Remember that thing you just had to have and now it’s become a bit of a so what? How do we make sure God’s amazing grace never becomes one of those things?
Get Down From There!
A few weeks Dave and I decided to go what we thought would be a leisurely stroll on Winters Blue Ridge Hiking Trail. We reasoned, “It’s only a 4.6 mile loop. Piece of cake even for a couple of old timers like us!” We failed to take into account that the top of the peak is 1550 feet up. That’s the equivalent of a nearly 130-story skyscraper!
As you can imagine, the views at the top are breathtaking, literally and figuratively. If ever there were a prime photo opportunity, you’re looking at it. The trail provides scenic vistas of Cold Creek watershed to the south, Pleasants Ridge to the east and Lake Berryessa to the west.
Before heading down, we noticed a group of about 15 college-aged kids trying to take a Selfie. We stopped and offered to take the picture for them. They wanted get as close to the edge as possible. One of the guys in the group decided to push the boundaries by crawling out on a rock about 12 inches in diameter and attempt to stand behind the group for prosperity or stupidity sake.
The young man standing below him didn’t realize that he was nearly pushing his friend over the edge with his backpack every time he moved. As they tried to squeeze into the photo frame, backpack boy was practically bumping his friend straight into eternity with 1500 feet separating him from this life and the next.
I looked at Dave and asked, “Does this bother you as much as it is bothering me?” He nodded yes and I went into frantic mom mode. “You!” Pointing directly at the guy on the edge, “Get down! Get down right now. You’re going to kill yourself!”
Falling From Grace
I think this is exactly what was going through Paul’s mind when he wrote chapter five of Galatians.
“Hey you. Christian saved by grace. Get down right now. Don’t you know you’re teetering on the edge of falling from grace?”
What does it mean to fall from grace? The bible assures us that it cannot mean losing our salvation.
”In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:13 NKJV).
You can’t lose your salvation. That’s a promise! But you can start living as though you’re not saved. When we do that, we cut ourselves off from Christ. Some translations put it this way,
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4 ESV).
We start relying more on ourselves than Christ.
We pray less.
We work harder.
We become critical and judgmental.
We exchange freedom for shackles.
It’s How We’re Wired
Why would we ever do that? I think we’re just wired that way. Think about it.
A friend insists on paying for your lunch. What do you do? Insist that you’ll get it next time.
Your husband is scurrying around the house cleaning up while you’re vegging on the couch and you feel guilty. (Okay, this one may only pertain to my husband. You may think it’s easy living with Mr. Clean but it also has its challenges!)
You’ve become injured or sick and you’re flooded with helping hands. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of all that love.
I can relate to it being easier to give than it is to receive. Can you?
Challenging the Notion of Grace
Salvation is a gift and grace is undeserved favor. I didn’t do a thing to earn it. For some reason unbeknownst to me, God lavished his undeserved favor on me. I’ve heard it said many times,
”There’s noting you can do to make God love you more. And there’s nothing you can do to make God love you less.”
And yet something inside of me wants to crawl out on that ledge of grace and challenge the notion of it. The Galatians did it by wanting to mix Judaic law and faith. I do it by wanting to mix faith in myself with faith in Christ.
If I just work a little harder?
If I just do life a little better?
If I just do more?
Then, I’ll earn more of God’s favor.
I wonder what that sounds like and feels like to God. It’s as though we’re telling Him that His plan and His sacrifice on the cross, the one where He gave everything including His only begotten Son, is not good enough. We somehow know better. I can almost hear Him say to us the same thing He said to Peter when he blurted out that Jesus should not die for us, “Get behind me Satan.”
Ours is a gospel of grace. It is something Paul very intentionally reminds us of over and over and over throughout the New Testament. Every letter Paul wrote begins and ends with a blessing of grace. Think about it. Paul is not a trite kind of guy. He’s direct and intentional. He’s not saying, “grace to you” like some say, “gazoontight!”
He’s sharing the imperative of grace. He’s reminding us to live in the glory of God’s grace. That’s the place where love overflows. That’s the place where gratitude overflows. That’s the place where we lean into Jesus and joy overflows. That’s the place where the world sees the difference that Jesus makes in our lives.
No wonder why Peter says this,
”but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18 NKJV).
Grow in Grace
We need to grow in grace so this world can see the truth of the gospel message.
”For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).
Grace is a gift wrapped in love. There are no strings attached. It goes beyond cultural norms. It surpasses our understanding. It is too good to be true. And that is what is so amazing about grace.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re rejecting Jesus because they’re turned off by religion or because they see God as being this rigid, unloving dictator. Where do they get that impression anyway? Could it be the fruit of our own falling away from grace?
We need to be disciplined and intentional like Paul and demonstrate grace to a lost world and to one another. It begins with us holding out our hands and receiving it. No questions asked. Just one big thank-you God as we boldly approach the throne of grace each and every day.
Thirteen Letters and Twenty-Six Reminders
Paul never missed an opportunity to stress the importance of grace. Sometimes we learn best from repetition. Take a moment with an open heart and mind and read each one. Skim it if you must.
Just don’t skip it!
“To [you then] all God’s beloved ones in Rome, called to be saints and designated for a consecrated life: Grace and spiritual blessing and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7 AMP).
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with you all, Amen (so be it).” (Romans 16:24 AMP).
“Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) be to you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:3 AMP).
“The grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Corinthians 16:23 AMP).
“Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) to you and [heart] peace from God our Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” (2 Corinthians 1:2 AMP).
“The grace (favor and spiritual blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together and participation) in the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 AMP).
“Grace and spiritual blessing be to you and [soul] peace from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).” (Galatians 1:3, AMP).
“The grace (spiritual favor, blessing) of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah) be with your spirit, brethren. Amen (so be it).” (Galatians 6:18 AMP).
“May grace (God’s unmerited favor) and spiritual peace (which means peace with God and harmony, unity, and undisturbedness) be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2 AMP).
“Grace (God’s undeserved favor) be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and incorruptible (love). Amen (so let it be).” (Ephesians 6:24 AMP).
“Grace (favor and blessing) to you and (heart) peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).” (Philippians 1:2 AMP).
“The grace (spiritual favor and blessing) of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) be with your spirit. Amen (so be it).” (Philippians 4:23 AMP).
“To the saints (the consecrated people of God) and believing and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace (spiritual favor and blessing) to you and [heart] peace from God our Father.” (Colossians 1:2 AMP).
“I, Paul (add this final) greeting, writing with my own hand. Remember I am still in prison and in chains. May grace (God’s unmerited favor and blessing) be with you! Amen (so be it).” (Colossians 4:18 AMP).
“Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, to the assembly (church) of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah): Grace (spiritual blessing and divine favor) to you and [heart] peace.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 AMP).
“The grace (the unmerited favor and blessings) of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with you all. Amen, (so be it).” (1 Thessalonians 5:28 AMP).
“Grace (unmerited favor) be to you and [heart] peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” (2 Thessalonians 1:2 AMP).
“The grace (spiritual blessing and favor) of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with you all. Amen (so be it).” (2 Thessalonians 3:18 AMP).
“To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace (spiritual blessing and favor), mercy, and [heart] peace (be yours) from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:2 AMP).
“(For) by making such profession some have erred (missed the mark) as regard the faith. Grace (divine favor and blessing) be with you all! Amen (so be it).” (1 Timothy 6:21 AMP).
“To Timothy, (my) beloved child: Grace (favor and spiritual blessing), mercy, and [heart] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:2 AMP).
“The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace (God’s favor and blessing) be with you. Amen (so be it).” (2 Timothy 4:22 AMP).
“To Titus, my true child according to a common (general) faith: Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) and [heart] peace from God the Father and the Lord Christ Jesus our Savior.” (Titus 1:4 AMP).
“All who are with me wish to be remembered to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace (God’s favor and blessing) be with you all. Amen (so be it).” (Titus 3:15 AMP).
“Grace (spiritual blessing and favor) be to all of you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).” (Philemon 1:3 AMP).
“The grace (blessing and favor) of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) be with your spirit. Amen (so be it).” (Philemon 1:25 AMP).
Let’s talk each other off the ledge. Cut each other some slack. Greet one another with grace. Never stop talking, living, and breathing this amazing grace!
Want to go deeper on today’s topic? Download the study guide.