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Monday, October 11, 2010

Balancing Grace, Faith and Love

Before I became a born-again Christian, there were people praying for me. I am grateful for their prayers. I believe their prayers brought the person into my life that could share the gospel with me so I understood it and received it. I wasn't an instant success, this guy needed persistence and stamina. It took two years of him telling me stories of Jesus before I received Christ, but when I did—I did.

Though there were Christians who tried to witness to me before Stanley, most showed me church, not Christ. Most showed me judgment and told me about the wrath of God rather than showing me His goodness. Paul says it is God's goodness that draws people to repentance (change of mind) (Rom 2:4). It was when I saw the goodness of Jesus that I chose to follow Him. That is the gospel Stanley preached. He told me about the good God who so loved me that He sent His only begotten Son to live the example of life He wanted for me. He revealed God's Son laid His perfect down as a sacrifice for me so I could have the life He demonstrated. Stanley did not berate me with my sin, he didn't try to show me where I missed the mark—He showed me Jesus—and without a word spoken about my sin, I knew I was a sinner. I knew without Jesus I had no hope of being otherwise. I knew that I had repeatedly missed the mark God fixed for me and would continue to do so without Him killing me to stop the cycle. But Jesus . . .

Jesus saw my condition too, and chose to do what only He could do about it—He took my place on the cross of judgment. Though my sin invited sickness to enter my body, He bore the stripes that paid for everlasting healing for me. The seeds I'd sown throughout my life reaped a life of poverty, but He bore the judgment for my wrong ways and delivered me from poverty. My words and actions wrought for me shame and humiliation, but Jesus bore that too, and placed His robe of virtue around me. Jesus became a shield around me, my glory and lifted my head. Each time I read the Bible, I realized there was something I was free of or something I had gained through my relationship with God through Christ. That is the power of grace. That is the grace that brought me to faith.

I believe this is where the first century church began—at this place of grace—through faith because of the word spoken to them. I believe our words should bring faith to people. I believe we should speak in such a way to bring faith to people so they can access the grace God freely offers all of us. As I learned last week, "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11). But I think sometimes we fall into the same category as the Christians who tried to get me saved before Stanley came with the good news. I think we want to scare people into salvation. I've known some people scared into salvation, and those people didn't hold on when times got tough. They decided it was too hard to live for a God that never seemed pleased and with so many rules. I don't know any person scared into salvation that hasn't given up on being a Christian. Why? Because of the God we revealed to them.

I believe it has something to do with repentance. The word used in Romans 2:4, and translated as "repentance" means "to change the mind." That definition is from The Complete Word Study Dictionary for the New Testament. When people receive salvation to avoid hell, most of the time they don't change their minds about their life of sin, they just want to change their destination. But when we witness the goodness of God, we want to be like Him. We want to let Him change us from what we were to what He is. We change our mind about what is good and pleasant and acceptable. Many of us have not witnessed goodness until we've seen God. Jesus said even good fathers on earth are evil in comparison to God (Mt 7:9-11). I believe if we can show people God's goodness, then they will be healthier and happier Christians from the start.

I also believe if we can reveal God's love for people, they will have more faith to hold on during hard times. If we really believe He is love, we won't believe He put illness in our bodies, or allows the devil to put illness in our bodies. I don't know any parent who puts illness on their child. When our kids get sick, we take them to the doctor and get them all the help we can get. Yet, some are willing to believe that God has allowed them to be sick to teach them something, or to give them a "cross to bear." But that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says in comparison to God's goodness, we are evil. The Bible says God so loved us that He sent Jesus to pay the price for our healing (Is 53:4-6 & 1Pet 2:24). If He sent Jesus to pay such a ghastly price, would He then cancel that and put sickness on us? No. No. No. He didn't put it there and He didn't allow it. The devil is the one who tries to steal, kill and destroy—not God. If we are battling an illness in our body, it isn't because God sent it or allowed it. It is there because we haven't learned to access what God gave us the moment Jesus bore the stripes that paid for our healing. Healing is part of salvation—per the dictionaries, and per Jesus' actions and words while He was here on the earth. We need to hear this all the time. We need to hear it until we can't believe anything else—until we refuse to accept anything else.

I believe if Christians would spend their time knowing their God and what His love purchased for them, then we wouldn't have so many in the world angry with our judgment of them. Instead we might see more people clamoring to know this good God who is love.

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