesus.

Grace, grace….give me more grace!

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